NASCAR

NXS: 2019 Staff Predictions

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As the 2019 season approaches our staff at Rubbings Racing will be sharing their predictions for each of the top-three series. We will all provide our staff picks for who makes the playoffs, and who we think will win the playoffs this season. Let’s talk the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Sarah Handy, staff writer
(In no particular order)

Justin Allgaier: Allgaier had a phenomenal 2018 season with 5 wins, 17 top-5’s, 24 top-10 finishes and was ranked 7th in the points standings after the season finale at Homestead concluded. Allgaier will pick up right where he left off last season, he’s a great fit at Jr. Motorsports and he’s bound to win multiple races again.

Noah Gragson: Gragson in my opinion will get in the playoffs with a win in 2019. After a successful 2018 in the truck series with 1 win, 8 top-5’s and 17 top-10 finishes he will see success in his first full-time season in the NXS, especially being in Jr. Motorsports equipment.

Cole Custer: Custer had a very impressive 2018 season with Stewart-Hass Racing and I see no different this season. Custer will get in the playoffs with at least one win, but I wouldn’t count him out to win multiple races after finishing second four times last season, including in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Custer capped off 2018 with 1 win, 14 top-5’s and 26 top-10 finishes. I believe he will be a serious threat in the playoffs as well just as he was last season.

Ryan Sieg: Sieg could certainly surprise everyone and capture a win in 2018, especially at a plate track or a track such as Iowa where he has his NXS career best finish of second which he earned in 2017. RSS Racing is certainly considered an underdog team, but we’ve seen Sieg have consistent seasons previously. Sieg will without a doubt get into the playoffs on points, mark my words now. Sieg may have only have 2 top-10 finishes last season but consistency is key.

Michael Annett: Annett is long overdue for a win in the NXS series, and with only 3 top-10 finishes in 2018, I’m going out on quite the limb here, but I believe 2018 will be a rebound for Annett and his No. 1 team with Jr. Motorsports. If Annett does capture a win in 2019, I believe it will happen at Road America where he finished 2nd in 2017, and 12th last season. However, I see Annett making it into the playoffs on points with more consistent finishes this season.

Christopher Bell: Bell will no doubt be a force to be reckon with this season. After capturing an impressive 7 wins, 18 top-5’s and 20 top-10 finishes in 2018, I look for similar results in 2019. Bell will for sure get into the playoffs on wins, that’s almost certain. Look for him to be a serious title contender once the playoffs do roll around.

Joey Gase: I know another underdog pick, but Gase could really surprise everyone this season. He’s experienced and he’s consistent. Oh, and he’s with a new team for 2019 in MBM Motorsports. Gase finished the season 20th in the standings, I look for improvement on this and I see him capturing some top-10’s as well. While he won’t be a threat to win the championship, I can see him getting into the playoffs based on points. He’s another driver where consistency is key.

Justin Haley: Haley had a fantastic 2018 season in the truck series with 3 wins, 9 top-5’s and 18 top-10 finishes. I see him and his Kaulig Racing team winning and making the playoffs. I’d be surprised if Haley didn’t have at least two wins, but I see at least one happening for sure. In his previous three NXS starts he has a career best finish of 12th at Iowa, a career best that I see him bettering in 2019.

Tyler Reddick: Reddick is the reigning NXS Champion and while he won’t be back at Jr. Motorsports in 2019, I still see him being very competitive and a threat for sure as he’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Reddick had 2 wins last season including the season-opener at Daytona to go along with 7 top-5’s and 20 top-10 finishes. I don’t think he’ll win back-to-back Championships but if he doesn’t win, he will at least make the playoffs on points.

Jeremy Clements: Clements has made the playoffs previously, winning at Road America in 2017 so him making the playoffs in 2019 certainly isn’t something out of left field. In 2018 he had only two top-10 finishes and was ranked 15th in the standings after Homestead but he’s certainly one of the underdog teams that could steal a win. If Clements wins, it could happen at Road America again, or even a track such as Richmond where he finished 8th last season.

Austin Cindric: Cindric ran well last season for a majority of the 2018 season and while he didn’t win, he came close at Mid-Ohio with a second-place result. Overall he had 7 top-5’s and 13 top-10 finishes for a season ending rank of 10th in the standings. I see Cindric making it in points.

