A year ago it was obvious that the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship was going to be settled between three drivers from three different camps: Cole Custer in a Ford, Christopher Bell in a Toyota, and Tyler Reddick in a Chevrolet. Ultimately it was Reddick who came away with his second consecutive championship, while Custer finished second in points and Bell in third. The outcome of the championship was never in doubt regarding those three, while the rest of the Xfinity garage was just an afterthought.
In 2020, there are only two full-time Ford camps in the Xfinity garage and they also happen to be the season leaders as Chase Briscoe with Stewart-Haas Racing and Austin Cindric with Team Penske run second and first in the standings, respectively. Briscoe leads the series with five wins while Cindric has three, while the other regulars who have won have only won once or twice.
Briscoe and Cindric both have two Xfinity Series road course wins, with Briscoe winning at the Charlotte Roval in 2018 and the Indianapolis Road Course in 2020, while Cindric won back-to-back road course events in 2019 with wins at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Both drivers have considerable space ahead of third-place Noah Gragson and look to make the title fight an exclusively Ford affair.
Briscoe has edged the competition so far in 2020 with an average finish of 6.6 in 17 events. This is helped not only by his five wins this season but by his 10 top-fives and 13 top-10s as well. His No. 98 SHR Ford has hit few snags this season, but with his lowest finish being 20th at Charlotte he’s been consistent. He’s been strongest this season on the mile-and-a-half speedways, but at Road America in 2019, he posted a solid seventh-place result, one of the four top-10s he earned on road courses in 2019.
Cindric meanwhile is an established road course ace. Along with his two road course wins in 2019 he finished second at Road America and third at the Charlotte Roval, and in July he finished fifth. Considering he has an extra season under his belt as opposed to Briscoe, looking at his 2018 statistics he scored a second at Watkins Glen and a third at the Charlotte Roval. That adds to seven road course top-fives in 10 Xfinity Series road course races.
Cindric’s average finish this season is 8.9, but that’s only due to the three crash DNFs he’s experienced so far. He’s on par with Briscoe in terms of performance in 2020, with 11 top-fives and 13 top-10s to his name heading into Road America.
Although Noah Gragson has only won twice in 2020 (Daytona, Bristol) and sits third in points, his aggressive consistency has netted him eight top-fives and 11 top-10s this season. He’s been a contender on the road courses as well, with five straight top-fives on the Xfinity road course events including a third at Indy this year. Last year’s Road America event saw him finish fourth after starting fifth, so with the speed the No. 9 JR Motorsports crew has had this season mixed with Gragson’s experience, Road America could be the place that team makes a championship charge.
Perhaps the biggest dark horse among this season’s Xfinity Series leaders is Ross Chastain from the Kaulig Racing camp. He’s winless in 2020, but he sits fourth in points heading into Road America with a series-leading 15 top-10s in 17 races. 2019 was a partial Xfinity Series schedule for Chastain, however, his last start at Road America in 2018 yielded a seventh-place finish. Considering 2020 has been a career year for the Florida watermelon farmer, there’s no reason that Chastain shouldn’t be able to continue his consistent streak at Road America.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Henry 180 at Road America will be August 8, at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN.