The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns to “Thunder Valley” for the Food City 300. The countdown clock for drivers to lock themselves into the XFINITY Series playoffs continues. With just five races remaining, drivers will look to earn a victory on Friday night while also trying to fend off the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Austin Dillon stole the victory last season after Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch rekindled their rivalry during the final laps of the race.
William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Reed are the only XFINITY Series regulars who know for sure their playoff spots are guaranteed as they are 2017 race winners. Byron’s three wins has him in good shape for the playoffs, while Allgaier and Reed also have one win apiece.
JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Allgaier both have victories at Bristol, but both of their victories came in the spring race at Bristol. As noted above, Allgaier is locked into the playoffs with his victory at Phoenix earlier this season while Sadler continues to lead the points and has a healthy cushion over the playoff cutoff line. A victory will not only lock Sadler into the playoffs, but also will give him an important five playoff points.
Daniel Hemric has come on strong in recent weeks, and even came close to winning when the series visited Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last week where he got a career-best second-place finish. Earlier this season, Hemric finished fifth in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, his most recent start at Bristol. He also has two starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a best finish of third last season. On top of those three starts in NASCAR’s top three divisions, Hemric raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2015 with NTS Motorsports where he finished eighth after starting third.
With Pilot/Flying J on board this weekend, Michael Annett looks to deliver a victory to the Knoxville, TN based company in their backyard. Annett has an average finish of 14th at Bristol where he most recently finished 10th in the spring race. Being one of the veterans in the playoffs currently, Annett has 10 starts at Bristol with a best finish of sixth in 2011. His last appearance in the Food City 300 came in 2013 where he finished 11th.
Brennan Poole showed last weekend that he’s not playing games in the XFINITY Series, and that he has the aggression level turned up. Poole has a 15th-place average finish at Bristol in four starts. Bristol is where Poole made his UARA debut in 2009 and was also able to win three UARA races right down the road at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee. Poole earned his best Bristol finish earlier this season where he finished eighth.
Under the lights on Friday night, Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since he won at Richmond last season. Earnhardt isn’t alone as a Cup regular looking to spoil the XFINITY Series drivers’ chances. Busch, Joey Logano, Austin and Ty Dillon along with Aric Almirola are all looking to make things a little harder for the series regulars by sneaking out of Thunder Valley with a win.