XFINITY Race Preview: Darlington

DarlingtonRaceway

It's Throwback Weekend for the NASCAR XFINITY Series as they take on the track 'Too Tough To Tame' in Saturday's Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Entry List | Schedule of Events | Driver Averages | Driver Stats | Past Race Winners

NASCAR XFINITY Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Saturday's Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway.

Radio: MRN, 3:00 PM (ET)
TV: NBCSN, 3:00 PM (ET)
Race Distance: 200.8 miles (147 laps)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 - Ends Lap 45, Stage 2 - Ends Lap 90, Final Stage - Ends Lap 147

Races: 56
Pole Winners: 27
Youngest Pole Winner: Kyle Busch (3/20/2004 - 18 years, 10 months, 18 days)
Oldest Pole Winner:

Harry Gant (8/31/1991 - 51 years, 7 months, 21 days)

Race Winners: 29
Youngest Race Winner:

Chase Elliott (4/11/2014 - 18 years, 4 months, 14 days)

Oldest Race Winner: Dick Trickle (9/5/1998 - 56 years, 10 months, 9 days)
Races Won from Pole: 14
Last Race Won from Pole: Denny Hamlin (9/5/2015)
Race Record: Denny Hamlin - 141.355 mph (9/5/2015)
Qualifying Record: Carl Edwards - 176.994 mph (5/9/2008)

  Last Race Most/Largest Fewest/Smallest
Cars: 40 43 - Twice 38 (6/21/2014)
Lead Changes: 6 12 (6/25/2011) 6 (8/27/2016)
Leaders: 4 8 - Twice 4 - Twice
Cautions: 6 8 (6/22/2013) 8 (6/23/2012)
Caution Laps: 13 16 (6/22/2013) 8 (6/23/2012)
Lead Lap Finish: 31 31 (8/27/2016) 18 (6/25/2011)
Running at the Finish: 33 36 (8/29/2015) 25 - Twice
Laps Led (Winner): 24 35 (6/19/2010) 1 (6/25/2011)
Margin of Victory*: 0.534 4.302 (6/19/2010) 0.534 (8/27/2016)

*Since 1993 (advent of digital timing and scoring); does not include races completed under caution

Countdown To The NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs Is Upon Us
With only three races left in the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series regular season, time is running out for the series contenders to lock themselves into the postseason. Below is a look at each driver vying for a playoff spot as the series heads to Darlington Raceway.
 
In On Wins
Four NASCAR XFINITY Series title contenders have won this season and virtually locked themselves into the 2017 playoffs, giving them a leg up on the competition. Plus, they each earned five playoff points per win, which will be very beneficial to their chances to advance once the postseason begins. 
 
William Byron (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently the No. 1 seed going into the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs following his three wins this season (Iowa-1, Daytona-2 and Indianapolis) and 17 playoff points. All Byron needs to do over these next three races is prepare for the playoffs and pad his playoff points total. In 23 starts this season, he has posted three wins, seven top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 10.6. This weekend will be Byron’s series track debut at Darlington Raceway.  
 
Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) kicked the season off strong, winning at Phoenix, but since then has had a roller-coaster type season. In 23 starts, he has one win, six top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 14.7. Allgaier has also accumulated eight playoff points, and these next three races are great opportunities to get more. In six series career starts at Darlington, Allgaier has posted two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 10.0.  
 
Ryan Reed (No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford) has been going in the wrong direction in the points since his season-opening victory at Daytona. Kicking off 2017 with a win and the points lead put Reed in the postseason, but since then he has been dropping in points from first to now 10th following his seventh DNF of the season last weekend at Road America. Reed needs to right the ship over these next three races as the playoffs are approaching quickly. Reed has made three starts at Darlington, posting a best finish of 13th and an average finish of 16.7. 
 
Jeremy Clements (No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet) is the long-shot of this season’s playoff contenders after going into Road America last weekend 18th in points and pulling off an impressive win to claim his spot in the postseason. In 23 starts this season, Clements has posted one win, one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 22.3. Now the 32-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, needs to focus on these next three races and scoring as many playoff points possible. Clements has made six starts at Darlington posting one top 10 (finished eighth last season) and an average finish of 23.0.
 
Comfortably In On Points
With four title contenders grabbing wins this season, that leaves eight spots in the Playoffs up for grabs. Below is a look at the five drivers that are currently without a win this season, but instead have built sizable point leads over the playoff cutoff line. 
 
Elliott Sadler (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently the point standings leader with a 379-point lead over 13th-place, the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. Though Sadler has not won this season, he has accumulated five playoff points by winning stages, and if he finishes the regular season as the points leader he will receive an 15 additional playoff points to bring his total to at least 20 once the postseason starts. In 23 starts in 2017, Sadler has posted a series-leading nine top fives and 17 top 10s. His average finish this season is a 9.0. Sadler returns to Darlington as the defending winner of this event. In his 13 series starts at Darlington, he has posted an average finish of 14.6. 
 
Brennan Poole (No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) continues to get better and better with each race. At the start of the season, he was ranked as low as 18th in points and has worked his way up to fourth with just three races left in the regular season. Poole currently has a 175-point cushion over 13th in the standings. In 23 starts this season, he has posted one top five and 10 top 10s. His average finish in 2017 is 15.0. Last year, Poole made his series debut at Darlington, starting 11th and finishing fifth.  
 
