The NASCAR Xfinity Series Has a New Dominant Driver

Austin Hill

Getty Austin Hill celebrates a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Three NASCAR Xfinity Series races are complete, and two have ended with the No. 21 of Richard Childress Racing in Victory Lane. The latest example was Austin Hill winning a stunner at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and taking control of the regular-season championship battle.

There have been questions all offseason about the driver — or drivers — that would step up and fill the gap left by Noah Gragson (eight wins), Ty Gibbs (seven wins, championship), and AJ Allmendinger (five wins).

Hill has seemingly provided the answer. He has already matched his win total from 2022 by winning twice in the first three races, stacking up twice as many playoff points (12) as the closest contender, and winning two stages. Now Hill expects to contend for even more in the coming weeks.

“I just think it shows our confidence as an organization,” Hill said during his post-race press conference. “Everyone at RCR has worked really hard in the offseason on the skew rule changes and the toe changes in the rear that we’ve had over the offseason.”

Hill was no slouch during his rookie season. He won at Daytona and Atlanta, and he reached the Round of Eight. However, he indicated that he and the No. 21 team have turned the proverbial corner entering his sophomore season.

“We went to work. We went and did a lot of simulator time, we’ve done a lot of things just throwing out ideas and talking about a lot of different stuff bouncing a lot of stuff off of each other on what we think that that’s gonna make the car do and what it’s gonna make it handle like.

“… Man, I just think it shows that we mean business,” Hill added. “We’re here to play and we’re here to win and we are showing that confidence.”

Hill’s Win Unfolded Under Unique Circumstances

Austin Hill

GettyAustin Hill has two wins in three races.

The driver of the No. 21 had a fast car, and he was in contention throughout the race. He even won Stage 2 under caution after a Rajah Caruth spin. However, he was not the favorite to win late. Chandler Smith was in complete control of the Xfinity Series race with a dominant Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro, but he used up his tires trying to pass lapped cars.

Hill took advantage with two laps remaining. He erased a three-second deficit and passed Smith on the inside. He went on to capture his second win — first away from a superspeedway — while Smith ultimately finished third after leading 118 laps.

“It feels nice to get a win outside of a superspeedway race and win on a mile-and-a-half,” Hill said. “I was able to do that on the Truck side, I was able to win on mile-and-a-half and those other types of race tracks, road courses, that type of thing.

“That’s what I wanted to do this year. I knew that we were gonna have chances and good shots at wins on the superspeedways, but I wanted to get our mile-and-a-half program a lot better. Phoenix will be a really good test for us to see where we stack up on the shorter tracks.”

4 Teams Appear Destined for a Championship Clash

Austin Hill

GettyAustin Hill does a burnout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The first three races of the Xfinity Series season have featured four main drivers making headlines. Hill has won two of the first three events while taking over the points lead. John Hunter Nemechek has won one race, finished second in another, and sixth in the third.

Nemechek’s finish in Nevada does not tell the full tale of his race. He led 45 laps and won the opening stage. However, a loose wheel disrupted his day. He lost several positions on the track, and he had to work his way back toward the front of the pack during the final stage.

“Probably one of the fastest cars,” Nemechek said after the race. “Just didn’t execute. It’s frustrating, but to come home sixth after a loose wheel, going to the back, and driving back up through. Then pitting and going to the back. Just shows the speed and we’ll have to go to Phoenix and put it on them.”

Another prominent driver is Justin Allgaier. The JR Motorsports veteran finished third in the first two races before taking second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He appears destined for the playoffs once again, where he will potentially fight for another appearance in the championship four.

Smith has delivered strong performances to kick off his rookie season. He finished 12th at Daytona and fourth at Auto Club Speedway before he won the pole at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and spent a significant portion of time at the front of the pack.

These four drivers are in a battle for the points lead after the first three races. Hill holds the top spot with 156 points while Allgaier is second with 135 points. Nemechek is third with 132 points. Smith, who is only three races into his rookie season, is holding strong in fourth with 122 points, but he has some ground to make up in the coming weeks.

There is still plenty of time for the leaderboard to undergo some changes, especially as Smith gains more experience in the Xfinity Series. For now, these four drivers will continue to draw plenty of attention.

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