NASCAR Draft Kit: Xfinity Series Rankings

NASCAR Draft Kit: Xfinity Series Rankings

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

1. Kyle Busch/Denny Hamlin/Ryan Preece/Erik Jones/Daniel Suarez - No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – The No. 18 JGR Toyota team retains the top of the Xfinity Series rankings again this season. Even though Busch will have his slate reined back to just seven starts. He should be good for three or four wins in those efforts. Youngster Preece will be in the driver's seat for at least 10 events. He nabbed one win and four Top-5 finishes in a very limited schedule for JGR last year. The remaining starts will be divided up by Gibbs' strong Cup driver lineup. The talent and team will again be the class of the Xfinity Series in 2018. It would not be surprising at all to see this team break into the six-or-seven-win range with about 25 or more Top-10 finishes. Despite the rotating driver lineup, this is about as good as it gets in this division of NASCAR.

2. Christopher Bell - No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – The reigning Camping World Truck Series champion will make his full-time shift into the Xfinity Series this season. Bell is fresh off a five-win, 21 Top 10 campaign in the trucks that was nearly flawless from start to finish in 2017. The 23-year-old Oklahoman squeezed in eight starts in this racing series last year, and opened some eyes in that part-time slate. Bell won his first-career Xfinity Series race at Kansas, and he nabbed five Top-10 finishes in that short schedule. The young

1. Kyle Busch/Denny Hamlin/Ryan Preece/Erik Jones/Daniel Suarez - No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – The No. 18 JGR Toyota team retains the top of the Xfinity Series rankings again this season. Even though Busch will have his slate reined back to just seven starts. He should be good for three or four wins in those efforts. Youngster Preece will be in the driver's seat for at least 10 events. He nabbed one win and four Top-5 finishes in a very limited schedule for JGR last year. The remaining starts will be divided up by Gibbs' strong Cup driver lineup. The talent and team will again be the class of the Xfinity Series in 2018. It would not be surprising at all to see this team break into the six-or-seven-win range with about 25 or more Top-10 finishes. Despite the rotating driver lineup, this is about as good as it gets in this division of NASCAR.

2. Christopher Bell - No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – The reigning Camping World Truck Series champion will make his full-time shift into the Xfinity Series this season. Bell is fresh off a five-win, 21 Top 10 campaign in the trucks that was nearly flawless from start to finish in 2017. The 23-year-old Oklahoman squeezed in eight starts in this racing series last year, and opened some eyes in that part-time slate. Bell won his first-career Xfinity Series race at Kansas, and he nabbed five Top-10 finishes in that short schedule. The young driver will be paired with ace crew chief Jason Ratcliff in an effort to win both Rookie of the Year and the championship this season. Bell's talent is undeniable. He's just another in a long line of very talented development drivers that JGR has cranked out the last several years.

3. Elliott Sadler - No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet – Last season was another tough near-miss of the championship for Sadler. For the second straight year, and fourth in the last seven, the veteran driver finished runner-up in the championship race. The year was hard in a few respects for the No. 1 JRM team. Sadler went winless through the 2017 campaign, and saw his average finish balloon to 9.4. Still, he managed to grab 25 Top-10 finishes and be in the running to win the title in the season finale at Homestead. Sadler will look to improve upon last season's efforts. He returns to the No. 1 Chevrolet team and the same sponsorship lineup and crew. The 42-year-old Virginian has averaged 13 Top-5 and 27 Top-10 finishes over the last two seasons of racing. Sadler is the elder statesman of the Xfinity Series, but make no mistake about his driving talent.

4. Justin Allgaier - No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet – Allgaier has really found his place racing in the Xfinity Series. The seven-season veteran nabbed a career-best two victories in 2017, and collected 17 Top-10 finishes en route to finishing third in the driver standings. It was the third consecutive season of racing that led to a Top-5 points finish for Little Gator. While the championship still seems tantalizingly out of reach, we can't count him and the No. 7 team out. The 31-year-old has reached the 240-start plateau and Allgaier's now becoming one of the more seasoned drivers in the series. He has the ability to win races and challenge for championship. With returning crew chief Jason Burdett at his side, Allgaier will remain among the top tier of driver in the Xfinity Series this season.

5. Brad Keselowski/Ryan Blaney/Joey Logano - No. 22 Penske Racing Ford – Keselowski and Logano will be expected to make the maximum of seven starts each behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford. Aside from that all-star duo we should see a steady diet of Blaney, Sam Hornish Jr. and possibly even Austin Cindric. This team amassed a four-combined victories among this same driver rotation last season. That speaks to the incredible speed, team strength and resources available at Penske. Given the team's all-star driving lineup, and unquestionable strength and expertise, the No. 22 Ford team should be among the top multi-driver teams in the Xfinity Series again in 2018.

