Two of the top three series in NASCAR are back in action on Saturday, Sept. 11, for a special doubleheader at Richmond Raceway. The Xfinity Series drivers will kick off the afternoon with the Go Bowling 250 and then the Cup Series drivers will take on the .75-mile oval in the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders. Here are the important details to know.
The Xfinity Series race will take place at 2:30 p.m. ET and will air live on NBC Sports Network. MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will provide audio coverage for the 250 laps. Defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric will lead the field to the green flag while Harrison Burton joins him on the front row. Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Justin Allgaier, and Jeb Burton round out the top six.
The Cup Series race will take place at 7:30 p.m. ET, also on NBC Sports Network. This race will feature the continuing battle between Southern 500 winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Kyle Larson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver secured the Busch Pole for the 400-lap race. Hamlin will join him on the front row.
Extra Attention Will Shift to Row 8 During the Cup Race
Once the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin, the drivers still eligible to contend for the Bill France Cup always line up at the front of the pack. They just shift around based on the results of the previous race. For Michael McDowell and Kyle Busch, this format means that they will both line up on row eight, behind the other playoff drivers.
The driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang and the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry both wrecked during the playoff race at Darlington on Sept. 5, finishing 37th and 35th, respectively, with James Davison between them.
McDowell is currently 16th in the points standings with only two races remaining before the field cuts to 12. He has to make up a 20-point deficit at a track where he has one top-10 finish in a combined 41 starts. He will have to overtake William Byron, Busch, Alex Bowman, and Tyler Reddick to get into the next round.
Busch, on the other hand, is only two points below the cut line heading toward two tracks where he has a combined 14 wins. He will have an early opportunity to chase down his fellow Cup Series playoff drivers and make a move above the cut line, especially considering that Bowman and Reddick sit only two points ahead of him.
Xfinity Series Drivers Have 2 More Opportunities to Reach the Playoffs
While the Cup Series playoffs began at Darlington, the Xfinity Series version will not kick off until the Sept. 25 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There are actually two more dates on the schedule in which bubble drivers can potentially lock up a spot in the playoffs.
The most intense battle for points is currently taking place on the cut line. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst holds the final spot with two races remaining by a matter of 46 points. JR Motorsports driver Michael Annett is the first man below the line with a 46-point deficit. This gap is not insurmountable, but the driver of the No. 1 JRM Chevrolet will not have an easy path to the playoffs.
Ryan Sieg sits in a similar position. The driver of the No. 39 Ryan Sieg Racing Ford Mustang is 84 points below the cutline. His best path to the playoffs is to win at Richmond or Bristol and secure his spot in the 12-driver field. Though he will have to leapfrog Annett and Herbst to do so.