Hailie Deegan will make her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. How do you expect her race to go?
Andrew Stoddard: Hailie Deegan’s Xfinity debut will be an uneventful one. She is in respectable equipment with the No. 07 SS-Green Light Racing Ford, a team that won earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway with Cole Custer. That said, the team will likely emphasize taking care of the car and logging laps for Deegan’s first foray into Xfinity racing. She will finish multiple laps down, somewhere in the 20s. If Deegan can accomplish that, it will be a positive for her as she has struggled with making it to the finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with six DNFs in 2022.
Michael Nebbia: Judging by her Truck results, not well. But she’s at a track she knows from the Truck Series, so I think she’ll do fine. Maybe not win, but a top 10 will suffice and do wonders for her confidence going forward.
Stephen Stumpf: Finishing the race is the goal and scoring a top-20 finish would be a success for Deegan. It’s been a rough two seasons for her in the Truck Series, so this weekend’s race at Vegas will give her a chance to show what she can do outside of her ordinary ride.
Reportedly set to join 23XI Racing in 2023, will Tyler Reddick surpass his 2022 career-best NASCAR Cup Series performance?
Mike Neff: It is tremendously difficult to guess. Tyler Reddick and his current crew chief Randall Burnett have been together for years. It will take him a while to gel with his new crew chief. I expect him to do well, but exceeding 2022 is going to take a bit.
Stoddard: Actually, Reddick will regress a bit in 2023. Any time a driver changes race teams, there is a learning curve they have to deal with in the early parts of the season. Reddick is not only changing teams but also manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota. Assuming the recent news is true, he will be doing it a year earlier than planned. Reddick will not fall all the way back to his pre-2022 numbers, and he will still be a playoff driver. However, expect fewer wins and top 10s for him in the No. 45 next season compared to what he has done in the No. 8 this season.
Stumpf: It will depend on how much of a leap 23XI takes in its third year. The jump in speed from 2021 to 2022 was huge, and if the team continues that trend, it may be pulling even with Joe Gibbs Racing in just a season or two. I expect Reddick to win at least two races in 2023, and if he can get in the habit of consistently finishing in the top 10, he will be a threat to go far in the playoffs.
Nebbia: Reddick will surpass his 2022 performance at 23XI. He’ll have JGR-grade equipment, a mentor in team owner Denny Hamlin and a teammate who has come into his own in Bubba Wallace. Look for Reddick to be a force in 2023.
Will Chase Briscoe make the Championship 4? If so, could he ultimately win the 2022 championship?
Nebbia: Don’t underestimate Chase Briscoe. These next three tracks have been good to him. The only real concern is Martinsville Speedway, and if he can survive that along with some good finishes at Vegas and Homestead-Miami Speedway, Briscoe could slide his way into the Championship 4. That said, I’m not sure if he could claim the championship against guys like Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Hamlin.
Stoddard: Making the Round of 8 is a big boon for Briscoe in his career, but I see no path to the Championship 4 for him and the No. 14 team. Briscoe has only one top-10 finish in a combined eight starts at the Round of 8 tracks, and that was a ninth-place showing at Martinsville earlier this season. His other two finishes at Martinsville are 22nd and 27th in 2021. Briscoe has been able to make it this far on a combination of consistency, keeping his car clean and a hint of luck. However, to make the Championship 4, a driver has to find another level, and I have not seen enough from Briscoe to indicate that is going to happen. A valiant effort, but Briscoe will bow out after Martinsville.
Stumpf: It’s highly unlikely that Briscoe will make it to the Championship 4, but the same thing was said about him reaching the Round of 8. That said, it will be a tall order for him to make it to Phoenix when there is little to no room for error in points; he may very well need to finish in the top 10 in all three races. But if he pulls it off and makes it to Phoenix, watch out. He scored his first win at the track in March after a dominating performance, and he will be a threat once again if he’s racing for a championship in the finale.
Neff: Anyone in the Championship 4 can win the championship. That said, it will be tough for Briscoe to make the last four. He will probably have a great run at Homestead, but Martinsville will be tough. If he can stay out of trouble in Southern Virginia, he will have a shot for sure.
Who will be the best Kaulig Racing Xfinity Series driver in 2023 – Landon Cassill, Daniel Hemric or Chandler Smith?
Stumpf: Daniel Hemric and Landon Cassill have had almost identical seasons in 2022. If it comes down to them in 2023, they will lead the team together. The big wild card for Kaulig is Chandler Smith; if he’s hot right out of the gate, he can quickly establish himself as the team’s lead driver. But if he struggles in adapting to the Xfinity Series, Hemric and Cassill will be leading the charge. Given that it took almost two years for Smith to find his groove in the Truck Series, I am leaning toward the latter.
Stoddard: Smith will go through a lot of growing pains for the 2023 season, as he is adjusting to a new team in Kaulig, a new manufacturer with Chevrolet and a new car with his first season in the Xfinity Series. Smith will get in the playoffs just on his talent alone, but he will have his fair share of struggles. Cassill is winless in 2022 and was unable to make the Xfinity playoffs this season with a No. 10 team that made it the previous two seasons with Jeb Burton and Ross Chastain. 2023 will be a do-or-die season for Cassill, or else this may be his last chance in quality equipment. That leaves Hemric as the standout Kaulig Xfinity driver in 2023. It will be his second season on the team, and while he is winless in 2022, he does have the 2021 Xfinity championship on his resume. I predict at least one win and a Round of 8 appearance for Hemric in 2023.
Nebbia: Smith has more than proven his worth in the Truck Series in 2022. The jump to Xfinity may have some growing pains at first, but once Smith gets his feet under him, expect him to grow as a driver.
Neff: Smith is a well-rounded driver, but Hemric has the full package and has for a while. It is going to be hard for anyone to outrun Hemric.
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