Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton and Chase Briscoe have become the new NASCAR Xfinity Series “Big 3”, and their dominance is here to stay.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a snapshot of what we’ve seen so far this season.
Noah Gragson came close to winning both races, but late cautions led to wins by Harrison Burton and Chase Briscoe. Austin Cindric was strong on the short runs, but he was unable to close the deal on either day.
The big picture: while other drivers are still close, a new “Big 3” have established themselves as the drivers to beat in 2020.
Gragson, Briscoe and Burton are currently sitting in the top three in the championship standings after 10 races. They have combined to win seven of those 10 races. Two of the other three victories belong to drivers who don’t compete full-time: Kyle Busch and A.J. Allmendinger.
So far this season among the full-time drivers, Gragson has the most laps led and the most stage wins while Briscoe has the most race wins and Burton has the most top 10 finishes and the best average finish. Gragson and Burton are tied for the most top five finishes.
Cindric, Ross Chastain and Brandon Jones have matched some of those “Big 3” numbers. Cindric has five top five finishes (same as Briscoe), Chastain has eight top 10 finishes (same as Gragson and Briscoe), Jones has a race win and Cindric has led more laps than both Briscoe and Burton.
Cindric is only 10 points back of third place in the championship standings, while Chastain is only 16 points back. Jones is 45 points back. These three drivers have been close, but they are still noticeably behind.
Average finish is a category where the “Big 3” are visibly ahead. The trio’s average finishes are separated by 2.5 positions, with Briscoe’s average finish of 7.1 being the worst of the three.
The next best average finish for a full-time driver belongs to Justin Haley and is 3.5 positions worse than Briscoe’s at 10.6. After that gap, Haley, Chastain, Jones and Cindric are separated by only 0.3 positions in that category.
Here’s a closer look at how the “Big 3” are doing so far this season.
Noah Gragson – first in points, two race wins, five stage wins, seven top five finishes, eight top 10 finishes, 317 laps led, 6.5 average finish
Chase Briscoe – second in points, three race wins, one stage win, five top five finishes, eight top 10 finishes, 206 laps led, 7.1 average finish
Harrison Burton – third in points, two race wins, no stage wins, seven top five finishes, 10 top 10 finishes, 132 laps led, 4.6 average finish
Gragson, Briscoe and Burton have established themselves as the cream of the Xfinity Series crop, and their dominance is here to stay. Just look at the trends of recent seasons.
Last year featured the “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell, who are all now rookies in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The 2019 trio combined to win 21 of 33 races while also leading multiple notable categories among full-time drivers. The rest of the full-time drivers won only six races.
Reddick had the most top five finishes, the most top 10 finishes and the best average finish. Bell had the most race wins, stage wins and laps led. Custer was second in race wins, stage wins and laps led, while ranking third in both top five finishes and top 10 finishes (tied).
Reddick, Custer and Bell finished in the top three in the championship standings, showing that their dominance continued right through to the winner-take-all season finale.
The trio also had early season success, like this year’s dominant drivers, by winning six of the first 10 races. The only other Xfinity Series regular to win during that stretch was Michael Annett, who won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Busch, in his limited starts, won three early races.
The term “Big 3” was coined for the Cup Series in recent years due to the success of Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. But this is new for the Xfinity Series, with the Cup Series drivers being a big part of the reason why.
NASCAR has slowly increased its limitations on the ability of full-time Cup Series drivers with five or more seasons of full-time experience in the Cup Series to compete in other levels. A limit of 10 races per year was put in place for 2017. That number was lowered to seven races for 2018 and 2019 and now sits at five races for 2020.
Outright bans from competing in special events such as the Dash 4 Cash and the playoffs have also been put into place. The number of races won by the “Big 3” has increased since the new rules have steadily been implemented.
While Reddick won the 2018 championship, it was Custer, Bell and Justin Allgaier who had the best statistical performances that season. There is an argument for Daniel Hemric having a better season than Custer, but their stats are similar and Custer recorded a win, while Hemric did not visit victory lane. Custer, Bell and Allgaier combined to win 13 of 33 races.
The “Big 3” of 2017 were William Byron, Elliott Sadler and Allgaier, who combined to win only six of 33 races, a far cry from last year’s 21 wins — and even shy of the seven wins through just 10 races of 2020.
The number of Xfinity Series wins by Cup Series drivers has decreased during this time, going from 19 in 2017 to 13 in 2018 to four in 2019. Having fewer Cup Series drivers in the field has flipped the script and helped establish a gap between the top three Xfinity Series drivers and everyone else in the field.
With less than one third of the season complete, the current “Big 3” are on pace to possibly top the win total of last year’s “Big 3”. As they continue to collect race wins and stage wins, their playoff point totals will increase as well, putting them in a better position for the postseason.
While other full-time drivers such as Cindric, Chastain and Jones should be in the mix at any given race, there is reason to believe that Gragson, Briscoe and Burton will continue to dominate as the season rolls on.