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|John Hunter Nemechek
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From the high banks of Dover, the NASCAR Xfinity Series comes to venerable Darlington Raceway, a 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval built asymmetrically to preserve a minnow pond on the west side of the property.
Saturday’s Mahindra ROXOR 200, the 11th race on the 2022 Xfinity Series schedule, will be contested over 147 laps (200.1 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 45 and 90 laps.
Justin Allgaier is the defending winner of the race. He beat JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry to the finish line by .422 seconds last spring.
It’s not as if JR Motorsports drivers weren’t strong enough already. With Justin Allgaier winning at Darlington last spring and Noah Gragson claiming victory in the fall, the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned team swept the 2021 Xfinity Series races at the fabled track.
So far this season JRM drivers have won three of the first 10 races, with Gragson triumphing at Phoenix and Talladega and Josh Berry taking the checkered flag last week at Dover.
Eighteen-year-old Sam Mayer has been strong, too, posting four top-five finishes and holding seventh place in the series standings.
For Saturday’s Mahindra ROXOR 200, JRM planned to add a fifth car, the No. 88 Chevrolet to be driven by 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. Elliott opened as the favorite to win the event.
But Mother Nature had other plans. Elliott was second fastest among 16 drivers who posted qualifying laps before rain stopped the time trials. With qualifying canceled, NASCAR set the field by the rule book, and Elliott missed the race by three owner points.
No harm done. We advise looking at Elliott’s JRM teammates for strategic bets. As our choice to win at Dover last week, Allgaier finished a close second to Berry. The driver of the No. 7 Camaro is overdue for a victory, and at +600 via DraftKings Sportsbook, he’s our choice again at Darlington.
We also like Mayer, who has finished fifth or better in four of the last five races, to do so once again at Darlington. Place bets on the driver of the No. 1 Chevy to run in the top three (+500) and top five (+250) on Saturday.
From an oddsmaker’s standpoint, this week’s race is an aberration—Ty Gibbs is not the favorite. He’ll have to settle for being the second betting choice.
After winning the third, fifth and seventh races of the 2022 season, Gibbs has been shut out for the last three events. Is the 19-year-old racing prodigy due for another victory? And is he worth a bet a slightly longer odds (+450)?
We don’t think so. Darlington is a difficult track that typically favors veteran drivers, and Gibbs finished 18th last year in his only Xfinity Series start at the track. We don’t think that projects to a trip to Victory Lane just yet.
One thing to consider, though. With the field set by the rule book, Gibbs will start on the pole. Seven times in the last 18 Xfinity races at Darlington a Joe Gibbs Racing driver has won from the pole position—but those events involved moonlighting Cup starts Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Gibbs isn’t up to that level just yet.
Brandon Jones is a feast-or-famine driver. His Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are invariably fast, but the driver of the No. 19 Supra often has difficulty steering clear of disaster.
Perhaps that’s why Jones was posted at +1500 before Friday’s rained-outqualifying session at Darlington Raceway.
But Jones is a former—and recent—winner at the Track Too Tough to Tame. In eight starts there, he has posted the victory, two top fives, four top 10s—and, notably, no DNFs (did not finish).
Even though the odds shortened throughout the day on Friday (to +1000 to win via Draftkings), we think Jones is worth a shot if you don’t buy the argument that the JR Motorsports drivers will dominate.
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|Mahindra ROXOR 200 Information
|Mahindra ROXOR 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race
|Saturday, May 7, 1:30 p.m. ET
|How to Watch
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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