Lack of clear XFINITY Chase favorite will make Texas a wild ride

The XFINITY Series Chase for the Cup has made it through one race in the Round of 8 and nobody has clinched a spot to the Championship 4 with Kyle Busch grabbing the most recent win at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 15.

Unlike the Sprint Cup Chase, the AAA Division of NASCAR has several nuances that make its Chase unique as it heads into Race No. 2 in the Round of 8 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (3:30 p.m. ET) at Texas Motor Speedway.

First, there’s the fact that a three-week break fell in the middle of the Round of 8. That definitely throws off some consistency in a team’s routine.

Also, it’s just as likely that a Sprint Cup driver will swoop in and steal a win away from one of its Chase contenders.

The second is one of the reasons why NASCAR has made changes to the participation rules. With those changes still a year away, sit back and enjoy the wrench thrown into the gears of the XFINITY Chase.

There isn’t a clear favorite. Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez each won a race in Round 1 and are currently tied for the points lead, but without a win, they’re nowhere near feeling safe.

I’m just starting in this sport and I fell like I’m still learning a lot every single weekend," Suarez said. "I really feel like we are one of the best teams right now – maybe the hottest team right now – and that obviously helps a lot, but, you know, I’m one of those guys that I just try to do my work and everything else is going to take care of itself if you do it right."

Behind them, four drivers — Blake Koch, Justin Allgaier, Erik Jones, and Ryan Reed — are all within seven points of each other heading into the weekend.

Brendan Gaughan and Bubba Wallace are the final two Chasers in the points, trailing by 29 and 30 points, respectively.

The pressure of having such minimal room for error and knowing one bad day could eliminate you from contention is what makes the Chase exciting.

When you add in the fact that many of the contenders in the XFINITY Series, from drivers to crew chiefs and pit members, are all still learning how to do their jobs at a high-caliber level, you get a wild show because of that.

"You know, (The Chase) just adds a lot of pressure to everyone and that’s normal," Suarez said in a Friday press conference at Texas Motor Speedway. "When you add pressure to somebody, sometimes you make mistakes and I’m not talking just about drivers – teams as well, pit crews, everyone – so I think it’s something very cool to see. I mean, I think I work well under pressure, but we’ll see in the next few weeks.”

That we will, Daniel.

So instead of yelling about which Sprint Cup regulars are ‘crashing’ the XFINITY Series Chase party, appreciate the uncertainty and excitement associated with the chaos the eight Chase drivers are dealing with as they try to win a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.