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Categorized | NASCAR

2018 XFINITY Series Season Predictions: Championship Favorites and Contenders

2018 XFINITY Series Season Predictions: Championship Favorites and Contenders: NASCAR is about to return, and while the Cup Series drivers are preparing for the Daytona 500, the XFINITY Series drivers are also getting geared up for the 2018 season.

Last year, rookie William Byron took home the championship, but with Byron moving on to the Cup Series, the there is a mix of newcomers and seasoned veterans waiting to contend for this year’s crown.

JR Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are once again the top organizations in the sport, but they aren’t the only teams fielding potential title threats. With the 2018 season just a couple of weeks away from beginning, here is a closer look at the top contenders for the 2018 XFINITY Series championship.

2018 XFINITY Series Season Predictions: Championship Favorites and Contenders

The Favorites

The heartbreak continued for Elliott Sadler in 2017, as he came within a few agonizing laps of winning the XFNITY Series title that has eluded him throughout his career. Instead, he settled for his second consecutive runner-up finish in the series and fourth runner-up finish in the last seven seasons. Sadler led the series with 25 Top 10s, and his 12 Top 5s were tied for the most. The veteran is as consistent as they come, and there is no reason to think he won’t be right in the thick of the title hunt again in 2018.

After capturing the Truck Series crown in 2017, Christopher Bell will jump to full-time XFINITY Series racing this season with Joe Gibbs Racing. Bell is one of the top up-and-comers in NASCAR, and driving for one of the best organizations in the sport will only help his cause. Bell showcased his upside in part-time duty last year, picking up a win and four Top 10s in eight starts. He has already shown he can win at this level, and he is going to be an immediate threat for the title.

Despite being a rookie for a Stewart-Haas Racing organization that was debuting in the XFINITY Series, Cole Custer came on strong down the stretch and came within a few spots of making the championship finale, a race he won by the way in dominating fashion. His 19 Top 10s ranked third among series regulars, and his 301 laps led ranked second. With another year of experience for both Custer and SHR should yield even better results in 2018, and I fully expect him to make the Championship 4 in his sophomore campaign.

He took a bit of a step back from his career year in 2016, but Justin Allgaier still made the Championship 4 for the second year in a row in 2017. He also ranked third in Top 5s among series regulars and was tied for fourth in Top 10s. Allgaier also showed a high ceiling, winning twice and leading all series regulars with 495 laps led. He can be a little streakier than some of the other top options, but his ability to run up front and contend for wins should put him back in the title picture in 2018.

The Contenders

He was one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 season, and Daniel Hemric ended up making the Championship 4 at Homestead as a rookie. A mechanical issue early in the final race dashed his title hopes, but Hemric still finished with the fourth-best average finish of any series regular. Another year of experience should only help his cause, and after what he accomplished last year, he certainly can’t be counted out.

Although he took a big step backward in 2017 compared to the numbers he amassed as a rookie the year before, Brandon Jones could bounce back in a big way this season. After all, he joined Joe Gibbs Racing this offseason, one of the premier organizations at the XFINITY level. Whether or not Jones has the talent to take advantage of the situation remains to be seen, but any driver in JGR equipment has a chance to contend.

After cutting his teeth with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2017, Tyler Reddick will jump to full-time racing this year. More importantly, he will jump to full-time racing with JR Motorsports, the organization that put three drivers in the Championship 4 last year. Reddick picked up a win and six Top 10s in 18 starts last year, and a much bigger year could be on tap for him in 2018.

It’s a make-or-break year for Ryan Truex, who landed a full-time ride with Kaulig Racing. He has been bouncing around different rides in different series the last few years, and if he is ever going to make it to the Cup Series, he needs to have a big season in 2018. Blake Koch was able to make the playoffs while driving for the same team, and I think Truex is better behind the wheel. He could be the surprise of the season.

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