There are numerous reasons why NASCAR fans will have excitement for the 2023 season. One of the biggest is the Xfinity Series West Coast swing which features the return of one road course and the debut of another.
The Xfinity Series drivers will return to Portland International Raceway for the second consecutive season on June 3, 2023. They will take on a 75-lap road course race while hoping for better weather than the downpour of rain in 2022. The Xfinity Series will then head south for the June 10 race at Sonoma Raceway.
The 2023 season marks the first time ever that the Xfinity Series has taken on Sonoma Raceway. The California track has hosted 33 Cup Series races and five Camping World Truck Series races. It has even hosted 41 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races, but the Xfinity Series has not taken on the road course. That will finally change in 2023 during a weekend also featuring the Cup Series.
New Drivers Could Take Over the Road Courses
The past two Xfinity Series seasons have featured two main drivers taking over the road courses. AJ Allmendinger won at Mid-Ohio and the Charlotte Roval in 2021. He then added wins at Circuit of the Americas, Portland International Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Charlotte Roval in 2022.
Ty Gibbs, the reigning Xfinity Series champion, logged road course wins of his own. He captured races at the Daytona Road Course and Watkins Glen International in 2021 before winning at Road America in 2022.
When Gibbs and Allmendinger weren’t winning, they were battling Cup Series drivers. This list included Kyle Busch (COTA and Road America) and Kyle Larson (Watkins Glen). The only driver to win at a road course was Austin Cindric, who captured the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before moving up to the Cup Series.
There are now questions about the drivers that will win at one of the seven road courses on the 2023 schedule, as well as the Chicago street race. Gibbs and Allmendinger are both full-time Cup Series drivers now while Busch retired from the Xfinity Series. Cindric hasn’t returned to Xfinity since moving up to the Cup Series.
With the change in driver lineups, the stage is set for some new road course winners. Drivers like Brandon Jones, Austin Hill, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Parker Kligerman, and Sam Mayer are only some of the potential winners as they will all take on the full Xfinity Series season schedule.
Some Drivers Could Return for More Road Course Starts
While the Cup Series is the focus, Gibbs and Allmendinger could potentially return to pursue more trophies. After all, they are allowed to make limited starts in lower-tier series while pursuing wins at the top level of NASCAR, so it is possible that they will be in the lineup for at least one of the road course races.
The four drivers at Hendrick Motorsports are another option after three of them made starts in the No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro. Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Kyle Larson all took over the entry for one road course each while trying to capture wins. Larson added a second start at Darlington Raceway.
Team owner Rick Hendrick met with media members ahead of championship weekend, and he faced a question about his Xfinity Series entry that returned for the 2022 season. Hendrick said that the goal is to have the No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro back for a handful of races in 2023, which will include road courses and some ovals.
“Some of it but not a lot of it because I’m involved with [JR Motorsports], and that’s our focus up there,” Hendrick said about potential 2023 starts. “But we like to run some road courses, and some of our guys want to run some of the ovals.
“We won’t be competing full-time at all, just a handful of races. It’s been a lot of fun to watch and bring those colors back. That’s kind of Ricky [Hendrick]’s number and colors. That’s really something that I’ve enjoyed, and we’ll do a few more of those.”