Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: 2024 Season Preview

We are just days away from the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season starting, with the United Rentals 300 set for Saturday, Feb. 17, at 5 p.m. ET.

There were some major shakeups in the series this offseason. Big names moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series while a few even bigger names moved into Xfinity.

Between now and championship weekend, we’ll be treated to an action-packed, star-studded show. Who are the favorites to make it to the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway? Who else could make a serious run at it? Who will fill out the rest of the playoff field?

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Sit back and get comfortable as we take a ride through the field.

Big-Name Additions

Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek, Daniel Hemric and Kaz Grala are all moving up to Cup for 2024. Of the four, only Nemechek went to victory lane last season.

But the incoming star power will have their work cut out for them if they want to beat the seven wins Nemechek achieved. Embedded in the newcomers is what could be a legendary battle, especially on the road courses, between AJ Allmendinger and Shane van Gisbergen.

The ‘Dinger and SVG are two of the most talented road racers in the world today, and they’ll be teammates at Kaulig Racing, both running full-time in 2024. It’s going to be so fun to watch these two trade paint on the ovals and take each other to school at different times on the six road courses on the schedule.

van Gisbergen earned instant legend status by going to victory lane in his first NASCAR race: the Cup race at the Chicago Street Course last season. The Xfinity Series will be at Chicago again in 2024, and he’s got to be the overwhelming favorite there after that clinic he put on against the best.

At the rest of the road courses, and on the ovals, Allmendinger figures to have an advantage over van Gisbergen with his big lead in the experience department. In 2021 and 2022, Allmendinger’s last two full-time seasons in Xfinity, he went to victory lane 10 times; six on road courses and four on ovals. Kaulig had a down season last year, but with Allmendinger and van Gisbergen now in the lineup, the team should be a force week in and week out.

The other big addition to the series is former Craftsman Truck Series regular Hailie Deegan. In her three full-time seasons in the Truck Series, Deegan was inconsistent at best. She had five top 10s to go along with 13 DNFs. Deegan will drive for AM Racing, a team that has an alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing and missed the playoffs last season with Brett Moffitt.

Championship Picks

Three of four drivers from last season’s Championship 4 will be full-time again in 2024, including the reigning champion, Cole Custer. Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier will join Custer in trying to get to Phoenix once again.

All three drivers are in a great spot to make it back. Custer is the lead horse for Ford, while Allgaier has the veteran savvy needed to avoid unforced errors and should be a multi-winner once again in 2024. Among that group, Mayer is the wild card. If he takes the same leap forward he did last season, he could be the favorite to win the whole thing.

Nemechek’s departure opens up a spot for a new driver in the final round. My pick goes to the driver who would’ve been there last season were it not for one of the most epic collapses in recent memory: Austin Hill. The Richard Childress Racing driver won four races and had the final round in his grasp. A last-lap melee with former teammate Sheldon Creed at Martinsville Speedway left both Hill and Creed on the outside looking in. Hill is back with RCR and crew chief Andy Street.

I could get wild and pick a big switch-up from what happened last season, but I really expect we’ll see continuity shine in a series that usually sees a lot more turnover than we have this year among the top rides.

Other Contenders

The field is deep once again in 2024. I see a total of eight drivers who could realistically punch a ticket to Phoenix.

Besides my picks listed above, you’ve got to think Chandler Smith will be a factor driving for Joe Gibbs Racing this season. Smith returns to Toyota after a one-year stint with Chevrolet. Kaulig was down overall in 2023, but Smith was able to carry the team into the second round of the playoffs.

Another Smith, Sammy Smith, fits right into the same tier with his non-related competitor with the same surname. Sammy Smith is moving from Joe Gibbs Racing to JR Motorsports in 2024. His crew chief is Adam Wall, who served as a lead engineer on Kyle Larson‘s Cup team last season.

JGR will see a lot of turnover this season, with Creed joining Smith in the full-time Gibbs lineup. Creed came within a corner of advancing to the final four last season, and he’s arguably upgraded his equipment for 2024.

This season will tell us a lot about Creed. He had several victories in sight and choked them all away last year. Another year like that could really stunt his career growth. On the flipside, if he can convert most of those near-misses this year, we are talking about a driver and team that could compete for the title.

Allmendinger finished in the top-five in both of his most recent Xfinity seasons. He was humbled once again in Cup last year, but now he’s back to chase trophies and chase a championship.

Best of the Rest

Twelve drivers make the playoffs, and we’ve ranked eight already. By my count, we have at least six more fully funded, top-tier teams will full-time drivers that should be competing for race wins and the remaining playoff positions. Those drivers are Riley Herbst, Parker Kligerman, Jesse Love, Brandon Jones, van Gisbergen and Josh Williams.

Among that group, the most likely to take another step forward could be Herbst. He seemed to finally figure it out at the end of last season with a dominant win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Williams has always been fun to watch while he drove for underfunded teams. Kaulig will bring him into a competitive ride in a similar move to when they brought up Jeb Burton and Landon Cassill for their first real opportunities in race-winning equipment.

Forty-four cars are entered at Daytona International Speedway, meaning six teams will fail to qualify for the opening race of the season.

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Daytona will be a great opportunity for a driver and team to steal a win and get themselves into the playoffs early. Other drivers who could pull off such an upset include Ryan Sieg, Kyle Sieg, Burton, Parker Retzlaff, Kyle Weatherman, Jeremy Clements, Ryan Ellis, Brennan Poole, Anthony Alfredo and Dawson Cram.

Buckle up, folks, we’re in for another thrilling season in what I can say without hesitation is the best series in all of NASCAR.

About the author

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

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