John Hunter Nemechek: John Hunter didn’t run the whole NXS schedule last season as he ran in the Truck Series as well was the Xfinity Series, but this year is different. Nemechek will run full-time in the No. 23 Chevrolet Camaro for GMS Racing. The 21-year old had 1 win, 6 top-5’s and 11 top-10’s in 2018. In my opinion we will see Nemechek’s No. 23 in victory lane at least twice, which one win alone will secure his place in the playoffs later on in the season. I look for him to be a threat for the Championship, but I believe overall experience will win out in the end.

Who Wins It All: My pick to win the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship is Justin Allgaier. I thought for sure he was going to capture the title in 2018, but it was his teammate at the time, Tyler Reddick who did so instead. Allgaier has proven he can not only win multiple races but run consistently on just about any track the series visits on the schedule. If anyone gives Allgaier a serious run for his money when the playoffs roll around it’s going to be either Cole Custer or Christopher Bell.

Damin Sawyer, staff writer

Justin Allgaier: What more needs to be said about him? With the reduction of Cup stars in the fields the past few years, Allgaier has risen to the cream of the crop in terms of regulars in the Xfinity series. While a championship has still eluded his grasp, he has been good for multiple wins the past couple of years, which will easily see him in.

Christopher Bell: Bell, who has been sensational behind the wheel no matter what the ride, all but had the championship last year. The odds he stays in Xfinity another year are very slim no matter what, but he would love nothing more to go out as a champion. The chances he doesn’t at least get near matching his regular-season win total of four from last year is marginal at best, so this makes him a stone-cold lock to make the playoffs.

Tyler Reddick: Last years NXS champion, while he has left JR Motorsports and moved to the #2 car for Richard Childress for this season, his chances of having to worry about not getting a chance to repeat are pretty small. RCR was a top 5 team all year, and with them downsizing to a single full-time entry, the entire Xfinity side of the team can focus their efforts on him.

Austin Cindric: Mark my words; this will be the season Cindric scores that W in a non-controversial way.  Team Penske is one of the elite racing teams out there, not just in NASCAR. So, we all know the equipment will be good enough, which means it comes down to the driver. Being one of the best on the circuit at road courses, his maiden NXS win should be all but assured, which will assure him a place in the field. Also, running the entire season with one team cannot be overstated enough as an important factor to his impending success. Hopping around the garage makes it hard to build real chemistry, which as NASCAR is very much a team sport, can be detrimental. With this out of the way, its simply a matter of keeping his nose clean and his head under him.

Cole Custer: Custer has been improving every year, and now he has a full-time teammate to work with; never mind the fact his teammate is just as green as he is. Custer has shown he has a nose for victory lane, and while he hasn’t set the series on fire like he was primed to do when he was winning Gander Outdoor Truck races at 16 years old, he is maturing and growing into his own. In a year where I feel there is only about 15 drivers realistically going for the 12 spots up for grabs, if he can repeat his 2018 achievement of 26 Top-10’s out of 33 races, a playoff spot should be safely in his pocket.

Chase Briscoe: Speaking of Briscoe, I peg him as my next lock to make the playoffs. Having a full time gig in a single seat will do him wonders, and it doesn’t hurt to be in with one of the top teams in NASCAR. He proved his versatility last year by winning his only Truck start at the challenging Eldora, and then backed it up with his win at the Charlotte ROVAL in the Xfinity car. This entire team will improve by having just one driver to work around for the season, so look for him to be a staple in the top ten.

Noah Gragson: Gragson made quite a splash in his three Xfinity races last year, with a worst finish of 7th. He was always a threat to win in his two years in the Trucks driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and now he moves on to the #9 car for JR Motorsports, replacing the “retiring” Elliott Sadler. JRM machines are always at the front, and Gragson knows no different than to run up front. Moving into a team with two experienced drivers to lean on for information, Gragson will find no issue making the top-12 at the end of the regular season.

Michael Annett; The third full-time driver for JRM, Annett has struggled to keep up with his teammates in terms of performance. Despite having heavy financial backing which makes him an attractive driver for the way JRM operates, there surely must be some internal rumbling about finding another driver with similar or maybe slightly less funding for 2020 if Annett misses the playoffs again. This could be a make it or break it season for him, and between that and not having two top running cars out there; The #16 for Roush-Fenway and the #42 for Chip Ganassi, Annett should be able to find his way back into the Playoffs. But by no means is this a lock.

