With the Chase now well under way in the Sprint Cup Series, it’s easy to lose track of the excitement and potential looming large in the other series. The Xfinity Series in particular has plenty of championship-capable drivers who are able to win races – even in events chock full of Cup Series regulars – and pose a challenge to the main contender in Chris Buescher.
Or are they?
Despite the fact that the grid setup in the Cup Series dwarfs most championship battles, it’s usually sold to us each week how much of a challenge Ty Dillon and Chase Elliott are trying to pose to Buescher. Elliott has won a race and Dillon is not far off, and with only seven races left, the race for the championship is on.
Except that storyline really seems oversold at this point. Buescher has a 25-point lead over Dillon and a 28-point lead over Elliott. Those certainly aren’t insurmountable numbers but the championship battle is far from a horse race.
No, I’m not about to start advocating for a Chase in the NXS and I’m not suggesting we give up on the season just because someone has a sizable lead. It’s far from over, anything can happen and I am well aware of that.
However, I have to look at the rest of the season as Buescher’s to lose. After all, with one point equaling one position, 25 points in a 43-car field only requires solid finishes on his part and Buescher is capable of doing just that based on his past performance.
Take this weekend’s race in Kentucky, for instance. When you initially look at Buescher’s results in that series, it doesn’t look so good. Only one top 10 in three races and an average finish of 12th. Kinda meh, right?
He finished 11th and 18th in the other two races. Those results aren’t great of course, but if he even finishes around those positions the rest of the season, he’ll be good to go regardless of what his closest competitors do. And it’s not out of the question to expect Buescher to finish in or around the top 10 this season, with or without Cup Series drivers in the race. He has finished in the top 10 in 16 of the 26 races. In 20 of those 26 races, he has finished 12th or better.
Clearly, Buescher’s consistency is going to make him tough to beat which might make the championship less – not more – exciting as Homestead draws ever closer.
With that said, there is a heck of a battle for second place right now and either Dillon or Elliott want to be in that position to capitalize if Buescher suddenly implodes (unlikely, but we’ll pretend).
I don’t think I’ll be alone in the fact that I would put my (completely rhetorical and hypothetical) money on Elliott. Of course the fact that he has a victory gives him an edge, but he has shown more capability of winning than Dillon, which he’ll need if he is going to beat Buescher.
Additionally, Elliott has more top 10s than Buescher or Dillon. Though Elliott has a lower average finish than Buescher or Dillon, he has more top-10 results than either driver. All or nothing, essentially.
I’m sure I’ve made my case. Now, of course, Dillon go could on a hot streak, pull through for a victory and leave Elliott in the dust. Stranger things have happened.
Of course, that would also mean that the even stranger concept of Buescher losing this championship has to be considered as well. Which I’m not sure I can personally go for at this point.
But that’s why we watch, right?
It’s not over yet, but the flagman is holding onto the white flag just in case.