Sunday, November 27, 2022

Playoff Contenders Top Xfinity Series Most Popular Driver Ranking

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NASCAR has released the top 10 voters for the Xfinity Series Most Popular Driver Award. This list includes several playoff drivers as well as the reigning champion.

NASCAR unveiled the list on Nov. 21, announcing which drivers — in alphabetical order — received the most votes over the first two weeks. This list includes Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Josh Berry, Jeremy Clements, Sheldon Creed, Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer.

There are some interesting details in this list of Xfinity Series drivers. For example, all but two drivers belong to Chevrolet Performance. Gibbs and Jones are both part of Toyota Racing Development.

There are no Ford drivers in the top 10, but that’s less surprising given the OEM’s less presence in the series. Only Stewart-Haas Racing, SS Green Light Racing and RSS Racing bring Ford Mustangs to the track regularly. BJ McLeod Motorsports and MBM Motorsports both occasionally hire Ford participants for specific drivers.

NASCAR fans were unsurprised to see Gragson and Allgaier in the top 10. Gragson became the 2018 Camping World Truck Series Favorite Driver, while Allgaier has won the Xfinity Series award three years in a row.

One name that has come as a surprise to some fans based on recent events is Ty Gibbs. The reigning champion of the Xfinity series has seen some changes in his fan base during the 2022 season. He had numerous early supporters as he won several races, but he also drew criticism after several incidents at the track.

The biggest shift came after the elimination race at Martinsville Speedway. Gibbs won the race after crashing teammate Brandon Jones into the wall and destroying him. This incident led to a chorus of boos from the crowd after the race and more so during the driver presentations at Phoenix Raceway the following week.

The outrage may have been short-lived as Gibbs secured a spot in the top 10. The other scenario is that members of his fan base took the time to vote for him every day during the opening weeks.

There are a few names in the top 10 likely to compete for the most popular driver in 2023. These include Austin Hill, Jeremy Clements, Sheldon Creed, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Brandon Jones.

For comparison, three other drivers did not qualify for the Xfinity Series Most Popular Driver after the December 1 awards banquet. Noah Gragson, Ty Gibbs and AJ Allmendinger will all be promoted to the Cup Series on a full-time basis.

Gragson and Gibbs will both be eligible for the Cup Series Most Popular Driver award for the first time in 2023 when they begin their rookie seasons. Allmendinger will be eligible again after several full-time seasons at the top level of NASCAR. Although in his previous seasons, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003-2017) and Chase Elliott (2018-present) were named Most Popular Drivers.

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