With no Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on the schedule this weekend, the Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Xfinity Series will take centerstage at Iowa Speedway. The always entertaining 7/8 mile track offers a nice break from the heavy intermediate schedule, featuring plenty of side by side racing on its worn out pavement.
Can the unique track shakeup the title race?
The big three rolls on.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will bring their ‘Big Three’ to town, which has provided us with an awesome three-way battle this year. Each of Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer have registered three wins so far this season with no real threat of a challenger in sight. Figuring out which of these three drivers will be the guy each weekend has proven to be a challenge.
Recently though, the mistakes have begun to add up for Christopher Bell, who entered 2019 as the heavy favorite to take home the title. A wreck at Richmond, a blow tire at Charlotte and a blown pit strategy call late in Michigan has robbed Bell of more wins, opening the door for both Custer and Reddick. To their credit, they’ve crashed through that door, showing plenty of speed to compete with Bell straight up. But Bell and his team haven’t done much to help themselves to this point.
Cole Custer went heads up with Kyle Busch late at California, emerging victorious in his home state. He once again had the dominant car in Pocono and was able to capitalize on a last lap error from Tyler Reddick to pick up win No. 3.
Tyler Reddick has been no slouch himself, consistently showing outstanding speed off of the truck every weekend. However, Reddick’s wins have been more of him being able to capitalize on mistakes from Custer and Bell to this point. But what Reddick has going for him is the fact that the season will end in Miami — perhaps his best track. His masterful use of the high side last year carried him to a title. As long as he gets to Miami, he’s going to be the odds on favorite.
Both Custer and Reddick led significant laps at Iowa in 2018, so you’ve got to place those two as the favorites entering the weekend.
It’s about time for Justin Allgaier to wake up.
Lost in the fascination of the big three has been the underwhelming season of Justin Allgaier so far. The veteran driver has five finishes inside of the top three, but hasn’t quite had the pace to keep up with Bell, Reddick or Custer. But the summer time is the right time for the No. 7 — at least based off of last year’s production.
While Allgaier doesn’t have the raw speed at the intermediate tracks, he made up all of his ground on short tracks and road courses in 2018. Starting this weekend, Allgaier has a chance to take that same approach in 2019.
But if he’s going to be taken seriously as a threat to the big three, Allgaier — and really Jr Motorsports as a whole — needs to find more speed on the 1.5 mile tracks.
Will anyone else emerge in this title race?
We’ve mentioned the big three and we’ve talked about Justin Allgaier. Does anyone else have a shot at this Xfinity Series championship? It’s kind of hard to fathom at this point, but a couple of drivers have at least shown us some flashes.
Chase Briscoe is probably the biggest threat to the big three right now. He’s likely benefitting from the speed that Cole Custer’s No. 00 team has found. We saw that raw speed come out in Charlotte late with Briscoe running top three for much of the day.
Briscoe’s issues haven’t been finishing, interestingly enough. It’s been the start of his weekends in practice, along with the start of his races. The No. 98 team usually figures it out late in races, but in order to contend for wins, Briscoe needs smoother race weekends and track position earlier in events. The potential is definitely there, however.
After Briscoe, Noah Gragson has emerged as a legitimate player recently. Gragson didn’t have much luck early in the year, but that group has shown some speed in recent weeks. Three straight top six finishes have stabilized this Jr Motorsports team, capped off with a second place finish in Michigan last weekend.
Gragson finished second at Iowa last season in the truck series and seems to have some momentum brewing. He’s got a long way to go to get on the big three’s level, but he’s at the top of the next tier as he continues to get comfortable in the Xfinity Series car.
Different faces in Iowa.
As we get away from the Cup Series schedule a bit with the lower divisions, you’ll start to see plenty of different faces around the landscape of the Xfinity Series. That begins this weekend.
- Harrison Burton in the JGR 18.
- Zane Smith in the JRM 8.
- Joe Graf Jr. in the RCR 21.
- Shane Lee in the H2M 28.
- Ryan Ellis in the BJM 99.
- Tyler Matthews in the JDM 15.
- Ryan Repko in the JDM 01.