By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
With the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season in the books and the year coming to a close, now is the opportunity to take a look at the top-10 moments of the year. Today, we conclude our two part series with the final five moments that stood out in 2018.
Chase Briscoe Earns His First Career Victory at the Roval
The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the biggest unknown starting the 2018 Xfinity Series season. Chase Briscoe became the first driver to stamp his name on a trophy at the new configuration after dominating the Drive for the Cure 200.
Pit strategy ruled the day, giving Briscoe the lead at opportune times. His No. 98 Ford, fielded by Biagi-DenBeste Racing, with support from Stewart-Haas Racing, best regulars, Playoff drivers, and road course ringers alike.
“This is unreal,” an elated Briscoe said after the race. “I was four seconds off in practice, and my guys stuck behind me and kept working with me. It’s just an honor and privilege to drive a race car and to do it for my hero, (Stewart-Haas co-owner) Tony Stewart, and get a win.
“I feel like my career was getting really bad this year, and I needed to get my stock back up, and I just can’t believe it. Thanks to all these fans for coming out—what an awesome crowd! I hope you all enjoyed that race. It’s going to be a good one tomorrow (Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event).”
The race barely topped 90 minutes, prompting several members of the NASCAR brass to state that they’ll be adding laps to the race in 2019.
Regardless of the number of laps, the victory for Briscoe was impressive not only because he was competing part-time, but also because he was doing so for two different teams, the No. 98, as well as the No. 60 for Roush Fenway Racing as part of Program 60.
Ultimately, the victory at the Roval has helped Briscoe secure a full-time ride in the No. 98 for Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in 2019.
Justin Allgaier Wins in Thrilling Fashion at the Brickyard
Photo finishes proved to be a theme in 2018 for JR Motorsports drivers Allgaier and Reddick. In the ‘All-Star’ Aero Package, the duo put on a show at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
One stage finish saw the top four cross the line side-by-side. The aero package kept the field relatively closer together throughout much of the race.
When the checkered flag waved, Allgaier edged out Reddick by 0.092 seconds.
“We won Indy – how cool is that?” Allgaier exulted on the team radio after powering his No. 7 Chevrolet across the finish line .092 seconds ahead of Reddick. “You guys (his team) are awesome. That’s all I can say. The car was phenomenal.
“I know that (Indianapolis) has given me a lot of headaches and a lot of grief over the years, but we just won Indy – how cool is that?”
The win at Indianapolis ultimately was the highlight of Allgaier’s season. Although he earned a career-high five victories, circumstances in the Playoffs kept the veteran from reaching the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Elliott Sadler Calls it a Career
After 23 years of competing in NASCAR, Elliott Sadler strapped his helmet on for the final time at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 2018 proved to be a disappointing season for Sadler as he went winless for the second straight season.
Ultimately, Sadler was at peace with his decision.
“I’m sure it will hit me tomorrow but it’s cool to see the laughter and I’ve got such a great group of guys. I didn’t know how my emotions would be but actually I’m ok which makes me feel good about my decision. I feel good right now. It feels right.
“I gave it my all and came up short but I don’t have any regrets in my career. With the opportunities I had, I tried to make the most of them. I’ve had long enough to purse my dreams and what I want to do and now it’s time for me to help my kids pursue theirs.”
Over the course of 23 years competing in NASCAR’s three National Series, Sadler started in a combined 853 races. He earned 17 victories, three in NASCAR’s Premier Series, 13 in the Xfinity Series, and one in the Truck Series.
The best Sadler finished in the Championship Points Series in the Xfinity Series, where he was most successful, was second, four times. He also earned the Most Popular Driver Award four times, becoming the only driver to do so in the Xfinity Series.
Christopher Bell Becomes Winningest Rookie in Xfinity Series History
A season high seven victories made Christopher Bell the favorite for the Championship heading into Homestead. Bell had earned the most victories by a Rookie of the Year contender in the Xfinity Series, in addition to being the most consistent driver throughout the season.
Bell won at Kentucky Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway, Dover International Speedway, ISM Raceway, and swept both races at Richmond Raceway. Except Kentucky, Bell dominated in most of the races he won.
In total, Bell earned five pole positions, 18 top-fives and 20 top-10s in addition to his victories. He won when he was boxed in a corner at ISM Raceway, needing to win in order to advance to Homestead.
However, a cut tire in the final laps at Homestead ended his hopes of a Championship.
Tyler Reddick Wins the Championship
The Championship ultimately came which of the Championship Four took the checkered flag at Homestead. Although Cole Custer dominated, pit strategy ultimately put Reddick out front when he needed to be, securing him the Championship.
Reddick became just the third Rookie to win the Championship, joining JR Motorsports alum Chase Elliott and William Byron.
The Ford EcoBoost 300 went caution-free, aside from Stage breaks. That turned the Championship battle from being a door-banging race to a finish to one of gamesmanship.
Reddick, Hemric, and Bell pitted early while Custer remained on track, hoping for a caution. When the caution never came, Reddick assumed the lead with well over five seconds to spar. Custer easily worked his way through the field, but could never catch Reddick.
“These guys worked so hard all year on the BurgerFi Chevrolet,” Reddick added. “We had to overcome a lot. This year was all about learning. It was an up and down year and with everything we had to do, we had to do it in the Playoffs and it rewarded us with a championship. We can hang our hat on that. I know people will say we weren’t consistent, but we got it done when it counted most.
“This is just a great moment. This isn’t going to be the year the best car all year won. We had to fight really, really hard. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of growing pains, but my guys just never gave up on me, this whole No. 9 group.
“We dug down deep when it mattered most and when the Playoffs came around, we dug down and got it done. We had to run well and we were consistent and got to Homestead. I knew if we got here, we had a good shot at getting this championship done.”
In 2019, Reddick will move from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing.