2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Preview – Championship Favorites and Contenders: NASCAR is revving up for another season, and after a 2016 campaign that featured one of the more thrilling championship battles in recent memory, the XFNITY Series landscape looks a lot different in 2017.
Two of the four drivers who competed for the crown last year, eventual champion Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, will make the jump to the Cup Series. Another top contender, Ty Dillon, will also be Cup racing in 2017. Replacing them are several highly-regarded, albeit unproven, young drivers. In fact, I can’t remember a time when there have been this many new drivers in such quality equipment.
Needless to say, the championship picture is s wide open as ever heading into 2017. To help you sort it out, here is a closer look at the drivers I’ve pegged as the top contenders for the XFINITY Series crown.
2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Preview: Championship Favorites and Contenders
He was the runner-up in the championship battle last year, and Elliott Sadler has been a title threat ever since returning to the XFINITY Series full time. Last year, he led all drivers 29 top-10s, and his consistency and experience always seem to stand out. There are a bunch of highly-touted newcomers in the series in 2017, but the veteran is probably the safest bet to be battling for the title at Homestead yet again.
While he hasn’t won a bunch of races at the XFINITY level, Justin Allgaier has become one of the steadiest performers in the series. Last year, he ranked second in top-10s and fifth in top-five finishes, and he finished the season third in the championship standings. Allgaier is back with JR Motorsports in 2017, so there is no reason he shouldn’t be back in the title picture.
If resiliency was the only factor for determining the champion, Matt Tifft would already have the title sewed up. His 2016 was derailed by a brain tumor, but he returned at the end of the season and has a full-time ride with Joe Gibbs Racing lined up in 2017. In fact, Tifft will be driving for the No. 19 team that won the title last year with Daniel Suarez. His excellent equipment and natural talent should give him a great shot at competing for a title.
He dazzled in the Truck Series last year, winning seven times, and William Byron was rewarded with a full-time XFINITY Series ride with JR Motorsports. The young driver is obviously talented, and recent history has shown how quickly young drivers can excel when given dominant equipment. There are a ton of newcomers in the series this year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Byron ends up being the best of the bunch.
Stewart-Haas Racing has been one of the top organizations at the Cup level since debuting, and for the first time, SHR will field an XFINITY Series team. Despite being new to the series, SHR has shown they will spare no expense to make sure its cars are competitive. Cole Custer has been tabbed as the driver, and he will have all the resources he needs to make an immediate impact.
It’s hard to tell exactly what a driver has to offer when they are bouncing between teams and driving inferior equipment, but this year Michael Annett gets a chance to show his stuff. He landed a full-time ride for JR Motorsports, and driving for one of the premier teams in the XFINITY Series will let him showcase his full potential. Annett could go from afterthought to contender overnight in 2017.
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