5 key storylines for 2021 Xfinity Series season


As NASCAR’s number two division, the Xfinity Series annually sees some of its best drivers make the jump to racing on (mostly) Sundays in the Cup Series.

But entering 2021, many of last year’s playoff and championship contenders are back for another run.

That leads off our five key storylines for the upcoming Xfinity season…

Stiff competition

Three of last year’s Championship 4 drivers – including series champion Austin Cindric – and six of the top eight drivers in the 2020 standings return.

Among this group are Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Justin Haley, Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, and Harrison Burton, who combined to win 21 of 33 races last year.

Besides them, several other playoff drivers return, including Michael Annett, Ryan Sieg, Brandon Brown, and Riley Herbst.

Higher stakes

Herbst is one of several drivers entering situations with higher stakes for them.

After struggling to keep up with Jones and Burton as a rookie at Joe Gibbs Racing, he has moved to Stewart-Haas Racing, where he’ll drive the No. 98 that Cup Series-bound Chase Briscoe took to a series-best nine wins last year.

Herbst’s replacement at JGR is Daniel Hemric, who returns to full-time status after running 21 races last year for JR Motorsports. Hemric believes he finally has equipment that gives him the raw speed he needs to become a regular winner in NASCAR.

An uncommon career path has led to a full-time ride for Myatt Snider with Richard Childress Racing. Snider split the 2020 season between RCR and RSS Racing after competing in the NASCAR Euro Series the previous year.

Then there’s Jeb Burton, who replaces Cup-bound Ross Chastain in the No. 10 for Kaulig Racing. Burton has competed part-time in the Xfinity Series for the past five years, most recently in 2020 with JR Motorsports (11 races).

Kaulig rising

Speaking of Kaulig Racing, they’re building off their best season to date in the Xfinity Series by expanding to a three-car lineup in 2021 with Haley, Burton, and NBC Sports analyst AJ Allmendinger, who moves to full-time status.

Haley’s run to the Championship 4 showed that Kaulig is one of the series’ top teams, alongside JR Motorsports and Cup-adjacent programs from Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

They could be even better in 2021. The team has been formidable on superspeedways, and an expanded road course schedule gives Allmendinger more chances to win.

As for Burton, he may need time to jell with his new crew. But 12 top-10 finishes in 18 starts over the past two years with JR Motorsports shows that he’s capable.

Rule the road

Going back to those road courses, the Xfinity Series will – like the Cup Series – face seven of them this coming season.

Allmendinger and Cindric, who combined to win three of the four road races in 2020, stand to be the favorites in this part of the schedule.

But keep an eye on Gragson, who earned “podium” finishes on the road courses at Indianapolis (third), Daytona (third), and Charlotte (second behind Allmendinger). In his outlier at Road America, he still finished a respectable sixth.

Dash 4 Cash

Four vastly different tracks make up this season’s Xfinity Dash 4 Cash schedule, which will see select drivers compete for cash bonuses.

NASCAR’s smallest and biggest tracks, Martinsville Speedway (Apr. 9) and Talladega Superspeedway (Apr. 24), make up the first two events on the Dash schedule.

Darlington Raceway’s 1.366-mile egg-shaped asphalt oval comes next on May 8, followed by the May 15 finale on Dover International Speedway’s concrete mile.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.