Vegas Victory: Top Contenders to Watch in the Xfinity Series Race this weekend

While people are always going to be passionate about sports in the world’s gambling capital, we’ve seen a renewed interest in racing since Formula 1 made its triumphant return to the Las Vegas Strip in November. The most recent event for racing fans in Sin City will take place this weekend, when we’ll see the NASCAR Xfinity Series Spring Race At Las Vegas, one of the marquee events of the second tier of American auto racing, start up on Saturday.

While we’re just two races into the season right now, the standings are already starting to take a definitive shape, with Chevrolet stalwart Austin Hill, last year’s Xfinity series regular season champion, claiming each of the opening events.

Here’s a look at what seems to be a crowded field ahead of Saturday’s big event, with dark horses and top contenders to keep an eye on.

Can Hill Do it Again?

It goes without saying that the 29 year old from Georgia is going to be one of the favorites to win it all this year, even if the 2023 season ended in disappointment for him. Hill finished fifth in the playoffs despite running rampant through the regular season, with allegations that he can’t get it done on the biggest stages swirling to the surface once again.

Clutch performance absolutely matters in the world of motorsports—think of the boost that Dale Earnhardt Jr’s legacy received because of his success in the Daytona 500—but we’ve also seen plenty of redemption stories from racers who manage to turn that narrative around.

Right now, there are plenty of reservations surrounding Hill’s performance in big races. He has the third best odds of winning the championship this year at ESPN Sports Betting sites, behind reigning champion Cole Custer as well as Justin Allgaier. Let the sportsbooks reservations be your gain: Hill won last March’s race in Las Vegas, so it seems like he’ll be an excellent bet to do it again. Stay tuned to see if he can double down on his dominance while trying to earn his redemption for last season’s struggles down the line. After finishing atop the podium in Atlanta yet again this past weekend, it’s safe to say that he just has a knack for certain courses, which makes him a difficult contender to beat.

Seeking Out Sheldon Creed

Next in the way too early standings is Toyota driver Sheldon Creed, who was barely half a second from beating Hill at the United Rentals 300 on February 20, coming in a tightly contested second place. He came even closer to nabbing Hill in Atlanta, .414 seconds away from hitting the checkered flag first, but a truly insane finish that came within a hair of a three way tie meant that Creed fell to fourth. Two top 5 podium finishes in two races is nothing to sneeze at, and the 26 year old certainly feels like a rising star in the sport after making it all the way to the Round of 8 in last year’s postseason.

Creed came in ninth in last year’s spring race in Las Vegas, then fell to No. 15 during the fall race. If you like rooting for an underdog, he’s an excellent pick, and he’ll certainly have a chip on his shoulder and something to prove after coming within a couple car lengths of victory to open the season.

Looking at the Favorites

Of course, I would be remiss not to not pay adequate attention to Allgaier and Custer, both of whom are looking to begin climbing their way up the standings after rough starts to the season.

The Chevrolet and Ford drivers, respectively, were left on the outside looking in during the drama of the first two races. They’re tied with 56 points apiece, but Allgaier  gets the nod after a top ten finish at Daytona, where he came in eighth… before promptly falling off the face of the Earth in Atlanta, all the way down to No. 28. While he’s 37 years old, Allgaier has finished in the No. 2 spot in two of the past four years, and it might be now or never for one of the nation’s favorite drivers.

Custer, similarly, might be suffering from something of a championship hangover, finishing No. 13 and No. 16 in the first two races of the season. We’ve got plenty of racing ahead of us this year, and we’d be foolish to count either of the two drivers out. The two of them combined for three top ten finishes in Las Vegas last season, so they certainly know how to succeed at this speedway… although that isn’t saying much for a pair of extremely accomplished drivers.