With the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff field officially set, we can all finally take a moment to look back at the regular season that was and what’s left of the season ahead.
In his first full (and apparently his last) full-time Xfinity Series season since 2019, John Hunter Nemechek has solidified himself as the frontrunner for this year’s playoff race. The Mooresville, North Carolina, native has shed the Neme-truck moniker in favor of Neme-finity.
Alright, fine, that doesn’t work well. But what has worked well has been Nemechek’s usage of the skills he’s picked up in 10 years of racing experience that has finally culminated in a) another chance in the NASCAR Cup Series and b) an odds-on favorite nod for the 2023 Xfinity championship.
His six wins on the season have given him a 10-point hold on the top spot in the regular season standings, but Nemechek will have to run the gauntlet to make it to the top of the mountain.
Behind him sits fellow Cup Series hopeful Austin Hill, who at this point is definitively the best superspeedway driver in the field. He’ll no doubt have his sights set on places like Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he has to make it through Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, first.
Veterans Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer are only separated by nine points going into the Food City 300 this weekend. Custer is trying to make up for getting booted from his Cup ride this past offseason, and Allgaier wants to show he’s still got something left in the tank. Two veterans with something to prove, you say? What could go wrong?
The young guns of Sam Mayer and Chandler Smith follow behind them, and how fitting. Here, we basically have the exact opposite scenario of our duo in the above paragraph. Both have wins on the season and are only separated by six points. This could prove to be the tightest battle of the playoffs, and I, for one, am here for it.
If you think those two are in a tight battle, just wait. Josh Berry and Sheldon Creed, who finished seventh and eighth in the regular season standings, respectively, are separated by only one point. They’re both still above the cut line, but it just gets crazier when you look below it.
Drivers 9-12 are only separated by four points between themselves. Yikes. Parker Kligerman managed to race his way in at Kansas last weekend, but without a good run at Bristol, his playoff run might be over as quickly as it started.
When the field gets cut to eight on Oct. 8, the Xfinity Series will have visited a legendary short track, a 1.5-mile oval and a road course, and that’s just the first round. The drivers will be tested to their limits early and often, and I would bet you everything in my wallet right now (including the lint) that when the smoke clears over the ROVAL, this list looks completely different. Let’s buckle up.
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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