6. Kyle Larson/John Hunter Nemechek/Justin Marks - No. 42 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet – With Larson being pulled back to just seven starts per the new Xfinity Series rules, the team had to go out and hire a dependable young gun driver to fill most of the void for the remaining schedule. Ganassi called on truck series up-and-comer Nemechek to fill that void. The driver rotation in 2017 yielded five victories, with three of those coming from Larson, so Nemechek will be expected to shoulder most of that burden this season. The 20-year-old talent has amassed five victories, 38 Top-10 finishes and a pair of eighth-place points finishes in the last four seasons of racing in the Camping World Truck Series. He will really get to show off in his heavy schedule for this strong race team. Nemechek is no Kyle Larson, but with this team there won't be too much of a falloff behind the wheel.

7. Cole Custer - No. 00 Stewart Haas Racing Ford – One of the strongest performing and most impressive drivers of the stretch run last season was Custer. He earned more points (383) than any other driver over the final 10 races of last season. Custer also racked up one win and eight Top-10 finishes during that stretch run. His victory came in the season finale at Homestead and served as an exclamation point on this season, and a peek of the future. Custer wound up an impressive fifth in the final point standings, and that will be a mark to shoot past in 2018. This driver/team/operation gelled at the end of last season, now they're set to impress. We look for Custer to win multiple races this season and to challenge for the championship.

8. Tyler Reddick - No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet – Reddick will have some big shoes to fill in the No. 9 JRM Chevrolet. This is the ride that defending champion William Byron used to storm his way to the 2017 Xfinity Series title. Reddick got a good taste of racing in this division of NASCAR last year with Chip Ganassi. He nabbed one victory and six Top-10 finishes in an 18-start slate. Toward the end of last season Reddick was winning poles, leading laps and challenging for wins. He now takes over the car that Byron used to claim four wins and 22 Top 10's last year. On paper it's a very good situation, but the 22-year-old driver will have to make it happen so there's a lot at stake. Expecting Reddick to take this team to back-to-back championships may be a bit overly optimistic, but there's no doubt they'll win some races and be very visible each week.

9. Daniel Hemric - No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – Hemric will be back with this race team for a second season of action. He piloted this Chevrolet to seven Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes last year, but no victories. The team returns completely intact to help Hemric improve in 2018. The lack of consistency last season is what kept Hemric from challenging for wins. Hopefully, he and crew chief Danny Stockman can solve that puzzle this season. The sponsorship, support and funding are rock solid, so Hemric has Richard Childress' vote of confidence to keep racing. We expect some minor improvement from Hemric and this team, but it may be a stretch to expect seeing him in victory lane anytime soon.

10. Brandon Jones - No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – Jones replaces Matt Tifft in the JGR No. 19 Toyota this season. He comes over from Richard Childress Racing and defects from Chevrolet to Toyota. Jones had a forgettable season last year in the No. 33 Chevrolet, registering only three Top 10's for the season. He'll get to hit the reset button in a lot of ways making the jump to Gibbs and this good race team. Tifft raced to 13 Top-10 finishes with this team last year and wound up seventh in the final driver standings. That should be seen as the floor for Jones. He'll be paired with Chris Gabehart as crew chief, and be racing for the best team he's had in his short, five-season career. Jones is a breakout candidate and poised to outperform this season.

11. Austin Dillon/Ty Dillon/Brendan Gaughan - No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – RCR is having to cut back to three teams in 2018, so the No. 3 Chevrolet will host more drivers than usual. The Dillon brothers will get seven starts each, which is the new mandated maximum for regular Cup drivers. Veteran Gaughan should pick up plenty of the remaining action behind the wheel of the team's Camaro. Ty started 27 races for this team last year and nabbed 16 Top-10 finishes. With this driver lineup they should be good to easily break the 20 Top-10 plateau, but their ability to win races is in question. RCR went winless between their five different Xfinity Series teams last year, and that seems to be the biggest problem. Consistency and Top-10 finishes shouldn't be an issue, but this team just doesn't have the speed to win races.

12. Matt Tifft - No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – Tifft swapped from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing over the off-season. He nabbed 13 Top-10 finishes last season in the No. 19 Toyota and wound up a respectable seventh in the overall final driver standings of 2017. Now he'll take the wheel of the No. 2 Chevy Camaro of RCR. The 21-year-old driver only has 44 starts of experience in Xfinity Series racing, so Tifft still has lots to learn. However, the pairing with this race team and organization should keep his trajectory pointed north. Of the many Childress teams the No. 2 camp has recently shown to be the fastest and most consistent of the camp. That's a good sign for Tifft's continued development.

