MIAMI, Fla. — The NASCAR Xfinity Series is turning in one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory with the second playoff race of the Round of 8, the Contender Boats 300, set for Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson won four straight races in the late summer, including the playoff opener at Texas Motor Speedway. Regular-season champion, Kaulig Racing‘s AJ Allmendinger won the next two races and Gragson‘s JR Motorsports teammate, Josh Berry, earned the victory in this round‘s opener last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Berry‘s victory has automatically earned him a position in the Championship 4 round at Phoenix Raceway to race for the title — a first for him.
Gragson leads the championship standings over impressive rookie Ty Gibbs, who drives for his grandfather‘s Joe Gibbs Racing team. And JR Motorsports‘ veteran Justin Allgaier holds that fourth and final transfer spot as the points are now.
Richard Childress Racing‘s Austin Hill and Allmendinger are only 15 and 16 points behind Allgaier, respectively. Gibbs‘ teammate Brandon Jones is 27 points behind Allgaier and JRM‘s Sam Mayer is 36 back.
No current playoff driver has ever won at Homestead before. Myatt Snider is the defending race winner and the only current full-time Xfinity Series driver to have hoisted a trophy there.
This will be the NASCAR national series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway for both Gibbs and Mayer. Hill won the 2019 Camping World Truck Series race at the track but will be making his first Xfinity Series start as well.
Allmendinger made 10 Homestead starts in the Cup Series at Homestead, but has only three races in the Xfinity Series with a career-best fourth place there in 2020.
Gragson has the best track record among those with experience at the South Florida 1.5-miler, with three top-five finishes in four races. His best finish is third in 2020 and he‘s led laps in every race he‘s competed in there.
“I love running at Homestead-Miami Speedway and really want a win there,” said Gragson, driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. “We had it in 2021 before the incident in Turns 3 and 4 and I feel like this place owes me one. Our No. 9 team is on a roll, and we had a great car at Las Vegas last week. Right now, it‘s all about getting into the Championship 4 and winning a championship.”
Jones has seven starts and a similarly good record at Homestead — earning five top 10s — all in the last five races — including runner-up showings in the last two (in 2020 and 2021). His average finish at Homestead of 8.1 is his best on any oval the series competes on.
“I have a lot of confidence going into this weekend as Homestead has slowly become one of my favorite tracks,” said Jones, driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota. “Over the years I have studied hard to figure the track out and have found a lot of success there recently.
“I know these No. 19 boys will bring a fast Toyota GR Supra for the weekend as we keep battling to get into the Championship 4.”
Allgaier may have the most starts (13) among the current playoff eight, but he‘s had only a pair of top-10 finishes in that time. His best effort was sixth place in 2016 and his last top 10 — seventh place — came back in 2018.
Practice starts at 6:05 p.m. ET on Friday followed by qualifying at 6:35 p.m. ET on USA Network and streamed on the NBC Sports App.