The races, the stages and the rounds are all done. When the checkered flags fly at Phoenix Raceway this weekend, the attention will be on one.
The NASCAR Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Series has produced some great battles in the regular season and Playoffs to get to this point. Expect it to be turned up a notch, or two, with so much on the line Friday and Saturday as the one-mile oval in Cactus Country.
Here’s a look at the two series, in chronological order of how they’ll happen, and what some of the contenders had to say about strategies and types of racing one can expect.
Truckin’ to a trophy
Martinsville Speedway set the Championship 4 and it came down to another nail biter in regards to who was in, and who was out. In are GMS Racing teammates Sheldon Creed, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith. Rounding out the group is Grant Enfinger from Thor Sport Racing.
The racing his produced some serious Sheet Metal Shimmy action the past few weeks as drivers fought to be contenders. With some ruffled feathers to go along with crumpled fenders, drivers need to leave the hurt feelings and paybacks in their helmet bag, not in their helmet, on Friday night.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to ride around Phoenix in a cautious manner. When the Final Stage starts, it’s the final one of the season to determine the championship. A different mindset will set in with no tomorrows or redo to use.
“I think the four of us just need to race each other the first two stages and then obviously, I think it’s gloves off after that,” Creed said, regarding how he sees the race unfolding. “I don’t think all of us are going to be in the same area all at once.
“I think we still have respect for each other, and I think racing the No. 98 (Enfinger), we should have respect for him, too. But I think that third stage, gloves come off and we do what we have to do to get to the lead or put yourself in position to win.”
His rookie teammate at GMS Racing likes the fact three of them are in, but isn’t quite sure of the advantage when it comes to a championship race.
“I probably don’t have any teammates this Friday,” Smith said. “I feel like we’re kind of all on the same page on that. If I could win this deal in my rookie year, that’s a really big deal.
“I’m not going to go out there and wreck my teammates, by no means. But, I’m going to race them just as hard as I would race anyone else.”
Enfinger made the cut by winning at Martinsville last weekend, which was the only way he could make the Championship 4 with his large points deficit. He is very aware it’s like the Three Musketeers vs. the Lone Ranger with him going against the GMS Gang.
“We’re going against those guys, but I don’t feel like we necessarily have to race any differently,” said Enfinger, who is 35-years-old to Smith’s age of 21. “Our strategy going in there is just to win the race flat-out.
“I feel like at the end of the day, that may not be how it looks when the green flag comes out. But, I feel like by the time the checkered flag comes out, you’re going to have to have won this race to be the champion.”
Friday night, 8 p.m. ET on FS1-TV, MRN and NASCAR Sirius XM Radio for all 150 laps of action to see who’s the 2020 Champion.
Next in the NXS
This is the only series with the capability of crowning a first-time champion. The 2018 and 2019 of Tyler Reddick moved up to Cup this year, just like the 2017 champions of William Byron and 2016’s Danial Suarez did years prior.
That leaves Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley to earn a first-time crown. All have overcome some type of adversity to get where they are for Phoenix.
Now, they need to be the best of the rest to become a champion.
Briscoe has captured the hearts of many this year with his humbleness, faith, family values and record nine wins. Already announced as the new driver of the No. 14 at Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021, he has this one chance to be an NXS Champion.
“I think, for me, you always want to go out on top anytime you leave any team or any series,” Briscoe said. “You want to leave on top. You want to feel like you didn’t leave anything on the table and I’ve been super fortunate.
“In ARCA, I was able to win the last race of the season and win the championship. I’ve been with the No. 98 team for two-and-a-half years now and without those guys there’s, no way I would be moving on to the No. 14.
“So, I want to say thank you to those guys and I want to give them a championship. That’s what they all deserve.”
The only other fellow Ford competing in the Championship 4 is Austin Cindric from Team Penske. This has been a breakout year for him with five wins on various tracks instead of just road courses. He is well aware of what’s needed for success on Saturday.
“It is a 200-lap race,” Cindric said. “There are 199 laps you can screw up and not put yourself in position on the most important one. With this format and with the way our races have gone over the last six weeks, I have been worried about points the entire time.
“Now I can just worry about where I finish.”
There are two Chevrolets eligible for check and trophy with Justin Allgaier from JR Motorsports and Justin Haley from Kaulig Racing to battle the Blue Oval Boys on Saturday.
Allgaier had a rough go in the beginning of 2020 before finding his stride mid-season winning at Dover International Speedway and twice at Richmond Raceway.
This is his fourth time in five years as a Championship 4 contender. He knows the unpredictability better than the rest when it comes to a winner-take-all race.
“You never know what your three other competitors are going to do for a win,” Allgaier said. “You never know what the other drivers on the race track are willing to do for the win. Right?
“It’s the last race of the year. Everyone wants to end on a high note.”
Saturday at 5 p.m. ET the 200 laps of action unfolds on NBCSN-TV, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio to see who’s singing that high note…and who’s singing the low one.