NASCAR went west this week for the start of a three-race slate with Joey Logano kickin’ it off in style with his third-straight win in the Team Penske No. 12. We’ll leave out what happened to Logano the next day courtesy of Kyle Busch. Next stop for “NASCAR Goes West” is Phoenix Raceway where it’s the first Dash 4 Cash race of 2017. The off season rule changes make for this to be the first XFINITY Series race where Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers with more than five years of experience are not allowed to race. Let’s see where the XFINITY Series regulars stack up as they try to raise the Dash 4 Cash check.
12. Dakoda Armstrong, JGL Racing (Last week: 12th)
The Dakoda spot. He’s here for the third-straight week, but many drivers are coming for it. These 20th-place finishes might not cut it for Armstrong starting next week, because Brandon Jones and Blake Koch are coming for this spot.
11. Michael Annett, JR Motorsports (Last week: 9th)
I was looking for a breakout performance from Annett to solidify him in the power rankings, but instead his race was broken with a 21st-place finish. He’s right on the edge of the XFINITY Series playoffs and like Armstrong, the edge of the power rankings.
10. Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing (Last week: 10th)
Consistency has been key for Custer the last two weeks. He’s recovered from the 37th at Daytona for back-to-back top-11 finishes and has moved up to 10th in the points standings.
9. Justin Allgaier, JR Motorsports (Last week: NR)
I said last week that Allgaier could really use running the NASCAR Goes West slate with top-10s like in 2016, and he’s off to a fantastic start. He finished fourth in the Boyd Gaming 300 as the highest-finishing XFINITY Series regular, plus grabbed 14 stage points. That was enough to catapult him from 26th to 11th in the points standings and back into the power rankings where he belongs.
8. Brennan Poole, Chip Ganassi Racing (Last week: 8th)
This is the third straight week the driver of the No. 48 lands at No. 8. However, he’s searching for his first top ten finish of 2017. Phoenix could be the spot where he finished 10th last March and 11th in November at that track. Snagging one there and being in contention for the Dash 4 Cash check could move him up from here.
7. Brendan Gaughan, Richard Childress Racing (Last week: 4th)
Gaughan crapped out at his home track in Las Vegas with a 35th-place finish in his 500th career NASCAR start. That trouble knocked him down to a tie for 8th in the XFINITY Series points standings.
6. Matt Tifft, Joe Gibbs Racing (Last week: 5th)
Speaking of trouble in Vegas, Tifft had multiple incidents that resulted in 34th, the worst finish of his XFINITY Series career—not the spot that he wants to be in as he heads to Phoenix for his first series start there.
5. Daniel Hemric, Richard Childress Racing (Last week: 7th)
No driver has done more the last two weeks in the power rankings. He’s gone from not ranked to fifth thanks to back-to-back strong finishes and has succeeded enough at the end of stages to move into fourth in the points standings.
4. Bubba Wallace, Roush Fenway (Last week: 6th)
Let’s give it up for Wallace, who persevered through the flu for his second-straight sixth-place finish. Wallace is the only XFINITY Series regular with multiple finishes in the top six through three races. He may be behind Hemric in the points standings, but that kind of performance gives him a well-deserved nod in the power rankings.
3. William Byron, JR Motorsports (Last week: 2nd)
The top-10 streak ended for Byron this week as he finished 14th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Phoenix was where Byron’s Camping World Truck Series title hopes were dashed. Maybe his first Dash 4 Cash check this weekend would be sweet revenge.
2. Ryan Reed, Roush Fenway (Last week: 3rd)
After Reed’s 2015 win at Daytona, he didn’t have another top 10 until July 2016 at Daytona. After Reed’s 2017 win at Daytona, it took him only one race to get back into the top 10 with a ninth at Vegas. If he can find consistency on the 1.5-mile tracks, plus playoff points in the bank. The driver of the No. 16 can make some serious noise this season.
1. Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports (Last week: 1st)
The veteran Sadler has to be considered the favorite for the title right now. He was almost forgotten in the race at Las Vegas and still pulled off an eighth-place finish and is leading the points standings. He has the two playoff points ready to go for his stage wins at Daytona, and Phoenix would be a great place for him to add on more.
Brandon Jones hasn’t done anything wrong, but got squeezed out by the great run Allgaier had last weekend. Blake Koch recovered quite nicely from his last-place finish at Atlanta for 12th at Las Vegas. A few more of those and he’ll find his way back into the power rankings. Ryan Sieg had his best finish of the young season in 18th, he’s going to need to improve on that to find his way back into the XFINITY Series playoffs for the second-straight year.
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