4 Burning Questions: Why Is Xfinity Not Racing This Week? – Frontstretch.com

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#1: Sam Mayer, JR Motorsports, Huck’s Market Chevrolet Camaro
Four NASCAR Xfinity Series races are in the books, and there are two drivers who have asserted their positions at the front of the field: Chandler Smith and Austin Hill.
Smith and Hill have combined for three of the four wins (with the other being by Cup driver John Hunter Nemechek at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), and they are the only drivers to finish inside the top five and top 10 in all four races to start the year. They’re first and second in the regular season points standings, and they have stupendous average finishes of 2.8 and 2.5, respectively, through the first four races.
Between the two, I would give the advantage to Smith. Hill won back-to-back superspeedway races (as he usually does) to start the year, but Smith was a top-two car on speed at both Las Vegas and Phoenix Raceway. He’s led a combined 162 laps in the last two races, and he only trails rookie Jesse Love in laps led this season. After scoring his first Xfinity win with Kaulig Racing at Richmond Raceway as a rookie, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Smith and the No. 81 team win multiple races, if not win the championship outright with how they performed at Phoenix.
Cole Custer looks to be just behind the front two in terms of speed, and he’s won two poles in a row to along with top-five finishes in both races. Justin Allgaier and the No. 7 team also have speed to start the year, and he was only five laps away from winning Phoenix until the Racing Gods dealt him a rough hand with a race-ending flat tire.
Those four plus Love have shown the most speed to start the year, but one name that’s surprisingly absent from the list is Sam Mayer, who’s had a brutal start to the year with three crash DNFs in four races. But once Mayer and the No. 1 team can turn their luck around and start finishing races, they’ll be back in top-five, if not winning contention for the rest of the year.
The Xfinity cars will return to Circuit of the Americas next weekend, as the series has its first off weekend of the year. Speaking of that …
Bristol Motor Speedway has forever been a staple of NASCAR’s second series, and from 1986 to 2020, the Tennesse short track played host to two Xfinity races per year.
That changed in 2021, however, when the Bristol spring date was put on dirt. The Xfinity Series was dropped to one Bristol race per year in September, and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series replaced it as the support race for the Cup weekend on dirt.
As we all know, the dirt configuration of Bristol was shelved after three seasons; this weekend will mark the return of Bristol concrete in the spring for the first time since 2020.
One would think that a return to pavement would grant Xfinity a second date at the 0.533-mile oval, right? After all, the second date was removed for the switch to dirt, and the dirt is no longer there.
But that is not the case, as Xfinity will — once again — visit Bristol for just one race in the 2024 calendar. Interestingly, the Truck race remained a part of the switch to pavement, and not only will it be the first Truck race held at concrete Bristol in the spring, it will also be the first year in the series’ history that the trucks will tackle concrete Bristol twice in one season.
There are likely logistical reasons at play for why this weekend will only feature Trucks and Cup, and Bristol itself has never hosted two tripleheader weekends in a single season.
But as an outside observer, it makes little sense to me why Xfinity isn’t racing at Bristol this weekend, or why it isn’t racing at North Wilkesboro Speedway either.
The Next Gen car’s short track woes have yet to be solved in year three, and the drivers, teams and fans are currently locked in a slow, time-consuming game of testing new aerodynamic packages to see if something sticks. So far, nothing has.
With no immediate fix for the Cup cars in sight, the best thing to do to counter the substandard short track racing in on Sunday is to load up the weekends with Xfinity and Truck races that are almost certain to put on a show.
If you thought Dale Earnhardt Jr. departing NBC for Amazon and Warner Brothers would be the only broadcast shakeup for NBC this year, you would be mistaken.
That’s because on Tuesday, March 13, it was announced that Leigh Diffey would replace Rick Allen as NBC’s lead announcer for the final 14 Cup races of the year, all of which will come after the two-week break for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.
.@NBCSports is planning a switch to its @NASCAR booth for part of the 2024 season, with @LeighDiffey to take over as lead announcer for Cup races in the weeks after the @Olympics break, per sources.

🗞: https://t.co/uDDKv2SLIx pic.twitter.com/tbqrjdNv3Q
The Australian-American has done commentating for just about every form of motorsport — ranging from stock cars to open wheel cars to sports cars — since joining NBC in 2013, and he even served as an announcer for NBC’s track and field coverage in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Diffey also filled in as lead announcer for a pair of Cup races in 2017, and he certainly knows how to bring the excitement.
Leigh Diffey calling NASCAR races would an incredible, incredible thing for the sport.

Here’s a little preview of what to expect with Diffey.
pic.twitter.com/C3YB8QFAbd
What’s interesting about Diffey’s arrival is that Allen will remain a play-by-play announcer for NBC after the Olympics, but only for its Xfinity broadcasts.
So, what’s at play here? Could NBC be bringing Diffey in and phasing Allen out? Are both announcers a part of NBC’s long-term plan for NASCAR coverage? Or is it something else?
Another factor in this is that Diffey has been NBC’s long-time play-by-play announcer for IndyCar, and that TV deal expires at the end of the 2024 season. Would Diffey make a full-time transition to NASCAR if NBC is unable to renew a deal with IndyCar for 2025?
So far, there are more questions than answers on this new development. But with the introduction of Diffey and the removal of Allen and Earnhardt, the NBC booth will have a different look and feel than it had in the past five seasons.
Concrete is Bristol is back in the spring, and for the first time ever, the Next Gen car will see the high banks of The Last Great Coliseum in daylight.
There are only two Bristol races in the Next Gen car that can be used as measuring sticks, but the last two Bristol Night Races have largely featured the same sets of teams and drivers up front: Joe Gibbs Racing, RFK Racing and Kyle Larson.
Ford dominated Bristol in 2022, as the RFK duo of Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski combined to lead 277 of the 500 laps, with Buescher scoring the win. The tables turned and it was Toyota who dominated in 2023, as Denny Hamlin ‘beat your favorite driver’ while the manufacturer led all but 69 of the 500 laps and brought home three cars (Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs) inside the top five.
Buescher, Larson and Bell are the only drivers to score top fives in both concrete Bristol races with the Next Gen car, and they’ve combined to lead 170, 54 and 330 laps, respectively, at Bristol in the last two years.
In regard to this year, expect to see the same names toward the front. All the Toyotas were fast at the 1-mile oval of Phoenix, and Bell is fresh off a dominant victory with an upcoming trip to one of his best tracks. Buescher and Keselowski both finished in the top five at Phoenix after a rough start to the season, and Larson dominated at Las Vegas despite an uncharacteristically pedestrian race at Phoenix a week ago.
As for the racing itself, look for track position to be at a premium, even more so than it has been with the Next Gen car. The currently forecast for Bristol, Tenn., calls for a high temperature of 59 degrees on Sunday, and the cooler temperatures will make it harder to pass for position, as the cars won’t slip and slide as they would in warmer air and track temperatures.
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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Always look forward to Bristol…whatever year or track configuration…although removing the rest of the progressive banking would do wonders for the track…possibly even returning to asphalt as Dale Jr. wishes.
Stenhouse is a dark horse for me.
I’m just happy they didn’t truck in dirt to put on it this year.

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