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2023 Xfinity Playoffs: Who’s Left Now?

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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With the fist round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs complete, who's in and who's out as we hit the homestretch towards the finale at Phoenix?

Yesterday afternoon the NASCAR Xfinity Series eliminated 4 drivers to narrow down their Playoff field from 12 to 8. Who took a quick, one-round playoff exit after the Roval? What 8 drivers advanced to the Round of 8? Let’s break it down.

Eliminated

While the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs continue to roll on into Las Vegas, four driver’s seasons were cut short. Most of these drivers have shown considerable speed in different spots throughout the year but the consistency just wasn’t there in the second-tier series post-season. All they can hope for going into the final 5 weeks of the 2023 season is maybe a win as three of these four drivers are winless on the year thus far.

Jeb Burton

Jeb Burton, the only one of these four with a win in 2023 (spring Talladega), ends his up-and-down season with a disappointing first-round exit in the Xfinity Series post-season. By and large, Burton has run mid-pack for much of the year save for a handful of shining moments. It was an incident and a 34th place finish at the Roval which seemed to be the final blow for the driver of the No. 27 Chevy as he was eliminated from the NASCAR Playoffs.

Despite ending the season on a bit of a sour note, we’ll always have his groundbreaking win at ‘Dega earlier this year. For the team at Jordan Anderson Racing, maybe that’s a sign of a good season.

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Josh Berry

All-in-all, 2023 has been a down season for the hot prospect named Josh Berry. After an impressive season running part-time in 2021 (where he collected 2 wins), Berry and his No. 8 JRM team hit the ground running in 2022, winning 3 races and being 1 of 3 JRM drivers to make it to the Xfinity Championship 4. But, as it happens so often, the JRM team, in general despite having 3 of their 4 drivers make the playoffs, suffered a bit of a hangover in 2023 full of self-sabotage and bad luck, digging a hole so deep that not even at 3rd place finish at the Roval could propel him into the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs.

Unfortunately, this means that Josh Berry will not compete for a championship in his final year with JR Motorsports. The only thing to do now is to try to nab one more race victory for the team that discovered him before he sheds the bowtie gear for hats and shirts sporting a blue oval. Josh Berry will take the place of the retiring Kevin Harvick in the Stewart-Haas No. 4 ride for the 2024 season. Perhaps there, he will find some greener pastures.

Parker Kligerman

There were a lot of eyes on Parker Kligerman heading into the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and rightfully so. He was slated to drive full-time for the first time in many years with the fairly young Big Machine Racing owned by record executive Scott Borchetta. And, the results are in and despite missing the Round of 8, Kligerman has had a pretty decent year with 8 top-5s and 16 top-10s. He even finished 6th at Saturday’s Roval race. But, in a highly contested field of youngsters, this veteran came up just short.

While his hopes of a championship are now over, his team has shown some real speed in recent weeks. It is entirely possible that he could come out swinging and finally nab a victory for that No. 48 Big Machine Team. Also a bright spot, it has already been confirmed that Kligerman will return to Big Machine for the 2024 season in hopes of building upon their ’23 success.

Daniel Hemric

Daniel Hemric has had a strange up-and-down career in NASCAR. The 2021 Xfinity Series Champion went to Cup with RCR, was ditched after only 1 season, won a championship with JGR only to again get kicked to the curb, and has been with Kaulig ever since. While he hasn’t nabbed that elusive second win, and despite Hemric just barely (see the video below) missing the Round of 8 by literal inches, he seems to have found a good home at Matt Kaulig’s team. While it is unfortunate that he will not move on to compete for a championship in the Xfinity Series, he will be moving up to the Cup Series with the team, driving the No. 31 in 2024.

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Still Standing

With those four drivers out of the way, there are still 8 standing who have a chance to be your 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion come to Phoenix. Let’s take a look at the ones who just barely escaped elimination then we’ll move on to Championship favorites.

Sammy Smith

Sammy Smith, driver of the JGR No. 18, has had a pretty decent first full-time year with the organization. In 2023 so far he has collected 1 win (spring Phoenix), 5 top-5s, and 12 top-10s. Despite struggling in more recent weeks as the Playoffs commenced, Smith was able to gain just enough stage points in the first round to punch his way into the Round of 8. Currently, Smith sits 8th in the Playoff Standings, 14 points below the cutline. It is completely feasible for him to punch a ticket to the Championship 4, he just needs a clean Round of 8 and he can do it. If he can work on his consistency, he could be an outside threat for the championship, considering his win a Phoenix earlier this year.

