On Saturday afternoon, Phoenix Raceway hosted the second race of the Championship 4 weekend and this time, the NASCAR Xfinity Series took center stage.
Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier, Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, and Stewart-Haas Racing and Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe made up the Championship 4 for the Xfinity Series.
While the race looked as though it would go to Chase Briscoe, who had nine wins entering the finale, the outlook began to change during Stage 2 when Cindric began to take control. In fact, the Team Penske driver took the lead on Lap 83 and the lead was just enough to take the Stage 2 victory. When the 200-lap event began to wind down, the battle came down to Allgaier and Cindric in the late laps.
Despite the late caution, Cindric prevailed against Allgaier to win his first Xfinity Series Championship in just 100 starts.
Like we did for the Truck Series Power Rankings this week, we’ll analyze the Power Rankings of the Championship 4 drivers in chronological order based on their finishing positions.
- Austin Cindric – Cindric ends the year with a season-best of six wins, 19 top fives and 26 top 10 finishes. Those stats are greater than the last two years where he had just two wins last year and respectable top fives and 10s. Before winning the championship, Cindric led 72 laps, finished second in Stage 1 and won Stage 2. Things got a little hairy when a late caution came out with six laps to go for a spinning Chase Briscoe. While Cindric was rightfully upset with the yellow while leading, the team took the opportunity to pit for fresh tires and actually restarted behind race leader Allgaier who was on older tires. With a quick two-lap dash to the finish, Cindric moved around Allgaier and won by .162 seconds to take home the victory and championship. Not a bad year for Cindric who really came into his own in the summer months.
- Justin Allgaier – Allgaier was at some points, the highest running of the Championship 4 drivers, leading over Cindric, Briscoe and Haley. The Illinois driver finished third and second in both stages, respectively. At one point, Allgaier took the lead on Lap 98 and led for 32 laps before being passed by competitor Cindric. Before the final round of green-flag pit stops took place, there was some concern on the team radio that a tire could have been coming apart on the No. 7 Chevrolet. Thankfully for Allgaier, he made it to pit road without blowing the tire and shredding the car. However, it would somewhat prove costly as when the yellow flew, Allgaier stayed out on older tires with Cindric pitting for fresh ones. Allgaier did his best to hold off Cindric in hopes of capturing his first title but in the end, he came up short, finishing fifth. The JR Motorsports driver will end the year with three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10 finishes and 1,008 laps led.
- Justin Haley – 2020 proved to be a great year for Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley. Haley got into the playoffs based on his three wins, with two coming at Talladega and the other victory at Daytona in the summer. The Indiana native would start fourth based on the qualifying metric system although he had some challenges even before the race started. The No. 11 team which was used by the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew had one member that tested positive for COVID-19. Kaulig Racing called upon the Truck Series championship crew of Sheldon Creed to replace the crew member. When the race began, Haley ran as high as fourth and averaged a mid-race pace of eighth. He had 44 passes to his credit and placed seventh in both stages. However, the team continued to fight the No. 11 machine and tried to get the car to Haley’s liking to where it could run in the front of the field. Unfortunately for Haley, he ran out of time and finished eighth in the running order for his 21st top 10 of the year. However, he improved significantly from last year when Haley had zero wins and finished 12th in the standings.
- Chase Briscoe – Briscoe had quite possibly the most disappointing finish of this year’s Championship 4, finishing last out of the group after placing ninth. Briscoe entered the playoffs with a career-high nine wins. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver first punched his ticket into the playoffs with a win earlier in the year at Las Vegas. Then when racing returned in May, Briscoe went on a tear winning at Darlington, Indianapolis Grand Prix, Pocono, Dover, Bristol and Vegas II. The defining moment came at Kansas last month when he punched his ticket to the Championship 4with a victory at the 1.5-mile speedway. When Phoenix came, the No. 98 team was shockingly nowhere to be found after winning Stage 1. Following the stage victory, Briscoe managed third in Stage 2 but began to fall off after the stages were complete. Despite leading early, the No. 98 car started to struggle with the handling and the race leaders pulled away. Unfortunately for Briscoe, he brought out the caution with six laps to go after spinning out in Turn 4. Even though he pitted for fresh tires, he couldn’t move the No. 98 Ford much higher than ninth as Briscoe settled for his 22nd top 10 of the season.