Photo courtesy of Mike Mulholland | Getty Images
The 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to a big oval for the first time since No. 21 Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Hill won his second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This week, drivers will tackle Michigan International Speedway, a two-mile oval home to some of the fastest racing in all of NASCAR.
While that speed wasn’t seen much in practice thanks to a severe engine failure from BJ McLeod Motorsports No. 78 driver Matt Mills that cut into the allotted practice time. The speed was shown in qualifying during the cooler morning temperatures as two cars hit an average speed of over 190 MPH.
JR Motorsports No. 9 driver Noah Gragson will start on pole for the second time of his career, as he did at Texas Motor Speedway in May. Gragson’s lap time of 37.821 seconds was just six one-thousandths quicker than the lap time of Kaulig Racing No. 16 driver AJ Allmendinger, who will start on the front row for the second-straight week after a pole and win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Allmendinger, the current regular season points leader by 17 points over JR Motorsports No. 7 driver Justin Allgaier, won his NASCAR Xfinity Series record ninth-career road course race at Indy. His three wins this year have all been at road courses (Circuit of the Americas, Portland International Raceway and Indy), making his last oval win back during last season.
Luckily for him, one of Allmendinger’s oval wins last year was at Michigan where he held off Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 driver Brandon Jones in a triple overtime finish.
Allmendinger was trending ahead of Gragson for most of his qualifying lap, but a slow exit off Turn 4 cost him the valuable milliseconds needed for pole.
Unlike Indy last week, which saw a season-high of full-time Cup Series drivers in the Xfinity race, not a single regular Cup driver is in the field at Michigan, opening the door for massive playoff implications if either a new driver wins their way into the playoffs or if a multiple-time winner can make a push for the regular season title that nets 15 extra playoff points when the postseason begins at Texas Motor Speedway on Sept. 24.
A driver on the rise in the points standings but could also use a win to get in is RCR No. 2 driver Sheldon Creed. Creed has slowly clawed his way back into playoff contention after being behind over 100 points below the cutline to now only being down 50 points to RSS Racing No. 39 driver Ryan Sieg for the final playoff spot.
Creed will have a chance to pick off a handful of points off Sieg. Creed will start 11th with Sieg rolling off a couple of rows behind him in 15th.
Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 driver Sammy Smith will make his third career Xfinity start for JGR. The recently turned 18-year old is in line to make plenty of starts in the No. 18 Toyota Supra now that he is of eligible age.
The 2021 ARCA Menards Series East champion is a three-time winner in five starts this year. In Xfinity, Smith finished 24th in his debut at Road America and 31st at Pocono. In both races, he started no worse than eighth.
Smith matched his career-best fifth-place start at Pocono with 37.983 lap time, rounding out those who ran a sub-38 second lap.
Sticking with the Toyota camp, Sam Hunt Racing No. 26 John Hunter Nemechek returns to the Xfinity Series for the first time since finishing 18th at Road America on July 2. He will look to best his second-place finish at Richmond but will have a lot of work starting in 31st.
Our Motorsports will be shaking up its field of cars for the rest of the season starting today at Michigan. After effectively cutting ties with 2018 NASCAR Truck Series Champion Brett Moffitt due to lack of sponsorship, Blaine Perkins will make his season debut in Xfinity in the No 02 Chevrolet Camaro.
Brett Moffitt and Our Motorsports Agree to Part Ways.
READ: https://t.co/GWRJ0WPoHU pic.twitter.com/fgRXfEHLaY
— Our Motorsports (@OurMotorsports) August 1, 2022
The move is a tough break for Moffitt, who is 16th in points and 88 points under the playoff cutline behind Sieg.
Thanks to all the fans for their support through the years. I've got a loyal group of sponsors that support me, so we will find a competitive ride to get back on the racetrack soon.
— Brett Moffitt (@Brett_Moffitt) August 1, 2022
The New Holland 250 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan will be 125 laps with stage breaks at Laps 30 and 60. The race is set to start at 3:30 p.m. ET and can be watched on USA Network and the NBC Sports App. It can also be listened to on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.