Skip to main content

Why the Xfinity Series is NASCAR’s best product right now

The stock car raced on Saturday afternoons is the one everyone on Sunday wishes they had in the NASCAR Cup Series.

While the highest level is still seeking its future identity in the early stages of the NextGen development cycle, the Xfinity Series car has evolved to represent the best of NASCAR’s past as the quintessential racing platform over the past five seasons.

It’s a statement best articulated by championship contender and Cup Series part-timer, Austin Hill.

“They are so much fun to drive, Hill said. “It’s got low downforce (and) low sideforce. You can slip and slide around, hang the car out and get it on the right rear, and you might pay a penalty on the right rear but it lets you drive the car really hard. You can ask a lot of it.”

That’s the technical answer, but how about the emotional one?

“I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this but the Xfinity Series cars are the best series out there right now,” Hill said. “It’s what the Cup guys should be running because they put on a great show no matter what race track you put them on.”

Right now, with a platform built around spec Australian Supercar and IndyCar sensibilities, Cup is striving to be something else, something to be determined. That doesn’t mean the new platform on Sunday is inherently bad but it is certainly different than what came before.

Daniel Hemric said he had a conversation about that just this past week with some Cup drivers at the Chevrolet training facility.

“There is just something about this car, the way it’s evolved with the downforce, composite bodies, down to the tire falloff,” said the 2021 champion.

“At Kansas last week, there was three seconds of falloff over a fuel run and that’s old old old-school NASCAR. That’s what I grew up watching on Sundays, drivers having to wrestle the car around, elbows up trying to find grip and no laps off.

“It’s taken some time to get there but the past four years, these cars have been an absolute joy to drive and I’m grateful to have been part of this era.”

That’s coming from a guy who raced Cup in 2019 in the first season of the super decreased horsepower and high downforce rules package. He spent his formative years over the past decade winning in Super Late Models, and everyone who drove those cars in their short track days has called the Xfinity Series car a ‘big Super Late Model,’ in all the right ways.

That includes 2021 Snowball Derby winner Chandler Smith.   

“You’re basically racing a Super Late Model on much bigger tracks,” Smith said. “That’s literally what there is but with some more aero involved. The trucks and Cup, they’re straight up aero racing with that much downforce and little horsepower. … These cars are even closer to the old ARCA cars before NASCAR bought it and took away their horsepower too.

“These Xfinity cars drive like the old ARCA cars, and coming from Super Late Models, that was an easier adjustment, familiar to me and Trucks and Cup wasn’t.”

NASCAR: Xfinity Series Ambetter Health 200
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Sheldon Creed, the 2020 Truck Series champion, made his Cup Series debut over the weekend in Kansas.

“After driving them all, the Xfinity is the funnest car to drive, and I think everyone would agree with that,” Creed said. “There is a challenge to the Cup car, and it is hard to drive, sketchy and does odd things and it is the Cup Series, but I would love to see the Cup car with more horsepower.

“You can’t spin the tires in the Cup car and in our cars, we’re always pedaling it. I hope the Xfinity platform doesn’t change. I hope we don’t go high downforce or anything silly like that and keep it around.”

Change is looming as NASCAR has already pondered ways to get the Xfinity cars, which is basically the Gen6 Cup platform, on the same wheel and tire platform as the NextGen, just from an economics standpoint. Those tires with their wider contact patch create so much more grip and would minimize everything that makes the Xfinity Series enjoyable.

The current Cup Series also closer aligns now with the Truck Series in that they have high drag and similar weight to horsepower ratios. Those are all considerations as NASCAR ponders its future with the Cup platform sending stock car racing towards a radically different trajectory.  

Justin Allgaier has spent most of the past 15 years in the Xfinity Series and agrees with Hemric that this is the closest thing to classic NASCAR as they can have … and in some ways better.

“Aerodynamically, the car doesn’t have a lot of downforce, it doesn’t have a lot of grip and we’re just sliding around, week in and week out,” Allgaier said. “As a race car driver, you just want to feel like you control the results as much as possible and we do with this car ….

“I don’t know that we are slipping and sliding like they were in the 80s and 90s like people say they want the racing to be like now, but I also know that those races often had only a car or two on the lead lap. We talk about parity with the Cup Series but this car has the best ratio of like competition and drivability that NASCAR has ever had.”

NASCAR’s second-tier division hasn’t had an independent identity quite like this since the 1990s when Busch Grand National spent half its season away from the Cup Series at short tracks like the Nashville Fairgrounds, Hickory and South Boston, with a driver roster that reflected the schedule.

Randy Lajoie
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Matt Kenseth
Elton Sawyer
Tim Fedewa
Kevin Lepage

It was the grittier, yeoman’s alternative to the Cup Series, sprinkled in with emerging prospects, and today’s Xfinity Series absolutely has similar vibes.

Justin Allgaier
Josh Berry
Austin Hill
Brett Moffitt
Jeremy Clements
Jeb Burton

Syndication: The Tennessean
Rex Perry / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Burton feels the Busch Series vibes out of today’s Xfinity Series because he lived the former in childhood traveling the circuit alongside his dad, Ward, when he raced full-time across both NASCAR tours.

“I love the car we drive (and) I feel like the driver can make a difference, we’re out of the throttle a lot,” Burton said. “The new TV deal will be a great addition. I would love to be racing Cup someday, but there is a lot to love about what we get to race every week and I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity.”

After all, it’s still the series where names are made, and a stronger Saturday show makes NASCAR Cup Sundays all the better for it.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.