The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season stretch is winding down with four races remaining until the fifth annual Xfinity Playoffs commences. Following an eventful and wild conclusion to the Xfinity Series recent race at Daytona International Speedway on August 28, the battle for the final five vacant spots to the postseason continues to intensify entering the month of September.
With his second series victory of this season and of his career, Justin Haley joins Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, rookie Harrison Burton and Brandon Jones as multi-winners throughout the first 22 races of this year’s Xfinity Series regular-season stretch. They, along with Justin Allgaier, remain the only competitors to be guaranteed a spot in the postseason based on winning throughout the regular season.
The competitor who continues to emerge as the highest competitor in the standings based on points is Ross Chastain. For a moment, it appeared that Chastain had a race-winning strategy established on the final lap to clinch his spot in the Playoffs. Instead, it ended with contact with his Kaulig Racing teammate and race leader A.J. Allmendinger that knocked both out of contention entering the tri-oval. With a wrecked race car, Chastain was able to limp across the line in sixth place, though the result left him dejected. Nonetheless, with his 19th top-10 result, the Floridian moved from fourth to third in the regular-season standings and is 420 points above the top-12 cutline, leaving him a large cushion to make his second postseason appearance in the Xfinity Series.
Next is Michael Annett, who is also coming off a strong result at Daytona. After running towards the front for the majority of the race and working with his JR Motorsports’ teammates, Annett was in race-winning position in between the Kaulig Racing competitors until he was collected in a last lap accident. Despite the damage, Annett was able to limp across the line in seventh place for his 13th top-10 result of this season. With the result and the stage points he collected, the Iowa native is 223 points above the cutline as he attempts to make his third appearance in the Playoffs.
For rookie Riley Herbst, it was an up-and-down day at Daytona that started on a low note, when he and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team were hit with a pre-race inspection fraction due to an improperly mounted ballast. As a result, Herbst was docked 10 driver/owner points and raced at Daytona last weekend without his car chief. In addition, he started at the rear of the field and was assessed a drive-through penalty down pit road at the start. Despite the penalty, Herbst was able to rally his way back to the front to collect a bevy of stage points between the first two stages and dodge a multi-car accident on the final lap to finish in fourth place in front of teammate Harrison Burton. With his third top-five result of his rookie season and including the 10-point penalty, the Las Vegas native is still 142 points above the cutline in his bid to make his first Xfinity Playoffs as a title contender.
Next is Ryan Sieg, who came into Daytona with an 88-point cushion above the cutline and with an opportunity to race his way into the Playoffs with a victory at one of his strongest tracks (finishing in the top five at Daytona on three occasions). Following a 23rd-place result at Daytona while finishing four laps behind the leaders, however, the points cushion decreased to 68 for the Georgia native, who recorded his seventh result outside the top 20 this season and as he continues to chase his third appearance in the postseason as a title contender.
Finally, Brandon Brown continues to hold sole possession of the 12th and final spot to the Playoffs. For Brown, it was a rough outcome at a track deemed an opportunity for him to grab his first win and lock himself into the postseason battle. Though he finished in the top five in the first stage and collected a handful of stage points, his strong run ended when he was involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 40 during the second stage. Trying to rally from his first incident, he was unable to avoid another multi-car wreck just shy of the halfway mark. Following his second incident, he was unable to continue and meet the minimum pace with a damaged race car as he settled in 26th place. Despite the result, Brown is 32 points above the cutline in his bid to make his first postseason appearance as a title contender.
The top-two competitors who continue to trail Brown and the final spot inside the top-12 cutline in points are Jeremy Clements and Myatt Snider. Like Brown, both competitors emerged with disappointing outcomes at one of their best tracks to grab an upset win and make the Playoffs.
For Clements, his pursuit for a win ended just shy of the halfway mark when he was involved in a multi-car wreck that involved Justin Allgaier and Brown. Finishing in 20th place and two laps behind the leaders, Clements only lost a point due to finishing six spots ahead of Brown as he trails him by 32 points in his bid to make his second postseason appearance as a title contender.
For Snider, who started on pole position until he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck at Daytona in February, he was swept up in both multi-car wrecks just shy of the halfway mark of Friday night’s race at the superspeedway venue. Though he finished in 19th place for his 14th top-20 result of his rookie Xfinity season, he is still trailing the cutline by 58 points and in his bid to make his first Xfinity Playoffs as a title contender.
Other competitors who continue to trail the top-12 cutline in the regular-season standings by 86 or more points include Josh Williams, rookie Jesse Little, Tommy Joe Martins, B.J. McLeod and rookie Joe Graf Jr.
The battle for the final spots to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs will continue at Darlington Raceway on September 5, which will occur at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC.