Though NASCAR’s Xfinity Series isn’t the sport’s premier racing series, it’s at times as compelling and entertaining as the Cup Series given the personalities involved each week.
The field can vary from week-to-week, and it even includes Cup Series drivers who double dip and run multiple races in a weekend. But there were a handful of drivers who were consistent mainstays this year, and they competed for the championship at Homestead.
William Byron, boy wonder
At the end of the year, 19-year-old William Byron gave NASCAR fans a glimpse of the future as he won the championship. Byron won four races in 2017, and he defeated Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric.
Next year, Byron will make the jump full-time to the Cup Series where he will drive the No. 24 car for Hendrick Motorsports. He’s one of the brightest young stars in the sport, and he’s hoping to join the short list of drivers who have won both Xfinity and Cup Series championships.
The only current drivers to have a Cup championship and Xfinity championship are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and recently-crowned Cup champion Martin Truex Jr.
The veterans had a good run, too
But it wasn’t just young drivers competing for the Xfinity championship. Sadler, 42, finished second for the year and was close to edging out Byron for the title.
Many races were won by full-time Cup Series drivers. Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney all won Xfinity Series races at some point throughout the year.
Other winners included Ryan Reed, Cole Custer, Jeremy Clements, Tyler Reddick, Sam Hornish Jr., Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman.
Some of the more memorable races of the season included Ryan Reed’s season opening win at Daytona and Byron’s win at the second race at Daytona.
Cole Custer won the finale despite not being in the Championship 4, but Byron did enough to win the championship.
And, there were some fights
There was a major fight between Brendan Gaughan and Ross Chastain, and another fight in the finale between Sadler and Preece.
The issue of Cup drivers hijacking too many races still remains, but NASCAR officials have already decreased the amount of Xfinity races for Cup drivers for next season.
Overall, it was a very successful year for the Xfinity Series. The level of intrigue didn’t overshadow the Cup Series, but it was an entertaining, quality product each week, and that’s all NASCAR executives can ask for with the secondary series.
The Xfinity Series also allowed young drivers — specifically Byron — to blossom and prepare for the next step. Next year, perhaps another rising star will have the opportunity to pick up where Byron left off and win the championship. Or, maybe a veteran driver such as Sadler can put together a championship season.
Either way, the Xfinity Series is in a good spot moving forward, and the 2018 season promises to be another entertaining year.