13. Brennan Poole - No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – At the time of this writing, no plans have been officially announced for Poole in 2018. It's been rumored that he could be heading to the Cup Series and Richard Childress Racing, but that's yet to be confirmed. Ranking Poole will be a bit speculative because of this. However, if he does return for a full-season stint in CGR's No. 48 Chevrolet, he'll carry some pretty good value. The young Texan has raced the last two seasons in the Xfinity Series for this team and posted identical numbers in each season of four Top-5 and 17 Top-10 finishes. That has led to eighth- and sixth-place points finishes respectively. He's not really displayed the skill nor speed to challenge for wins, but this solid race team has performed pretty consistently under Poole's direction.

14. Ryan Reed - No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford – Reed once again surprised his critics last season and turned in some impressive racing for this Roush Fenway stable. He nabbed a second-career victory in the season-opener at Daytona, and he grabbed seven Top-10 finishes along the way in 2017. Reed and the No. 16 team's week-to-week consistency wasn't the greatest, and that allowed his average finish to balloon almost two spots over 2016. Still, Reed finished an impressive eighth overall in the final championship standings. That was good enough for Reed to sign a multi-year contract renewal with Roush and see most of the sponsorship return to the team's Ford. The young talent should continue to grow and surprise in the new season.

15. Michael Annett - No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet – At the time of this writing it's expected that Annett and the No. 5 JRM team will return for another season of action in the Xfinity Series. The journeyman driver earned just seven Top-10 finishes with this team last season before finishing ninth overall in the final point standings. Those marks made Annett almost invisible at times during the last year. However, it would seem it was good enough to keep him in the No. 5 Chevrolet for 2018. Annett has a gold-clad sponsor in Pilot Flying J that keeps his efforts and career funded, so he has that going for him. The 31-year-old driver and crew chief Jason Stockert will need to figure things out a bit better in their second season together.

16. Ryan Truex - No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet – In mid-January Kaulig Racing made the surprising announcement that Blake Koch was out of the No. 11 Chevrolet and Truex was in for the 2018 season. Truex is the younger brother of Cup Series champion, Martin Truex Jr., and he spent much of last season racing in the Camping World Truck Series. He had easily his most successful season of NASCAR racing in 2017, collecting 13 Top-10 finishes and finishing ninth in the standings for Hattori Motorsports. Now he'll take over this up-and-coming team's Chevrolet. Koch piloted this team to five Top-10 finishes in each of the last two seasons and seventh- and 11th-place standings finishes respectively. Kaulig now looks to Truex to elevate this single-car team to the next level in 2018.

17. Ty Majeski/Austin Cindric/Chase Briscoe - No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford – With the closure of Brad Keselowski's truck series operation, Briscoe and Cindric became two very good young drivers in search of a ride. Roush Fenway Racing stepped in and revived their No. 60 team in an opportunistic situation. This team was named Ford's development driver team, and the two truck series aces will head up the effort. Majeski is a 23-year-old product of kart racing and late model stocks. He made three starts for this team in 2017, and collected a Top-10 finish in the season finale at Homestead. The driver distribution for this team has yet to be announced, but we can only imagine it will be a heavy dose of Cindric and Briscoe, followed by a lesser dose of Majeski. This team should be pretty competitive given the talent behind the wheel.

18. Ross Chastain - No. 4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet – Chastain will return for a fourth season of full-time Xfinity Series competition in 2018. He returns to the same JD Motorsports team that he competed with last year. Chastain had a pretty good season by all measures in 2017. He grabbed his first-career Top-5 finish, nabbed two Top-10 finishes and wound up career-best 13th in the final driver standings. The 25-year-old Floridian will look to improve on those marks this season. With all parts and pieces of the No. 4 team returning, it's entirely possible. Chastain limited his DNF's to just two last year, and that was very instrumental in his improved consistency and good season.

19. J.J. Yeley - No. 14 TriStar Motorsports Toyota – At the time of this writing it has not been announced, but it assumed that Yeley will return behind the wheel of the No. 14 Toyota this season. The 13-season NASCAR veteran did some hard work with this small team last year. Yeley peddled to one Top-10 and nine Top-15 finishes for TriStar Motorsports in the previous campaign. That's not awe inspiring, but it's pretty good performance and consistency given the limitations of this race team. Yeley limited his DNF's to just five and that was key in keeping his average finish for the year at an acceptable 20.0 mark. Assuming that he returns to this team and pairs with crew chief Wally Rogers once again, he should post similar workmanlike numbers in 2018.

