Cup Drivers Dominate the Zippo 200 as XFINITY Drivers Try to Pick Up the Pieces
By Matteo Marcheschi
Kyle Busch won the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen in a race dominated by him and his fellow Cup drivers. Busch led 43 of the race’s 82 laps, followed by Paul Menard, who finished fifth, leading 22 laps. Brad Keselowski (3rd), Brendan Gaughan (9th), and Daniel Hemric (11th). Seven of the race’s eight cup regulars finished in the top eight. The exception was Kyle Larson, who had an engine issue during stage one. Joey Logano, (2nd), Kevin Harvick (6th), Ty Dillon (7th), and Erik Jones (8th) also competed in Saturday’s race.
Cup drivers took 70 stage points in total, finishing 1-4 in both stages, along with Erik Jones in ninth in stage two. XFINITY drivers took only 40 stage points, filling up the back part of the top-10 in each stage. They also took 232 points in the final stage. For context, 674 points were awarded in the final stage in total. That means Cup drivers took just over a third of all of the points.
The highest-finishing XFINITY driver was Justin Allgaier, who finished fourth. Allgaier gathered 44 points total, finishing fifth and sixth in stages one and two, respectively. Brendan Gaughan (9th) and William Byron (10th) also had strong runs, collecting 30 and 27 points respectively.
Only three drivers are locked into the XFINITY Series playoffs after 20 races: William Byron (3 wins), Justin Allgaier (1 win), and Ryan Reed (1 win). Points leader Elliott Sadler hasn’t collected a win this season, but is 385 points above the cutoff line, so there is almost no conceivable way for him to miss the playoffs. Brennan Poole, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, and Matt Tifft are all in the playoffs as well, and all of them sit over 100 points above the cutoff line.
Dakoda Armstrong, Blake Koch, Michael Annett, and Brendan Gaughan are all also in the playoffs, but are not so comfortable. They are all less than 60 points to the good, which isn’t all that much, given that six races still remain before the playoffs. While a new winner isn’t so much of a concern (only 18 drivers are playoff-eligible), a couple of bad races could put one of those drivers below the all-important cutoff line. With wins so difficult to come by, consistency will be very important for every driver not locked into the playoffs.