Commentary

OBSERVATIONS: Performance Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway

By: Ashley McCubbin
Photo By: Russell Labounty | Nigel Kinrade Photography
For the second straight week in a row, the NASCAR Xfinity Series fans were entertained by the product shown to them on the track.
Just like last week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the aged surface at Auto Club Speedway produced tire fall-off and varying racing lines, allowing drivers to battle around the entire track. Combined with the usual restart chaos that you’d expect on the intermediate tracks with drivers using all four possible lanes and then some, and you were easily entertained.
If anything, this week’s event was just a little better as the cars were closer together throughout, with runs easily built and being traded back forth in lengthy battles for position. Lap cars may have played a factor, but Harrison Burton didn’t simply run away from Riley Herbst and Austin Cindric in the closing stages. There was also the battle between Burton and Chase Briscoe before then, along with Anthony Alfredo and Ross Chastain back and forth to the checkered flag for fifth.
Although the NASCAR Truck Series has lengthy held the standard of having the best intermediate races in the top-tier divisions, these young stars are certainly giving them a run for their money. Outside of some of the single-file bore at Daytona, it’s been a great start to the 2020 campaign.
With not many rule changes, perhaps that’s a factor that’s always been there, but wasn’t showcased by the big three and Cup stars dominating last season. Now with a slew of talent across the board, it allows these battles to emerge.
The discussion still remains about who will emerge out of this group, and Burton was already consistently discussed following back-to-back top-five’s to start 2020. Now with a win to put it into playoff consideration early, it seems the sky may be the limit if he and Joe Gibbs Racing continue down the route that they’re headed.
However, you cannot expect him to simply dominate as he was challenged today by Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. They ultimately put themselves behind the eight ball with separate issues as Briscoe spun after fighting a loose condition in the final 50 laps, while Cindric’s pit crew had an air gun malfunction requiring an extra pit stop.
With more laps on the track, these drivers will continue to learn about how much to push in certain situations and eliminate mistakes, and raise the bar that much more as we get into the back half of the season.
However, the list of potential goes beyond those mentioned as Noah Gragson has been fast, but ultimately got caught up in an incident on Saturday, and Justin Allgaier continues to keep himself amongst the front runners. He was headed for a possible top-five finish until running over debris and damaging the front nose of his Chevrolet; he still rebounded for a decent result.
Riley Herbst is also someone that you should consider, as he was a surprise front runner on Saturday. A lot of people have been critical of him in his young career for being aggressive and maybe not putting up the numbers that are reflective of a JGR driver. However, running one of his most smart races to date, he kept himself out of trouble and battled inside the top-five all race long.
There’s also the underdog in Ryan Sieg, as the small RSS Racing team ran up front inside the top-five for the second week in a row. If you want a small fry to cheer for, he’s easily taking the lead in that category thus far.
With all this into consideration, we can look who the possible stars will be each week, but that question may not be answered until we are 10 to 15 races in.
The other factor is we have ran three races with three different faces taking the checkered – Gragson, Briscoe, and Burton. Normally, it’s win and you’re in for the post-season, but what happens if we get more than 12 different winners? Then you will need to consider how many victories you have, and where you are in points. Some of these rough days like Gragson and Briscoe have been experienced may come back to bite them.

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