Josh Berry piloted his machine to a victory Saturday (Oct. 15) in the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and locked himself into the final round of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs.
Behind him, Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Ty Gibbs and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five. This marked the fifth win of Berry’s career, and despite being billed as a short-track aficionado, Berry is making quite the name for himself at the 1.5-mile tracks.
Despite Berry’s wheelman skills, several others found themselves in the spotlight in the desert, including some fresh faces to the Xfinity Series.
If you’re tired of the Hailie Deegan content, too bad. Deegan’s first Xfinity Series start came at an interesting juncture — smack dab in the middle of the playoffs at a challenging track when tensions are highest. Her goal was an ambitious one: a top-15 performance in her debut. She met that goal and then a little more.
Deegan brought her ride home in 13th to complete one of the most anticipated and delivered debuts in recent Xfinity Series memory. Her first season in the Camping World Truck Series hasn’t gone as well as she had hoped, but some still have expressed interest for her to jump into the Xfinity ranks with so many drivers leaving the fold.
Delightful debut for Deegan.@HailieDeegan brings it home 13th in her #XfinitySeries debut, that’s the 2nd best result for the @SSGLR0708 No. 07 on a 1.5 mile track this season. pic.twitter.com/aMuCJ2VqsZ
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) October 15, 2022
Deegan was the highest finishing Ford in the field, and it’s got plenty of people asking the same question: is the Truck Series the best place for development? Noah Gragson didn’t exactly light it up for Kyle Busch Motorsports when he drove KBM’s truck before jumping to the Xfinity Series. Deegan could be a very similar story, as her average finishing position in the Truck Series is only 22.0.
JR Motorsports yet again managed to slot all four of its drivers inside the top 10, all four of which also happen to be playoff drivers. Sam Mayer crossed the line in seventh for one of his better finishes of the season, but still short of where he needs to be to advance.
AJ Allmendinger was riding high coming to Vegas after a commanding win at the ROVAL last week, and all signs were pointing to another successful run on Saturday. Those plans changed, though, as Allmendinger had to pit under green after trading paint with Berry at the front of the pack during the final stage.
The collisions ultimately caused the front wheels to vibrate loose, which forced the impromptu pit stop. Allmendinger was the only playoff driver to finish outside the top 10, as he brought his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevy home in 22nd — a tough sight for someone who was close to locking themselves into the final round.
We had good speed in our cars today, but we didn’t get the finishes that we were looking for. We’ve got two more chances in the Round of 8 to get back on track!
— Kaulig Racing (@KauligRacing) October 15, 2022
Brandon Jones very nearly joined Allmendinger outside of the top 10 himself. He managed to wheel his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota home in ninth, but for a guy on the back side of the playoff bubble, that’s not going to cut it.
Jones has been fast all year; the problem has been that he’s run out of talent at times. If he can keep the wheels underneath the car, he’ll have as good of a shot as anybody going forward — he just can’t afford too many more ninth place finishes.
Scheme of the Week
Speaking of Deegan, her Pristine Auction No. 7 Ford Mustang is this week’s scheme of the week.
Beyond excited to finally share with everyone that I’m going to be making my @NASCAR_Xfinity debut in this @PristineAuction @Ford Mustang at @LVMotorSpeedway !! So thankful for everyone who made this dream a reality 🙌 pic.twitter.com/2BxGgYfDIk
— Hailie Deegan (@HailieDeegan) October 4, 2022
I’m usually not huge on the geometrical schemes like this one with random polygons everywhere, but this just works. The V-shape on the hood angling towards the Ford emblem looks really clean, and there’s enough white on the side that the numbers aren’t overshadowed. It’s a clean scheme to say the least, and hopefully we get to see more of Deegan behind the wheel of it in the Xfinity Series.
The Playoff Pit
Now that Berry has locked himself into the final round at Phoenix Raceway later this season, Gragson, Gibbs, Allgaier, Austin Hill, Allmendinger, Jones and Mayer all remain winless headed into the next race. Gragson remains the favorite on points, but anything can still happen in these playoffs. The full standings can be found here on Jayski.com.
Fuel for Thought
How much stock is left to put into Ty Gibbs? After Kurt Busch announced Saturday that he would be stepping away from full-time competition in 2023, it is assumed that Gibbs will be the one to fill that seat for the rest of this season. The Xfinity Series is great, but when it comes to the big leagues, nobody that knows they’re getting a call up is going to give it all they’ve got in the minors.
Gibbs is wickedly talented, but ever since he’s been pulling double duty, we’ve heard less and less about what he can do for the JGR Xfinity teams and plenty about what he could bring to their Cup operations. I completely understand it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. If we’re being honest, there’s no way he comes in and competes at a high level in the Cup Series immediately. At least in the Xfinity Series, he has the experience, equipment and a real chance to win some actual hardware.
Where to Next?
The NASCAR Xfinity Series is beachin’ it up next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Contender Boats 300. This is the first time NASCAR has visited the storied 1.5-mile track since 2021. Expect drivers that enjoy running the high side to have great success — it’s the track’s party piece. That race starts at 4:30 p.m. ET and will be aired on USA Network, the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR.
About the author
Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.
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