20. Ryan Sieg - No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet – RSS Racing has been doing the most with the least for the last four seasons now. Sieg did have a bit of a step back in performance last year, but not so much as to cause concern. He still collected one Top-10 and seven Top-15 finishes en route to finishing the year 15th in the standings. This small race team is expected to deploy again this season. Sieg now has over 130 starts of experience in this division of NASCAR, and has proven he can race with the best in this series despite his team's handicaps. At 30-years-old he's in the prime of his racing career, and we look for his good work with the family's No. 39 team to continue.

21. Jeremy Clements - No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet – One of our favorite veteran drivers in the Xfinity Series had an exciting season in 2017. Clements took his small, single-car team to Road America last summer and upset the stars and better funded teams of this racing series to collect his first-career victory. Although weather played a part and the circumstances were a bit odd, it was a well-earned victory none-the-less. The Road America win was the crown jewel in what was a pretty good season of two Top 10's and four Top 15's. Like a lot of drivers deeper in the field, Clements and his team goes out each week and does impressive work against the big money teams of NASCAR. Clements should give us some more surprising highlights in 2018.

22. Spencer Gallagher - No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet – This race team had looked at the possibility of moving up to the Cup Series this season, but decided against it. Instead, they'll enter Gallagher into the full Xfinity Series slate once more. Given the results of last year, that was probably a good decision. Gallagher labored to just one Top-10 and six Top-15 finishes. That was good on that front, but his eight DNF's were very costly and impacted the team's consistency and position in the final standings. Gallagher would end the year 19th in the final point standings. GMS Racing has the people and equipment to do better than this. The young driver will look to new crew chief Chad Norris this season to improve performance and finish more races.

23. Kaz Grala - No. 24 JGL Racing Ford – Grala gets the promotion from the Camping World Truck Series and into the Xfinity Series this season. JGL Racing wasted no time nabbing the young talent at the end of last season and assembling a team to succeed. Grala will be paired with veteran crew chief, Shane Wilson, and the two will look to challenge for Rookie of the Year in this division of NASCAR. He posted good numbers last season in the trucks, nabbing his first-career win and 11 Top-10 finishes in the No. 33 truck. Grala would end the year a very impressive seventh in the final driver standings. He will face more challenges moving up a division this season, but Grala's talent is undeniable and can take him a long way in his first Xfinity Series season.

24. Ryan Blaney/Joey Logano - No. 12 Penske Racing Ford – Plans have not been announced at the time of this writing, but this has been Penske's part-time team now for several years. Blaney nabbed a victory in this car last season and so did Logano at Las Vegas. The team made six starts total, but were Top-5 finishers in all but one of those starts. This No. 12 team is easily the best part-time team in the Xfinity Series. We would expect a similar multi-driver lineup again this year, and similar results. They're capable of winning each time they start, but the limited schedule restricts their fantasy racing worth. So they're not ideal for season-long leagues, but very valuable in weekly lineup leagues and daily fantasy racing games.

25. Garrett Smithley - No. 0 JD Motorsports Chevrolet – At the time of this writing Smithley has not been named to the No. 0 Chevrolet, however, it is expected that he'll return to this team in 2018. He ran the full schedule with this race team last year and earned two Top-10 and 13 Top-25 finishes. The seven DNF's that Smithley suffered chopped up his consistency and led to the 21st-place finish in the championship driver standings. It could be for this reason that the team has not rushed to name him the driver for this season. Still, the team plans to run the full schedule and has decent, multi-car equipment and personnel. That makes Smithley or any other driver a fairly valuable commodity in this team at this tier of the driver field.

26. Vinnie Miller - No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet – During the off-season Miller has been named to JDM's No. 01 Chevrolet. He brings primary sponsor JAS Expedited Trucking with him for 10 events to help fund the effort. The 20-year-old has spent the past couple years sharpening his skills in the super late models and lower divisions of NASCAR. Most notably he nabbed four Top-10 finishes in just six starts in the highly competitive ARCA Series in 2017. Miller will be driving the car that Harrison Rhodes struggled to only one Top-10 finish in last season vs. eight DNF's. The challenge will be mighty to turn this race team around from its current state. Miller appears to be talented and well-groomed at this point, but we also have to acknowledge this will be his first full-time action in the Xfinity Series. There will be many hard lessons along the way in season one.

27. TBD – Jimmy Means Racing - No. 52 Chevrolet – Joey Gase left this team at the end of 2017. He piloted them to two Top-10 and five Top-20 finishes last season in a pretty decent campaign. Now JMR will look to replace Gase behind the wheel of their team's Chevrolet. As of mid-January no new driver has been named, but the team intends to deploy for the full campaign in 2018. Depending on who this team can sign will largely dictate their fortunes this season. There are a number of capable hands in the free agent driver pool at this time and the right one could do a good job in the No. 52 Chevrolet.

