The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series are similar in many ways, but there are also several differences between the two. A minor league to the NASCAR Cup Series, the Xfinity Series has less experienced and less talented drivers, but there’s more to compare between the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series.
The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series have dramatically different cars since the Cup Series entered the Next Gen era in 2022. The cars also vary in speed, but they started running at closer speeds when the Cup Series began racing with the Next Gen car, and they have similar schedules and race formats.
Below, we will explore key similarities and differences between the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series cars. We will also dive deeper into the speeds of the Next Gen and Xfinity cars and compare Xfinity speeds to the Gen 6 Cup car. We will also check out the series’ respective race schedules and formats.
NASCAR Cup vs Xfinity Series Cars
Before the NASCAR Cup Series rolled out the Next Gen car in 2022, the cars looked similar to those used in the Xfinity series, although there were still differences between them. Now that the Cup Series is in the Next Gen era, you will notice dramatic differences between the two rides.
On The Outside
The Next Gen cars feature larger aluminum wheels with one lug nut, while the Xfinity cars possess the smaller steel wheels with five lug nuts each. The Cup Series cars also have their driver numbers pushed forward toward the front fender, while the Xfinity cars still have their number on the door.
The Xfinity cars still carry the old truck arms, and you will find their exhaust pipes on the right-hand side. As for the Cup Series cars, their exhaust pipes are located on both sides, and you will find them at the doors. One interesting aspect is that the Xfinity Series cars still use carburetors, something NASCAR got rid of in the Cup Series cars back in 2012.
NASCAR’s Next Gen cars contain a five-speed sequential manual transmission and an independent rear suspension. The Xfinity cars still have the old four-speed transmission. When NASCAR designed the Next Gen car, they also got rid of the truck arms, giving the car’s underside a completely new look, especially when compared with the Xfinity cars.
The two cars also come in different sizes, with the Xfinity cars possessing a slightly smaller wheelbase, measuring at 105 inches (267 cm), while the Cup Series wheelbase clocks in at 110 inches (279 cm). Further, the Xfinity cars are about 11 inches longer, 4 inches narrower, and 1 inch taller than their Cup series counterparts.
Similarities Between Cup Series And Xfinity Cars
Despite the many differences, there are similarities between the Cup and Xfinity Series cars, with the main similarities being the engines. Both contain 358 cubic inches (5.9 liters) of displacement. They are also both V8, naturally aspirated pushrod engines, one of the few older technologies the Next Gen car retained.
Their horsepower differs slightly, with Cup Series cars producing a targeted 670 horsepower for most tracks, while Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta have horsepower targeted at 510 HP. Meanwhile, the Xfinity cars have engines with horsepower varying between 650 and 700, with 450 at former Cup Series restrictor plate tracks.
KEY POINTS• The main differences between the Cup and Xfinity Series lie in the cars
• While they both feature similar engines, the Next Gen Cup car is a technological upgrade
• The Xfinity cars still use truck arms and carburetors, both of which the Cup cars abandoned
• The cars do both have fairly similar power outputs
Are NASCAR Cup Cars Faster Than Xfinity Cars?
NASCAR Cup cars are faster than Xfinity cars, but not by much. The difference between the two series is usually only a few miles per hour, but the Xfinity pole speeds are sometimes faster than those of the Cup Series. The speed difference between the series shrunk in 2022.
Even with the advent of the Next Gen car, NASCAR Cup cars are still primarily faster than the Xfinity cars, but it’s a closer call than it used to be. When NASCAR unveiled the Next Gen car, speed wasn’t so much their primary focus as was the on-track product. NASCAR wanted the cars to move well regardless if they raced on ovals or road courses. They also wanted closer racing.
Xfinity vs Gen 6 Speeds
During the Generation 6 era, the Cup Series cars were considerably faster than the Xfinity cars. Taking practice results from the 2021 Daytona 500, Bubba Wallace hit a speed of 200 mph (321 kph). Ty Dillon clocked in the fastest speed for the Xfinity cars at 193 mph (311 kph). Ricky Stenhouse Jr, the 21st fastest from practice for the 2021 Daytona 500, was the first Cup car slower than Dillon’s.