Brandon Jones: Another driver who possibly finds himself racing for his ride this year. While his father is the CEO of the perennial NASCAR sponsor RHEEM, and as such brings a nice bit of financial backing, it’s hard to see Joe Gibbs and Toyota keeping this seat occupied by a driver who has run in 144 Truck and Xfinity races, many of which were in very competitive equipment, without a win. Youth is most certainly on his side though, and all he needs is one win to disprove the doubters. This year will be as good as any for him to accomplish this, seeing as he will face mostly other Xfinity drivers. As well, with him driving a coveted JGR Supra, he has all the tools at his disposal to get the job done. I predict him breaking through for that first win, and making it into the playoffs.

John Hunter Nemechek: Finding a new home at GMS Racing, John Hunter is poised for quite a break out year. His constant overachieving in the family Truck team offered him the chance to get a part time ride with Chip Ganassi last year, and it was quickly evident that his Truck series performances were no flukes; that he was the real deal.  Scoring 11 top-ten finishes in his 18 starts for Ganassi, he secured both a pole start and a victory as well. GMS Racing has been waiting to score finishes consistent to how they perform in the Truck series, and now they have just the driver to help them achieve that.

Ross Chastain: Only in racing can fate be such a cruel mistress as to give you your first shot at real stardom, to suddenly rip it away in the blink of the eye. Chastain’s story is also a good reminder to never burn bridges unnecessarily, as he was welcomed back to his familiar #4 for JD Motorsports in the 11th hour. He will also compete for three races in a second car for Kaulig Racing, which includes this year’s season opener at Daytona. JDM has made huge gains over the past few years, and with the super teams running less (or no) cars in Xfinity this year, this gives Johnny Davis and Chastain a great chance to repeat their exciting run into the playoffs. Wins at plate tracks or short tracks, given some circumstances happening are not out of the realm of possibility, and what a story that would be. While this is not a hard lock, history says that Chastain and Co should have the edge over other teams considered at their level of performance.

This final transfer spot is going to be hotly contested over the course of the year. Two drivers I have as making the Playoffs; Chastain and Annett, will be battling with Ryan Sieg, Jeremy Clements, Justin Haley and possibly Joey Gase as well as Josh Williams for this coveted position. As for who I believe will come out on top? I’m going to go with Ryan Sieg. He has one great mentor on his team in Jeff Green, and his third car with Josh Bilicki will most likely be carrying sponsorship throughout the year, which will in turn help the team fund Ryan’s car. RSS Racing has been stellar at plate tracks and working together to stay in contention, and I feel they will help propel Sieg to a victory in one of the three plate races, which will be enough to get him into the Playoffs. Even if this does not come to fruition, he has many returning sponsors this year, which will allow more focus on the cars as well. He made the playoffs in 2016, and with more races with less to no cup drivers, and a bit fewer Cup teams, the opportunity is ripe for the picking.

As for my pick for the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, I am going to have to go with Christopher Bell. Another year wiser, and without having to compete with the #42, Bell will not have an easy road by any means, but I do not predict a sophomore slump, nor for a driver to pull off the playoff magic that Tyler Reddick did in 2018. He is going to go into whatever ride he will inevitably score in the Monster Energy Cup series in 2020 with an Xfinity title and another big handful of wins.

Jacob Mullins, Managing Editor
It’s hard to argue once again with the names that have been already said by Sarah and Damin. In an attempt not to reproduce what my colleagues have already said,  I’m going to make my predictions a little differently. I’m going to pick my playoff 12, the Championship 4 and my the NXS Champion

I believe the drivers that are locks to make the 12-driver playoffs by virtue of winning a race are Allgaier, Bell, Chastain, Cindric, Custer, Gragson, Nemecheck, and Reddick. Each one of those drivers have won in NASCAR before and there is no reason to think they won’t do it again this year. I like Chastain and JD Motorsports, but I don’t seeing him winning in a JDM machine. He could win Saturday behind the wheel of his Kaulig Racing entry at Daytona.

The remaining four that will make it on points will be Annett, Briscoe, Haley and Jones. With backing from some of the biggest team in the Xfinity Series, any one of the four drivers could win, but I don’t think they get it done this year.

When the series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Championship race, I think that Allgaier, Bell, Custer and Gragson, will be running for the trophy. Allgaier will make the final four with one win in the final round of the playoffs while Bell will win twice in the final round and ride that momentum to his first NXS Championship. This year will be another battle between Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports for the top team in the garage.

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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