The battle for the final two NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 berths couldn‘t be much closer.
Three bubble drivers—Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Justin Allgaier—are covered by a three-point spread entering Saturday‘s Round of 8 elimination race, and if form holds, they‘ll be fighting for the final two berths in the Nov. 4 title race at Phoenix Raceway.
Custer and Hill, the Regular Season Champion, are third and fourth in the playoff standings, both three points ahead of Allgaier.
The rest of the playoff scenario is clear-cut. Sam Mayer qualified for the Championship 4 with a victory last Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his fourth win of the year and the first of his career on an oval track.
John Hunter Nemechek leads fifth-place Allgaier by 44 points and can clinch a spot in the championship event by scoring 12 points on Saturday—no matter who wins the race. That translates to a 25th-place finish if Nemechek scores no stage points.
Hence, if the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota can avoid an early disaster, he‘s all but guaranteed a spot in the final four. Nemechek won the spring race in his only Xfinity Series start at the 0.526-mile short track.
For practical purposes, the bottom three in the standings—Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith and Sheldon Creed—must win at Martinsville to advance.
In all likelihood, that leaves the three drivers huddled around the cut line to battle for two Championship 4 spots.
Allgaier, who has five top-10 finishes in six Martinsville starts, finished third in last year‘s final standings. He expects to run well on Saturday as he tries to continue the quest for his first series title.
“Martinsville has been a strong track for us since its return to the schedule (in 2020), and I know we will be just as quick again this weekend,” said Allgaier, who has finished seventh or better in the Xfinity standings in his last 12 full-time seasons.
“We just need to be smart all day long and keep the fenders on our JR Motorsports Camaro. If we can do that, then I feel extremely confident that we will accomplish what we‘ve set out to do.”