This was even the case on short tracks. The fall Bristol race showed the NASCAR Cup cars clocking in an average speed of 87 mph (140 kph), while the Xfinity cars reached an average speed of 75 mph (121 kph).
Enter The Next Gen
Michael McDowell paced the field in practice for the 2022 Daytona 500. He finished with a speed of 193 mph (311 kph) while Ty Gibbs enjoyed the fastest practice laps for the Xfinity Series with a speed of 187 mph (301 kph). We also saw the Next Gen cars win out on average speed, with 142 mph (229 kph), while the Xfinity cars reached 137 mph (220 kph).
However, the Xfinity pole sitter, Daniel Hemric, clocked in a faster qualifying speed of 183 mph (295 kph). Kyle Larson, who sat on the pole for the Cup Series Daytona 500, finished with a speed of 181 mph (291 kph).
On the short tracks, you get a similar result. At the spring Richmond race in 2022, Kyle Larson clocked in the best practice speed of 120 mph (193 kph). Ty Gibbs again paced the Xfinity field at Richmond, but with a speed of 118 mph (190 kph). The average race speed also fell in the Cup Series favor, at 97 mph (156 kph). The Xfinity Series trailed at 95 mph (153 kph).
Like the Daytona 500, the Xfinity cars had a slightly higher qualifying speed with Ty Gibbs winning the pole at 122 mph (196 kph). The Cup Series pole sitter for the Richmond spring race, Ryan Blaney, finished with a qualifying speed of 120 mph (193 kph).
Do The Cup & Xfinity Series Race On The Same Tracks?
The Cup and Xfinity Series do race on many of the same tracks, but the series won’t race at all of the same venues in a season. Xfinity races often act as the main support race for the Cup Series, and they occur either on the day of the Cup race or in most cases, the day or evening before.
When you look at the two schedules side-by-side, you will see little variation between the Cup and Xfinity races, and at first glance, they look as though they have the exact same schedule. However, the Cup Series does not race at the following tracks: Portland International Raceway, and starting in 2023, Road America, following a two-year stint at the track.
On the weekend of June 4th, 2022, the Cup Series raced at the World Wide Technology Raceway, also called Gateway, while Xfinity raced at Portland. The Xfinity Series does not have the 150 mile (240 km) Twin Duels, nor do they hold the preseason race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
More Schedule Variation In The Past
Since the Xfinity Series is intended to give drivers the opportunity to get acclimated to a wider variety of Cup Series tracks, it makes sense that they have an almost identical schedule to the Cup Series. Go back to 2012, however, and you will find more variation in the schedule between the Xfinity and Cup Series.
That season, the Xfinity Series, then called the Nationwide Series, raced at the Iowa Speedway twice, Road America, and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. Their schedule was also different, as they did not race at Kansas until late in the year, while the Cup raced at the track on the weekend of April 22nd, when the Xfinity Series had the week off.
The Xfinity Series also raced at the Kentucky Speedway twice, while the Cup raced there just once. On the Weekend of May 20th, Xfinity raced at Iowa, while the Cup ran the Sprint Showdown. Both the Cup and Xfinity raced points-paying races at Charlotte the following weekend.
More Similar Schedule To Cup
With the Xfinity Series acting as the second rung to the Cup Series, you will see a far more identical schedule to the Cup Series than either the Truck series or ARCA Menards. The Xfinity Series runs 33 races, while the Truck Series runs just 23 events and more schedule variation, holding races at Knoxville, Mid-Ohio, and Lucas Oil Raceway – three tracks the Xfinity Series no longer races at.
The ARCA Menards Series also races at a few similar tracks as the Cup Series, but many of their races take place in the Midwest and at much shorter tracks. They also just run 20 events and serve as the fourth tier of NASCAR (with the Truck series making up the third tier).
