The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for 12 drivers gets started this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the running of the Alsco 300.
This year marks the first time Las Vegas will host a playoff race after holding the regular-season finale for the previous two seasons. The elimination races in the seven race stretch will be held at the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 10) and Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 31) to narrow the field down to four at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 7) where a new champion will be crowned.
Chase Briscoe and regular-season champion Austin Cindric are tied atop the playoff standings with 2,050 points. Briscoe, who is the No. 1 seed, leads the series with seven wins, including last week at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"It’s been like a weird year I feel like where everybody is really streaky," Briscoe said. "I felt like at the beginning of the year we were kind of the guy to beat and it got to be where Cindric was five weeks in-a-row the guy to beat, then Allgaier the last three.
"I think it’s really depending on who hits the momentum and who’s good really those seven weeks of the playoffs. I know we are going to be in the hunt, but I don’t know if there’s necessarily one guy that sticks out."
Both Briscoe and Cindric have now made the playoffs in each of their three full-time Xfinity seasons. Briscoe made the Round of 8 for the first time last year and finished fifth in the standings while Cindric has reached that round the past two seasons with a best finish of sixth in 2019.
Cindric has finished 12th or better in the last 13 races of the season with 11 top fives that includes five wins.
"I think that’s been the highlight for us all year is being able to run up front and contend for a lot of race wins," Cindric said. "That’s what it takes to get us this far and now we’ve got to finish the job."
Justin Allgaier leads this year’s playoff field with five postseason appearances and is the only one that has made it to the championship race, a feat he accomplished three times (2016, 2017 and 2019). He comes into the playoffs on the heels of three wins in the final seven races of the regular season.
"For us in the playoffs execution is going to be key," said Allgaier, who leads the series with 896 laps led. "Making sure you put yourself in the right positions at the end of the races. At the early part of the races, as great as it’s all been, we’ve struggled for the bonus points side of it. So these last five, six weeks have been really important for us to get some of those bonus points, but we still need to do a lot better job of that. If we can do that I think we’ve got a great shot of making it to Phoenix."
Brandon Jones, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Harrison Burton are the other playoff drivers that have visited Victory Lane multiple times this season.
Jones, who has three wins this season, has made the postseason three times and is looking to make it past the first round for the first time with his 20 playoff points.
"This is a whole another game changer for me to be able to have the wins, to have the confidence coming into the playoffs with those wins," Jones said.
Burton joins 11th seeded Riley Herbst as the two rookies in this year’s playoff field. Burton has two wins in his freshman campaign and finished fourth in the final two races of the regular season.
"I think we are in a good spot honestly to progress through the rounds," Burton said. "If we get through this first round, I’m so excited for the next few tracks."
Ross Chastain is the highest seeded driver without a win this season. However, Chastain has finished second five times and has recorded a total of 23 top 10s in the 26 regular-season races.
"We are doing everything right," said Chastain, who has 10 playoff points in his first postseason appearance. "If we keep doing what we are doing. We keep preparing these race cars, pushing the limits, finding that speed and be the best Chevrolet and go fight these Fords. That’s all we can do."
Chastain, an eighth-generation watermelon farmer, will move to the Cup Series next year to drive the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.
"I am so far beyond where I was ever dreaming of going, let a lone trying to go or was ever told I could go," Chastain said. "Even right now I’m starring right down the barrel of a championship run with Kaulig Racing and this No. 10 team with Nutrien Ag Solutions, an agriculture sponsor. Almost all my family is at the farm. Some of them travel up the coast, but we farm watermelons."
Ninth and 10th seeded Ryan Sieg and Michael Annett each are making their third trip to the playoffs. Annett made the Round of 8 last year and ultimately finished ninth in the standings.
Brandon Brown made the playoffs for the first time in his second full-time season driving for his family team, Brandonbilt Motorsports, and will start as the 12th seed with 2,000 points.