FORT WORTH, Texas — As soon as the checkered flag dropped Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, drivers still alive in the Xfinity Series playoffs switched their focus ahead to ISM Raceway next weekend.
Three spots in the Championship 4 are actually still up for grabs. Of the two Round of 8 races so far, only one was won by a playoff contender. Christopher Bell just clinched a berth with his victory at Texas, but the week before saw a non-playoff driver win. That cracks the door open for the remaining seven, a little.
“There are so many scenarios that really we can’t even think of all the scenarios that could potentially happen,” Justin Allgaier said. “It seems like it never fails that when you think you have it figured out, that’s when God’s plan changes and you don’t really have anything figured out.”
Allgaier, who finished sixth at Texas, kept his fourth-place standing, holding the final transfer spot with an 18-point cushion. Chase Briscoe is still right below him in fifth after finishing 22nd.
Further down in the ranks are Michael Annett (-28 in sixth; 11th at Texas), Austin Cindric (-31 in seventh; third at Texas) and Noah Gragson (-47 in eighth; 30th at Texas). Gragson and Cindric swapped positions. Others stayed put, but numbers changed.
Cole Custer is on top of those still battling for a ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 52-point advantage. Tyler Reddick is then third and has 36 points to his name. Custer and Reddick were eighth and 29th at Texas, respectively. Reddick wrecked out on Lap 150 of 200.
“As long as the top four guys now don’t screw up, it’s going to be hard for any of us to catch them,” said Briscoe, whose tire blew with 24 laps to go at the 1.5-mile track. “If one of us wins the (Phoenix) race, that obviously kind of throws a change in the plans. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
That’s the mentality for all of the guys outside the bubble now.
“It just makes it a must-win, honestly,” Annett said. “If you’re going to have one thing: To go in there and be 28 points back, at least you know exactly what you have to do. There’s no strategy. We can set ourselves up for the end of the race just to go win it.”
Full-time Monster Energy Series driver Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series’ race at ISM earlier this season. So, among the active playoff drivers, Reddick had the best performance (third). Custer, Cindric and Briscoe followed him in order, though.
Allgaier and Bell are the only title hopefuls who have been to Victory Lane at ISM before. Neither has won a championship.
“Last year still haunts me,” Allgaier said. “I look at last year and not being able to make the final four was a rough situation. I’m disappointed with last year. So there’s a lot more on the line this year for me.”