Five races remain in the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season. Can any driver currently below the cut line make the playoffs?
A total of 21 of the 26 races in the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season are complete, and 12 drivers qualify for the three-round, seven-race playoffs. Can anyone currently below the cut line make the playoffs?
First, what does the Xfinity Series playoff picture look like? Seven full-time drivers have already won and clinched their playoff berths.
Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton, Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier and Justin Haley all have captured victories, so they are guaranteed to battle for the right to advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
The five drivers currently above the cut line in the point standings are Ross Chastain, Michael Annett, Riley Herbst, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Brown.
Chastain has already clinched his playoff berth with his margin over the cut line. Annett and Herbst are more than 100 points above the cut line, so they both are likely to make the playoffs as well. Sieg has an 88-point advantage and Brown has a 31-point lead over the first driver below the cut line, Jeremy Clements. Because Sieg is 57 points ahead of Brown, he is safe for now.
As for Brown, he has the same amount of top 10 finishes as Clements and a better average finish, so unless there is a large point swing over the next five races, it’s an uphill battle for Clements, or any other driver below the cut line, to make the playoffs via the point standings.
Clements and Myatt Snider are the only drivers below the cut line within one race worth of points (60) of the cut line, and Snider is 58 points behind, which is more that one race worth of points for non-winners (55). For the rest of the drivers below the cut line, they effectively must win to make the playoffs.
The five races remaining in the Xfinity Series regular season are scheduled to take place at Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Richmond Raceway (twice) and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Unfortunately, none of the full-time drivers below the cut line have won a race at any of those tracks. So that likelihood is diminished, especially when part-time drivers such as A.J. Allmendinger, Anthony Alfredo, Daniel Hemric, etc. can contend for victories too.
Which of the drivers below the cut line is the biggest threat to break through with a win to make the playoffs?
The race at Daytona International Speedway is a wild card. In the season opener there, NASCAR threw the yellow flag seven times for cautions. Only 10 drivers finished on the lead lap. Furthermore, the stage winners and victor all have won this season, so it’s difficult to pick someone below the cut line to win the Wawa 250.
Nevertheless, one driver to keep an eye on in the Wawa 250 is Snider. The rookie driver took the pole position for the season opener, led 22 laps, and finished in seventh place in the first stage. More impressive is the fact that he accomplished all of this in his first career Xfinity Series start.
Snider, who competed for Richard Childress Racing in that race, now mostly drives the for RSS Racing after announcing that he would compete full-time. He is set to start in 19th place in the Wawa 250.
On Labor Day weekend, the Xfinity Series is set to race in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway. This throwback weekend will be a challenge for Xfinity Series newcomers, as traditionally, only the Cup Series and Xfinity Series compete at the 1.366-mile oval. Because of those intangibles, the current top drivers will likely shine in this race.
Which of the drivers below the cut line has the best resume heading into this event? Clements has finished on the lead lap in every race there since 2016. If he can score some stage points and finish in the top 15 or even snag a top 10 finish while Brown struggles, the margin between these two drivers could decrease.
Then Richmond Raceway is set to host a doubleheader. Until this season, only the Cup Series and Xfinity Series competed at the 0.75-mile short track. Frankly, for the drivers below the cut line, their results at the track are abysmal. Clements is the lone driver with a top 10 finish.
To add more intrigue to the second race of the doubleheader, the starting lineup will be set via a 15-driver invert from the first race, the Go Bowling 250. The rest of the starting lineup will be set using the algorithm NASCAR presently uses to set the starting lineups.
Thus, a top 15 finish in the Go Bowling 250 will give drivers good starting positions for the second race, the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 250.
Could this benefit Joe Graf Jr.? In his only Xfinity Series race there last year, he finished in 14th place after starting in 16th. A 14th place finish in the first race would result in a second place starting position for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 250. For the rookie driver, it would mark just his third race starting inside the top 10 this season.
Lastly, the Xfinity Series is set to wrap up the regular season in the Food City 300 at the 0.533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. Because this 300-lap race is the final opportunity for drivers below the cut line to make the playoffs, there likely will be some aggressive driving as drivers vie for positions and perhaps deploy some strategy to get some good track position.
In the 2019 Cheddar’s 300 at the track, Snider started in 21st place and then finished in 10th and eighth in the first two stages, respectively. He ultimately finished in fifth. If he enters the Food City 300 with a good finish in the second race of the Richmond Raceway doubleheader, he can start closer to the front and contend.
Also in that race, Josh Williams finished in ninth place for his third career top 10 finish. Although DGM Racing have never won an Xfinity Series race, if Williams is running well, would the team attempt to some strategy to steal the victory? Yes, it’s improbable, but not impossible.
Will anyone below the cut line make the Xfinity Series playoffs? The Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway offers the best chance for someone to pull an upset, but there are 1,047 laps left on the schedule until the playoffs. Tune in to NBC Sports Network this evening at 7:30 p.m. ET for the live broadcast of the Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway.