Now that Daytona is behind us, the official start to the NASCAR season is upon us at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Xfinity Series got off to a pedestrian start in Daytona as drivers kept things buttoned up in the draft. Michael Annett took the checkered flag, punching his ticket to the playoffs already. Who will join him in Atlanta? Here’s three guesses.
Big shocker here, right? The Xfinity Series’ most dominant driver in 2018 fell short of a title in Miami, but he’s back for revenge in 2019. Bell got his 2018 campaign rolling at Atlanta, posting a second place finish and beating Joey Logano for third. If not for Kevin Harvick, Bell probably dominates that day.
Bell was competitive on nearly every track last season, which should continue in 2019. An old, worn out Atlanta surface should play into his wheelhouse to kick the year off strong.
Reddick ended up being the guy that took the title from Bell in Miami, thanks to his masterful work running the high line. The 2018 champ has since moved on to Richard Childress Racing, taking over the No. 2 car that Matt Tifft vacated. With RCR shutting down its No. 3 team and running the No. 21 on a part-time basis, Reddick should have all hands on deck to run for another championship.
Atlanta is a place where Reddick shined in 2018, until a right rear tire failure doomed his finish late. Reddick was running inside the top five at the time. A new team could be a factor here, but Reddick seems to do his best work on old pavement 1.5 mile tracks.
One of the more consistent things in the Xfinity Series last year was Cole Custer, who didn’t rack up many wins, but was always in the hunt. Custer returns to Stewart-Haas Racing with a new full-time teammate in Chase Briscoe in 2019. There was some talk of Custer moving up to the Cup ranks to fill the vacant No. 41 car, but Tony Stewart and Gene Haas decided to hold off for now.
That leaves Custer in a similar spot to Christopher Bell — stuck in Xfinity competition for another season. In Custer’s case at least, it was probably the correct call.
The 21-year-old driver will have a shot at picking up some more wins this year, starting off at Atlanta. Custer was running inside of the top five last year when contact between Elliott Sadler and John Hunter Nemechek would up sending Custer into the fence.
Custer won at Texas and probably should have won at Miami as well. We’ll see if he’s got anything for Christopher Bell and company in the Peach State on Saturday.