Strategic choices could be key for Xfinity Round of 8

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04: Christopher Bell, driver of the #18 Safelite Toyota, and Daniel Hemric, driver of the #21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet, stand on the grid during Texas Lottery Salute to Veterans Qualifying Days for the NASCAR XFINITY Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – With three berths in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race already spoken for, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney have limited options if they hope to arrive at Homestead with a chance to win the series title.

In fact, they have only one realistic option if they hope to advance from the Round of 8: win Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway (on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET).

That’s not the case in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where 57 points separate first-place Elliott Sadler from eighth-place Ryan Reed. No Xfinity driver comes to Phoenix with a guaranteed spot in Championship 4 event.

Sadler, William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Brennan Poole currently are above the cut line, but Matt Tifft, Cole Custer and Daniel Hemric are five, 13 and 18 points, respectively, behind Poole in fourth—deficits that could be erased in the first two stages of Saturday’s Ticket Galaxy 200 (on NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET).

That makes the approach to the race a bit more complicated than the one facing the Cup drivers on Sunday.

“I don’t want to say take the race on the fly, but that’s kind of how you’ve got to approach it first,” said Hemric, who drives the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. “When we get on the track here, how our speed is will translate into the approach and the plan for the rest of the weekend. Depending on where you are on that side of it, that determines how aggressive you can be with your strategies and your tires and how many tires and all that stuff.

“Knowing that there are four spots—at any second, a flat tire, somebody spins and gets into the fence, anything that can happen… the next thing you know, it can bring a little more life to somebody else’s day, and it’s like ‘Oh, gosh, we’ve got hope,’ and that hope brings intensity and brings aggression.”

About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.