NASCAR: Will Brett Moffitt’s decision pay off?

Add another driver to the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff conversation. Brett Moffitt switched his points eligibility from the Truck Series to the Xfinity Series.

At the time of the switch, Moffitt sat in 15th place in the Truck Series point standings, 37 points below the playoff cut line. Now, he enters Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway with zero points in the Xfinity Series.

by Mark Kristl Source: Beyond the Flag/FanSided

Still, Moffitt is eligible for the Xfinity Series playoffs. He has competed in all seven races so far this season and recorded a second place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway as well as two other top 10 finishes.

After competing part-time with Our Motorsports last year, Moffitt is driving their #02 Chevrolet full-time. He wouldn’t have switched his points eligibility without confidence that he can contend for an Xfinity Series playoff berth.

So will Moffitt make the 2021 Xfinity Series playoffs?

In order to make the Xfinity Series playoffs, a driver must attempt all races and finish inside the top 25 in the point standings. The playoff field is then set by the regular season champion, then the race winners, followed by the next highest drivers in the point standings.

Currently, full-time drivers Austin Cindric, A.J. Allmendinger, Myatt Snider and Justin Allgaier have won this season, so one-third of the 12-car Xfinity Series playoff field is likely set.

In his Xfinity Series career, Moffitt has recorded two top five finishes and 11 top 10 finishes in 39 career starts. While he was ineligible for Xfinity Series points last year, he competed in 29 of the 33 races and accrued one top five result and two other top 10 finishes.

Seven races have been completed so far this year and 19 remain in the regular season. Jesse Little currently sits in 25th place in the point standings with 80 points (average of 11.43 points per race).

Last year, at the conclusion of the regular season, the driver 25th in the point standings had amassed 290 points. So Moffitt will likely need to accrue around 15 points per race, which comes out to a 22nd place finish without any stage points. He has an average finish of 16.43 so far, despite two DNFs, so finishing inside the top 25 in the standings by the end of the regular season should be an easily attainable goal.

Can Moffitt make the playoffs via the point standings? Theoretically yes, but it’s a tall task. When the regular season ended last year, Brandon Brown was the final driver who qualified for the playoffs on points with 562. For Moffitt to earn that many, he needs average roughly 30 per race, which equates to finishing inside the top 10 in most races and earning several stage points.

Given the depth in the Xfinity Series field this year and the fact that 2021 winless drivers Michael Annett, Harrison Burton, Jeremy Clements, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Brandon Jones have all won in their Xfinity Series careers, it’s not mathematically impossible, but it’s a Herculean task.

As a result, Moffitt presumably has to make the Xfinity Series playoffs via a win. He knows it too.

“It’s gonna take a win. We’re pushing all our chips in here and going after it, but I really feel like we can win. And I feel like we can progress through the playoffs if we win in time. Obviously, points-wise, you’re probably not going to get there this late in the season.”

Although he only has two top five finishes in his Xfinity Series career, he is the 2018 Truck Series champion and has 12 career Truck Series victories.

Of those 12 Truck Series victories, two came at tracks which are still scheduled to host the Xfinity Series in the regular season: Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. Moreover, Moffitt he has a victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In fact, in five Truck Series road course starts, Moffitt has three top 10 finishes.

While Allmendinger and Cindric won three of the four Xfinity Series road course races last year, Moffitt could pull a surprise, or at minimum be in contention to earn some valuable stage points and the victory at at least one of the five remaining road courses on this year’s regular season schedule.

But before looking too far ahead at the Xfinity Series schedule, consider this: both of Moffitt’s top five finishes in the Xfinity Series came at superspeedways, one at Daytona International Speedway and another at Talladega Superspeedway. Moffitt hasn’t won at either of those two tracks in any of his NASCAR starts, but he has driven the #02 Chevrolet to top five finishes twice in the last year.

“I think this weekend’s as good a week to win as ever. And I feel like some of the tracks coming up really soon on the schedule, we ran really competitively at last year, and we’ve gotten quite a bit better since then. So I have all the faith in the world that we can win and make it happen.”

Moffitt is seeking to become the second driver to switch his points eligibility during the season and make the playoffs. Ross Chastain switched his points eligibility from the Xfinity Series to the Truck Series in 2019. He scored three wins en route to a runner-up finish in the championship standings.

Moffitt’s quest to make the Xfinity Series playoffs after he switched his points eligibility will be a fascinating storyline to follow this year.

If he wins at Talladega Superspeedway, he wouldn’t be inside the top 25 in the point standings, but he could still get there. If he doesn’t win, he still has ample time to earn points and contend for a playoff berth, via either a win or an astounding accumulation of points.

For the 28-year-old Grimes, Iowa native, this year will add another chapter to his already accomplished NASCAR resume.

Moffitt is set to earn his first points of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season when the series visits Talladega Superspeedway for the Ag-Pro 300. This race is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 24.

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