28. Dylan Lupton - No. 28 JGL Racing Ford – Lupton was signed to race for JGL in their No. 28 entry this season. The team is not full-time, but they have a pretty good footprint. Lupton should start at least 21 of the 33 events, and possibly more as money and sponsorship permits. He made 14 starts last season in the Xfinity Series with two Top-15 and four Top-20 finishes. The new team situation is an improvement, and we should see an improvement in Lupton's numbers this season. We wouldn't rule out the team shifting to full-time if early-season performance is good, and sponsorship can be found.

29. Kevin Harvick - No. 98 Stewart Haas Racing Ford – Stewart Haas Racing merged with Biagi-DenBeste Racing over the off-season, and the new joint venture will field the No. 98 Ford for Harvick in select events in 2018. The NASCAR star has averaged between six and seven starts over the last couple years, and we would imagine that would be about the slate for this season. With NASCAR capping Cup drivers to a max of seven starts in each Xfinity Series season, that would seem a good assumption. Harvick nabbed five Top-5 and six Top-10 finishes in his six starts last year, so the value is obvious. The No. 98 team will be dangerous each time they race this season, but Harvick and the team's value is limited by the part-time schedule.

30. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet – Although Earnhardt retired from Cup Series action at the end of last season, he still has some part-time efforts in the Xfinity Series left in his future. The NASCAR icon will make at least two starts in his organization's No. 88 Chevrolet. Those two starts were named last April as Bristol in August and Richmond in September. A shortage of team resources will not allow Earnhardt to race much more than this, so don't expect this schedule to grow much, if any. The veteran driver has nabbed one win and three Top-10 finishes in his last two seasons of part-time action in the Xfinity Series.

31. Joey Gase - No. 35 Go Green Racing Ford – Gase makes the jump from Jimmy Means Racing to Go Green Racing in 2018. In last year's full stint with the No. 52 team the veteran driver earned two Top-10 and five Top-20 finishes en route to finishing the season 22nd in the driver standings. Now he moves to the No. 35 Ford and looks to give this small race team a boost. Sparks Energy will be the main primary sponsor and help fund this small team's efforts. Gase has 175-career Xfinity Series starts, so that was the experience GGR wanted in the seat of their new team. The potential results are debatable give the cross between Gase's talent vs. the newness of this race team.

32. Ray Black Jr. - No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet – Black is making the jump to full-time Cup Series racing in 2018, but no plans have been announced at this writing for his Xfinity Series ride. The 26-year-old driver piloted the No. 07 Chevrolet in 21 events last season, to pretty good effect. Black nabbed three Top-20 and 12 Top-25 finishes. Spencer Boyd and a handful of other drivers combined to complete the 33-race schedule for this race team. With Black racing full-time in NASCAR's top division, it could curtail his Xfinity Series starts. However, we believe if he does any racing in this series it will be for this team. The more the better.

33. Spencer Boyd - No. 76 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet – Boyd moves from the SSGLR No. 07 Chevrolet and into a second team for the organization. The 22-year-old will partner with primary sponsor Grunt Style to race the team's new No. 76 Chevrolet. Boyd made six starts for the team last season, and has only eight total Xfinity Series starts in his resume. The young driver lacks the experience to make this a more competitive effort. Crew Chief Jason Miller will be tasked with developing chemistry very quickly with his young driver, and helping him to achieve week-to-week consistency in his first full season of racing in this division of NASCAR.

34. David Starr - No. 99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Ford – As of this writing we have no official confirmation that Starr and the No. 99 team will return in 2018, but it's our guess that he'll be back for one more season with the team. The 50-year-old Texan did a respectable job racing for this team in 2017. Star grabbed one Top-5 and five Top-20 finishes with this team last season. The 25th-place finish in the final driver standings was a good indicator of the season's work. Starr has almost 450-combined starts of experience between the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series since 1998. It's that experience that makes him a good competitor for this small race team.

35. B.J. McLeod - No. 78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Ford – No plans have been announced for this team as of mid-January. However, it is expected that McLeod will return to the seat of his self-owned No. 78 Ford. Sponsorship and funding seem to be the only x-factor that could derail a 2018 return to the track. McLeod was able to start most of the schedule last season, and raced in 25 of the 33 events. He collected seven Top-25 finishes against only three DNF's. It worked out to a respectable 27.2 average finish for the campaign. If the sponsors and money can be found to race, you can bet McLeod will be out there doing his best.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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