Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: As Playoff Pressure Builds, Who Gets the Final Spot?

The stakes are never higher in a NASCAR Xfinity Series season than they are right now, and there are two drivers in particular who are going to have to duke it out.

Riley Herbst and Parker Kligerman sit 10th and 11th in the standings, respectively, with only one point separating the pair.

Translation? A storm is brewing in Kansas in lieu of this weekend’s race.

See also
Entry List: 2023 Kansas Lottery 300

The question here, though, is who will take that coveted 10th playoff spot and give themselves and their team a shot at the big prize – the driver’s championship? Will it be Herbst, the one with playoff experience? Or will Kligerman, in his first full-time season behind the wheel of a traditionally mediocre team, be able to ride the momentum that he’s had over the past few races into contention?

There is a third possibility, though.

If another driver behind Kligerman happens to wind up in victory lane on Saturday, neither will have a shot at the glory, and that, perhaps, is more interesting altogether when you look at the standings.

There are plenty of fast cars behind Kligerman, namely, Brandon Jones. I make no bones about the fact that I don’t fancy Jones as any sort of wheel man, but I also have never said he didn’t have a fast car. After all, it is a JR Motorsports ride.

When you look at the odds, it makes sense, too. According to Bovada, Jones has better odds to win this weekend than Herbst or Kligerman at +2000. I’m not going to act like those are great, but it shows a glaring discrepancy in the quality of car the drivers are hopping into.

See also
Daniel Hemric Switching to Kaulig No. 10 for Rest of 2023

The other piece that makes Jones such an interesting character this week is his track record at Kansas Speedway. The Atlanta native won back-to-back races there for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019 and 2020.

When you dive deeper into the track history, things look even worse for Herbst, too. The last time a Ford won a Kansas Lottery 300 was in 2020 when Chase Briscoe won the race that replaced a canceled one at Iowa Speedway. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2012, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won in the Roush Fenway No. 6.

Who gets the final spot, then?

My prediction is simple. Herbst will have no help as the only fast Ford in the field aside from Cole Custer, and the latter will probably be running towards the front end of the top ten instead of the back. Unless Custer wants to stick around in the middle of the field for the whole race to help his teammate, Herbst will have a hard time finding other drivers to work with.

On the other hand, Kligerman drives a bowtie ride, and those are a dime a dozen. He can link up with several different people throughout the race, and they’d probably be happy to lend a hand, meaning he’ll have more options, but then there’s one other thing.

Nobody has faster teammates than Jones. If he can pool every ounce of effort into a win and stay with his rocket ship riding teammates throughout the race, he has a very, very real chance of coming away with an absolutely necessary victory at a track he’s comfortable at, and a chance at locking all four JRM cars into the playoffs.

The stage is set, and the green flag drops on Saturday, at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC, Sirius XM and the Motor Racing Network.

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via