Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DARLINGTON, SC – As the NASCAR Cup Series begins its Playoff with Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, the NASCAR Xfinity Series still has two races left to decide its full postseason field.
That situation should gain considerable clarity in Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200 at the Track Too Tough to Tame (3:30 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Currently, however, there is uncertainty at both the top and bottom of the Playoff grid.
Last Friday at Daytona International Speedway, Parker Kligerman rode a fourth-place finish into the top 12 in the Xfinity Series standings, displacing Riley Herbst, who was relegated to a 24th-place result by power steering issues and a blown tire.
Kligerman leads Herbst by 20 points for the 12th and final Playoff-eligible position, but Kligerman has posted a best finish of 13th in three Xfinity Series starts at Darlington. Herbst, on the other hand, boasts two top fives in seven starts at the 1.366-mile track, with a best of third in last year’s spring race.
Kligerman, however, continues to overachieve with his No. 48 Big Machine Racing team. He comes to Darlington riding a streak of six straight top-10 results, most recently a third at Watkins Glen and the fourth at Daytona.
“Our incredible run of races as we rumble toward the Playoffs has created serious momentum for our team,” Kligerman said. “This is a great way to head to Darlington, one of my favorite tracks, and we had great speed there in the spring (when he finished 13th).
“We have made other improvements from the spring that also give me confidence… I know if we keep doing what we have been the last 11 weeks, we can end this summer on a high note.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the battle for the Xfinity Series Regular Season Championship got more interesting when Justin Allgaier entered the conversation with his victory last Friday at Daytona.
Allgaier vaulted into second place in the standings, 27 points behind series leader Austin Hill. John Hunter Nemechek, who has swapped the series lead with Hill throughout the season, is one point behind Allgaier in third.
Those three drivers are among the eight who already have qualified for the Xfinity Playoffs.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to Darlington this weekend,” Allgaier said. “We finished second (to NASCAR Cup driver Kyle Larson) here in the spring, and I can’t think of a better place to come to off of a win than here.
“We’ve had extremely strong cars the last couple of years here, and I feel very confident that our Hellmann’s Chevrolet will be just as fast again on Saturday. Hopefully, we can go out and execute the way we have been and continue to close that gap on the point lead and the Regular Season Championship.”
Allgaier has two victories and 12 top 10s in 16 career starts at Darlington. He has finished in the top five (including the two wins) in four of his last five races at the Lady in Black.