Since entering NASCAR in 2015, you would be hard pressed to find a sponsor that has done more for the sport than Xfinity. The company has branded its name all over the NASCAR playoffs, became a premier partner of the NASCAR Cup Series and markets its series where names are made.
It’s hard to argue. With Ty Gibbs moving to the Cup Series for the 2023 season, all but one of its champions since 2015 reside in the top echelon of North American motorsports. Daniel Hemric, the 2021 Xfinity Series champion, ran a partial Cup schedule with Kaulig Racing in 2022 and will likely do the same this year.
The action on the track was fierce in 2023, with a record-tying 19 different Cup winners in the 36-race schedule. The Xfinity Series had Gibbs, Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger break out and stamped their name into active Cup Series drivers.
Let’s take a look at 10 moments that stood out from the 2022 NASCAR season that included Xfinity branding.
Prior to Xfinity’s first dab into race sponsorship in 2020, Matt Lederer, vp of brand partnership and amplification at Comcast, said it was a strategic play in choosing the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville. And while the paperclip almost never disappoints, the final half-mile in the fall’s Xfinity 500 was something nobody has ever seen before.
Ross Chastain decided not to lift and shifted into fifth gear entering turn 3. His viral maneuver against the move gained him a handful of positions – enough to narrowly crack into the Championship 4. It’s a move that can be replicated but never duplicated, as everything was on the line for the No. 1 team.
The winner of the aforementioned Martinsville race was Christopher Bell. And it was a must-win. Fortunately for Bell, it wasn’t the first time he was in that position during the 2022 postseason.
Three weeks earlier, Bell, who entered the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL needing to win in order to advance to the Round of 8, did just that. The No. 20 Toyota didn’t have the sheer speed to be a winning car, but his crew chief Adam Stevens made a gutsy call late in the race to pit for fresh tires after a caution flew from a sign being stopped in the middle of the racing groove. Bell made quick work of his competition to get to second, before another caution flew. He took the lead from Kevin Harvick and never looked back.
It was another highlight reel type of moment for Xfinity, which was a presenting sponsor of all three cutoff races: Bristol Motor Speedway, the ROVAL and Martinsville Speedway.
Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson Clash
The best rivalry of the Xfinity season – maybe throughout all three national touring series – belonged to Gibbs and Gragson. The two drivers were always in each other’s view, all the way down to the final lap of the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.
Reflecting back to Portland International Raceway where Gibbs turned Gragson in the downpour. Gragson has alluded to having a conversation with Gibbs at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway to tell him how he felt about him. Yet the two continued to clash and Gragson never shied away his true feelings toward Gibbs, stating, “I don’t like him,” during championship week last fall. He used every opportunity available to convey his thoughts toward the teenager.
What was a fun rivalry in the Xfinity Series now gets moved to the Cup Series for 2023.
Ty Gibbs Wins Xfinity Championship
With four race wins in his part-time 2021 season, expectations were sky high for Gibbs in 2023. Possibly too high?
The No. 54 team came out of the gate strong, winning a pair of the first five races and three out of the first seven. But then there was a nine-race dry spell until Gibbs outdueled Kyle Larson at Road America in early July. He went on to dominate at Michigan International Speedway in early August, before going winless through the rest of summer.
Gibbs was the center of controversy a lot, having scuffles with drivers such as Gragson (all season), Ryan Sieg (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and even got into a fight with Sam Mayer in April at Martinsville. What notably stands out is his unapologetic run-in with Brandon Jones at Martinsville. He wrecked his own teammate while battling for the win, despite already having clinched a spot in the Championship 4.
Gibbs went into the championship race with a massive bullseye on his rear bumper, but nobody did anything about it. He went on to win the title by less than a half-second over his arch nemesis Gragson and raced clean throughout the 200-lap race.
Xfinity Series’ Big 3 Moves to Cup
All three of the winningest Xfinity drivers in 2022 have gotten the call to leap to the Cup Series. Gibbs will do so by replacing Kyle Busch, though he’ll look to create his own identity in the No. 54 Toyota. Gragson will move to Legacy Motor Club with his 2022 crew chief Luke Lambert. And AJ Allmendinger was an easy choice for Kaulig to give the nod to its second full-time driver. He’s also the most likely of the three to make the 2023 Cup playoffs, primarily due to his road course prowess.
As such when call-ups happen, there will be a void to fill in the Xfinity Series for 2023. Twenty race wins are up for grabs compared to one season ago. But we’ve seen this on repeat the past handful of years. A new driver or two will make their name in the series next season.
Best Finish of the Year?
Throughout the three national divisions, we were spoiled with thrilling finishes in 2022. Among the best was the thrilling last lap in September’s Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway, during which Gragson came out on top.
Sheldon Creed, who needed a win to make the playoffs, had a spirited battle with Kyle Larson over the final 15 laps. Both drivers rubbed fenders and traded paint with the wall. That allowed for Gragson to close in, and go from third to the lead on the final lap. It was the first of four consecutive wins for the No. 9 team, a streak that saw him be the first driver to win four Xfinity races in a row in 39 years.
Underdog Stories Never Disappoint
Races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are captivating. Some drivers dread superspeedway racing, while others know it’s one of their few shots to land big finishes. Such was the case in August during the Xfinity race at Daytona.
It took three overtimes to complete, but Jeremy Clements picked up his second career win, both of which ended on Aug. 27 (Road America, 2017). It locked the No. 51 team into the postseason after a disappointing first six months of the season.
Check out this finishing order: Clements was first. Timmy Hill earned his best-career finish in second. Brandon Brown and Sage Karam took home positions four and five. Ryan Vargas placed sixth, with Alex Labbe, JJ Yeley and Kyle Sieg also making up the top 10.
Jeffrey Earnhardt Runs No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing
In what turned out to be a one-race deal, Jeffrey Earnhardt had a lot to race for at Talladega in April. For the first time in his career, he got to drive the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series. His crew chief? Larry McReynolds, championship-winning crew chief with Dale Earnhardt, who called his first race since 2000.
Wouldn’t you know, Earnhardt put the black No. 3 machine on the pole before being a threat in the race. On the final restart, he was able to dice his way through the field from ninth to second, only behind Gragson.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see an Earnhardt be in contention for a win at Talladega, but it was his best-ever finish.
Jes Ferreira Wins Comcast Community Championship
Away from the track is where the Xfinity partnership with NASCAR shines. In November, Jes Ferreira was named the 2022 Comcast Community Champion of the Year for her work with Foster Village Charlotte.
During the pandemic, Ferriera earned her foster parenting license and brought in two siblings. She became the eighth different winner of the award – one for each year that Comcast has been a name brand in NASCAR – and her charity, Foster Village Charlotte, was awarded $60,000. The other finalists were Josh Williams and Sherry Pollex.
Xfinity Rewards Customers Celebrated at Martinsville
Prior to that penultimate race of the season at Martinsville, Xfinity hosted hundreds of Xfinity Rewards Customers, with 24 attending a VIP experience. Two customers were randomly selected as pre-race dignities, by giving the command to start engines and waving the green flag.
Xfinity treated that whole week as an event, as fans and customers were able to stop at Xfinity stores in Christiansburg, Va., Danville, Va., and Lynchburg, Va., to receive free tickets to the race. Kevin Harvick, an Xfinity brand ambassador, also made time for fans with an appearance at the Danville location.
About the author
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.
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