In 2024, Sammy Smith will move over to JR Motorsports to drive their No. 8 Chevy. Hey, moving from 18 to 8 seemed to work for KFB…

Sheldon Creed

Richard Childress Racing seems to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance in 2023. With the addition of Kyle Busch on the Cup side, the team has seen a collective uptick in performance. Sheldon Creed has been a big part of that growth on the Xfinity side of the garage. Though he doesn’t have a win on the year, he does have three 2nd place finishes. If he can shatter that glass ceiling and nab a victory, he will be in the Championship 4 at Phoenix. He just needs to keep his nose clean in this Round of 8. He currently sits 12 back from the cutline.

Chandler Smith

The star over at Kaulig for the 2023 Xfinity Series season has hands-down been Chandler Smith. With his first career win at Richmond earlier this year, he has 11 top-10s, 7 of them being top-5s. If he can avoid trouble, he might have what it takes to inch his way into the 2023 Championship 4.

C. Smith’s 2024 plans are already set in stone as his contract with Kaulig is a multi-year deal.

Cole Custer

One of the fastest men in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage, Custer was another driver with a lot of eyes on him heading into the season opener at Daytona. In what was effectively a demotion, Custer was stripped of his ride for SHR in the NASCAR Cup Series and plopped back down in the Xfinity Series for further development. Though he started the year lagging behind the rest of the competition, he turned on all his jets in the summer months, scoring several poles and a couple of Road Course wins at Portland and Chicago, respectively. After a second-place finish at the Charlotte Roval, Custer advanced and now sits only 2 points below the threshold of the Championship 4.

There is a lot of uncertainty with SHR heading into the 2024 season. While the 4, the 14, and the 41 (Custer’s former ride) all seem to be set in stone, there’s still a big question mark around Almirola and the No. 10. Will Custer slip into that ride or will he remain in the Xfinity Series for another year? Only time will tell but a Championship wouldn’t hurt his chances.

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Sam Mayer

Sam Mayer nabs another road course win (his third on the year) at the Roval, coming in clutch to advance to the Round of 8. Mayer hasn’t had the speed of a champion throughout the year, he’s only had highlights and most of them came on Road Courses. With what tracks are coming up, it is reasonable to assume he might struggle to punch his ticket to the Championship 4. Regardless, that was a clutch victory for him and the No. 1 team, one certainly worth celebrating. He currently sits 2 points to the good in the NASCAR Playoffs.

Mayer will return to JRM and the No. 1 car for the 2024 season.

Championship 4 Favorites?

Now, here come the big guns. These three drivers are in the best spot to punch their tickets into the Championship 4. They’ve had the best and most consistent seasons of them all this whole season. Let’s check ’em out.

Justin Allgaier

Allgaier has had the best season of all the JRM cars this year but that wasn’t without struggles. After a slow start of self-sabotage and bad luck, Allgaier and his No. 7 Bandit team really started to click in the late spring and through the summer months. He’s got 3 wins on the season so far, 16 top-10s, and 13 top-5s. As long as he can avoid the mayhem of someone else’s creation, he should be a pretty safe bet to make it into the Championship Round at Phoenix. He currently sits 3rd on the playoff grid, 17 points to the good.

Allgaier will be returning to the No. 7 ride at JRM for the 2024 season.

Austin Hill

The other half of the dynamic RCR duo is Austin Hill who has had a breakout year in his No. 21 Chevy. So far, he has 21 top-10s, 15 top-5s, and 4 wins. Those are some staggeringly good statistics! Certainly Championship worthy and, in any other season, he’d be the no-brainer favorite. But, with the No. 20 car being as strong as it is and a winner-take-all format, who wins this year’s title is and always will be up in the air. Still, he’s had a breakout season if I’ve ever seen one.

Austin Hill is slated to return to the RCR No. 21 in 2024.

John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek is getting ready to complete a perfect reboot of his NASCAR career. Arguably being rushed up to the NASCAR Cup Series with Front Row, Nemechek took it upon himself to return to the lower ranks in the Truck Series and climb his way up for a second time. It worked out. He dominated 2022 with KBM, coming up just short of the title, and has lit the world on fire for JGR in Xfinity this year. So far, in 2023, his statistics are 7 wins, 15 top-5s, and 22 top-10s, the best in the series. He has to be the hands-down favorite to win the title and a virtual lock for the Championship 4. But hey, sometimes things just don’t work out like we think they will. Regardless, JHN has had a remarkable season and has a bright future in this sport.

John Hunter Nemechek will move back up to the NASCAR Cup Series with Legacy Motor Club to drive the No. 42 Toyota for the 2024 season.

Well, NASCAR fans, that’s who’s left and who’s out. What do you think? Who do you think will be the first to punch a ticket to the Championship finale at Phoenix? Who will be the first ones out? Let us know and give us a shout-out on all of our social media platforms! Keep it right here for all your latest news and discussion topics in the world of the greatest sport in the world, NASCAR.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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