In a season unlike any other, it is the unknown that is most on the mind of Justin Allgaier heading into Saturday’s Xfinity Series title race.
The title chances for each of the four drivers comes down to 200 laps at Phoenix.
“You never know what your three other competitors are going to do for a win,” Allgaier said. “You never know what the other drivers on the racetrack are willing to do for a win. It’s the last race of the year. Everybody wants to end on high note before we take the winter break to go to Daytona. So I think that’s the kicker of all of us for me is just the unknowns.”
Briscoe looks to continue a streak he’s had in season finales. In his final season in ARCA, he won the 2016 season finale to go with the championship. In his final season in the Truck Series, he won the season finale at Miami in 2017. Saturday will mark his final full-time Xfinity season, as he moves to Cup next year.
“Hopefully, the third time continues to be that way,” he said.
Here is how the Xfinity Championship 4 contenders compare:
Team: JR Motorsports
Crew chief: Jason Burdett
Wins: 3 in 2020 (14 in Xfinity Career)
Speeding Penalties in 2020: 4 (Atlanta, Miami II, Miami II, Road America)
— Finished 13th in the March race. Led 51 laps but did fuel only on the last stop (team did not use its last set of tires in the race).
— Has two Xfinity wins at Phoenix, both with crew chief Jason Burdett
Allgaier says: “The advantage for me this year is I feel like that in years past I’ve not been great at Homestead. I don’t ever really feel that comfortable at Homestead. … So I look at Phoenix as being, statistically, one of my better racetracks, a racetrack I really enjoy going to and our team has done a fantastic job of being good at. It’s a completely different feel for me for 2020 going into this finale.”
Championship outlook: Making his fourth Championship 4 appearance. Placed third in 2016 and 2017 and was fourth last year. All those races were at Homestead. Allgaier’s last four series wins have come at tracks 1 mile or less in length. Many view him as the favorite because of his success at Phoenix.
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
Crew chief: Richard Boswell
Wins: 9 in 2020 (11 in Xfinity Career)
Las Vegas I
Indianapolis Road Course
Las Vegas (playoffs)
Speeding Penalties in 2020: 3 (Charlotte, Atlanta, Texas playoff race)
— Finished sixth in March. Was called to pit road on Lap 130 while running fourth but did not pit. Was second on the track. Did come to pit road on the next caution on Lap 139. Fell to 23rd and never got higher than sixth.
— Has three consecutive top 10s at Phoenix.
Briscoe says: “I felt like we made some good gains the last time we were (at Phoenix). I feel like the results didn’t necessarily show the speed that we had. We had a miscue on pit road towards the end of the race and had to go to the back and got back to sixth, so I felt speed-wise we were pretty good. Statistically, it’s not my best racetrack, but we still won nine races this year. The confidence is high. I feel like we’ve been the best team all year long and there’s no reason why we can’t go to Phoenix and be the same way.”
Championship outlook: His win at Kansas made him the first driver to secure a spot in the Championship 4, giving his team two extra weeks to focus on this race. That could prove to be a key advantage for the team that has won the most races this season.
Team: Team Penske
Crew chief: Brian Wilson
Wins: 5 in 2020 (7 in Xfinity Career)
Daytona Road Course
Speeding Penalties in 2020: 1 (Atlanta)
— Making his 100th Xfinity Series start Saturday.
— Has four consecutive top 10s at Phoenix.
— Finished 8th in the March race (scraped the wall early in the race).
Cindric says: “It is a 200-lap race. There are 199 laps you can screw up and not put yourself in position on the most important one. With this format and with the way our races have gone over the last six weeks, I have been worried about points the entire time. Now I can just worry about where I finish. The stages are just time for me to drink water and get ready for another green flag run.”
Championship outlook: Finished first or second in a seven-race stretch this summer. In the 12 races since, he has not finished higher than third in a race.
Team: Kaulig Racing
Crew chief: Alex Yontz
Wins: 3 in 2020 (3 in Xfinity Career)
Talladega II (playoffs)
Speeding Penalties in 2020: 2 (Las Vegas I, Atlanta)
— Finished fifth in March, best among the title contenders.
— Has not led a lap at Phoenix in three previous Xfinity races. Also did not lead a lap at Phoenix in three previous Truck Series races.
Haley says: “I feel like I’m not only the dark horse on the track, I’ve read so many comments about how Justin haley isn’t deserving to be in the final four. What makes me not deserving to be in the final four? What goes through someone’s mind to say that I haven’t put out just as much hard work and had worked long hours and cried long hours over the night trying to figure out why we’re running 10th. That kind of drives me.”
Championship outlook: He said the team is bringing the car he ran at Richmond. Haley finished second to Justin Allgaier in the first of the two races there that weekend. Haley finished sixth the next day.