Daniel Hemric (No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) has been on a rally as of late finishing in the top-10 in five of his last eight series races. Hemric, like Brennan Poole, started the season way back in the points (26th following Daytona) and has dug himself out of the points rut and into playoff contention currently fifth in the standings and 174-points ahead of 13th. Hemric has made 23 starts this season posting three top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 13.9. This weekend will be Hemric’s series track debut at Darlington Raceway.
 
Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) and crew chief Jeff Meendering have been working miracles this season. Not only is the team brand new and in their first year of NXS competition, but Cole Custer is a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, in NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs contention, and has amassed a sizable points cushion (+103 points) over 13th in the standings with just three races remaining in the regular season. Custer’s rookie campaign has seen 23 starts this season, posting four top fives and 11 top 10s. His average finish in 2017 is a 15.6. Custer will be making his series track debut this weekend at Darlington.
 
Matt Tifft (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) got the raw end of Jeremy Clements’ race winning move last weekend at Road America, but while the five playoff points and the win would have been nice, the result didn’t dent Tifft’s chances at the Playoffs. He is currently seventh in the series standings with 98 points separating him and 13th place in points. With 23 races under his Sunoco Rookie belt this season, Tifft has managed two top fives and six top 10s. His average finish in 2017 is a 14.5. Just like the rest of the rookies, this weekend will be Tifft’s series track debut at Darlington.
 
Playoff Bubble: Hot Seats
The following three drivers are currently in position to make the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs, but are also still on the playoff bubble, and could be bounced out of the postseason over these next three races. The pressure is especially on these drivers to perform if they want to make the playoffs.
 
Blake Koch (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) is looking to take Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 team to the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs for the second consecutive season, but will have his work cut out for him over the next three races. Koch is currently eighth in the championship standings, but just a mere 26 points ahead of 13th, the first spot outside the playoffs. In 23 starts this season, Koch has posted three top 10s and an average finish of 18.8. Koch has made six series starts at Darlington, posting an average finish of 26.7.
 
Michael Annett (No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is another driver over the next three races who will need to perform at a high level to make the playoffs. Annett is currently ninth in the standings, but only has an 11-point cushion over 13th place heading into Darlington. In 23 starts this season, Annett has posted one top five, six top 10s and an average finish of 17.2. Annett has made four starts at Darlington, but his most recent in the series was back in 2012. His average finish on the historic track is a 21.2. 
 
Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) has no room for mistakes in the next three races of the regular season (Darlington, Richmond and Chicago) because he currently sits in the final spot to make the playoffs, just four points ahead of Dakoda Armstrong in 13th, the first spot below postseason cutoff. Gaughan has had an up-and-down season. In 23 starts he has posted two top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 19.5.  

Outside The Playoffs Looking In
Several drivers are still mathematically eligible to make the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs, but the driver with the best shot to unseat one of the current contenders is Dakoda Armstrong. With three races left in the regular season, Armstrong is 12th in the driver standings, but was bumped out of the postseason with Clements’ win last weekend. Now he is just four points back from Brendan Gaughan in the final playoff spot.
 
Dakoda Armstrong (No. 21 JGL Racing Toyota) has been having a strong season, and is looking to make the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs for the first time in his career. In 23 starts this season, he has posted two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish this season is 17.7. Heading to Darlington this weekend, Armstrong can make up significant ground in the points on Koch (26.7 avg. finish at Darlington), Annett (21.3) and Gaughan (21.5) as he has a better average finish (18.0) than all three of them at the historic facility.  Armstrong has made three series starts at Darlington, finishing 18th all three times.
 

Sadler Returns To Darlington To Defend Last Season’s Victory
JR Motorsports veteran Elliott Sadler returns to Darlington Raceway hoping to not only defend last season’s victory, but get his first win of the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season and lock himself into the postseason.
 
Sadler has been close to winning several times in 2017, including four finishes in the top three. Though Sadler and the No. 1 team haven’t won yet this season, they have been a force to be reckoned with. Sadler leads the series in top fives (nine) and top 10s (17) this season.
 
Heading into Darlington this weekend with a 379-point cushion over the postseason cutoff line, Sadler is in position to gamble for the win. In 13 starts at Darlington, Sadler has posted one win (2016), five top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 14.6. Sadler dominated last season’s race by leading 75 laps before claiming the checkered flag.
 
But what should have Sadler extra excited is even though he been solid at Darlington (14.6 average finish) he has been even better at Richmond (13.8) and Chicago (12.8).
 
NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:
South Carolina and the NASCAR XFINITY Series: A total of 71 NASCAR XFINITY Series races have been held in the state of South Carolina among three different tracks - Darlington Raceway (Darlington) – 56 races, Rambi Race Track (Myrtle Beach) – 13 races and Greenville-Pickens Speedway (Greenville) – two races. The very first NASCAR XFINITY Series race held in the state of South Carolina was on April 3, 1982 at Darlington Raceway – the race was won by Geoff Bodine (Pontiac). Darlington Raceway has held the fifth-most NASCAR XFINITY Series races since the inception of the series in 1982 – Bristol (71), Charlotte (71), Dover (67), Richmond (67) and Darlington (56). In 56 NXS races Darlington has produced 27 different pole winners and 29 different race winners.
 
Double Duty Throwback: Seven Monster energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be taking in extra laps this weekend as they are entered in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on Saturday – Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Reed Sorenson, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.

Related Topics:

NASCAR XFINITY Series

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