You will also see less talent and experience in Truck and ARCA Menards, which explains why their respective schedules are nowhere near the length of what you see in the Xfinity Series. The races are also usually shorter, with the Xfinity Series running significantly longer races, as their purpose is to better prepare drivers for the Cup Series.
The Xfinity Series As Practice For The Cup
Because the schedules have historically been similar, despite some variation in the past, many Cup Series drivers used the Xfinity Series races as tune-up events. However, this became controversial, given the clear discrepancy in talent between Cup Series and Xfinity Series regulars.
Starting in the 2010s, NASCAR gradually tightened the rules on how many Xfinity events Cup Series drivers could take part in. As it stands, Cup Series drivers can only participate in five Xfinity events during the season, and they are not eligible to receive points for any of the races.
This rule allows NASCAR to showcase upcoming talent that the Xfinity Series brings to the fans attending their respective race weekend. It also gives Xfinity drivers a fair chance at showcasing their own talents against drivers who match their skill level, instead of against drivers who regularly contend for the Cup Series championship.
Likewise, Xfinity Series regulars can only compete in a handful of Cup Series events. They are also not eligible to earn drivers’ points, even if they win a race. Trevor Bayne is one good example. He won the 2011 Daytona 500, but since he declared eligibility to compete only for Xfinity (then Nationwide) points, he earned nothing points-wise for the win.
Xfinity Has A Slightly Shorter Race Schedule
The NASCAR Xfinity Series also runs fewer races than the Cup Series, with just 33 on the schedule compared to the 36 points-paying races the Cup Series runs. The Cup Series also has two 150 mile (241 km) qualifying races for the Daytona 500, a preseason race called the Clash (Los Angeles), and both an All-Star and the NASCAR Open (North Wilkesboro), giving the premier series a total of 41 races.
NASCAR Cup vs Xfinity Series Race Formats
Race formats between the two series present a more striking difference than the schedules. The NASCAR Xfinity Series is considered the minor league to the Cup, so the quality of talent is lower. The series also comprises drivers who are not as experienced as their Cup Series counterparts, or drivers whose Cup Series careers did not pan out and are therefore racing at the lower level.
A.J. Allmendinger is a good example of a driver who never fared well at the Cup level but found a niche in Xfinity. Paul Menard is another driver, who finished no higher than 14th in points in the Cup Series. He also managed just one win, compared to 3 wins at the Xfinity level and a career-best fifth-place finish in the standings. He also scored 102 top tens in 220 career races.
With lesser and more inexperienced talent, it is easy to assume that the race formats are different. Xfinity races still comprise stage racing, which started in 2017, the same year as the Cup Series. However, their races only run between 60% and 75% the distance of a Cup Series race, depending on the event.
Xfinity Races Get Drivers Ready For Cup
While Xfinity races are shorter than Cup races, Truck Races are noticeably shorter still, running half the distance of a Cup Series race. This is because the Xfinity Series is the middle man between Cup and Truck, which gives drivers more track time at more Cup Series venues.
But at the same time, it doesn’t force drivers to withstand the physical and mental demands of a Cup Series race, which lasts between three and five hours. More experienced or talented Xfinity drivers, however, will often run a limited schedule in the Cup Series to get acclimated to those demands.
Austin Cindric is a good example. He ran full-time in the Truck Series in 2017, before bumping up to a near full-time schedule in the Xfinity Series in 2018. He started all 33 races in the Xfinity Series between 2019, 2020, and 2021. Also in 2021, he started seven Cup Series races before moving to full-time in 2022.
KEY POINTS• The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series race at many of the same tracks
• However, the NASCAR Cup season is longer than that of the Xfinity Series
• Xfinity Series races are also shorter than those in the Cup Series
The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series have their differences, but they are also similar in many ways. Their cars, different as they are, run at similar speeds. The NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series also run similar schedules, and while Xfinity races are shorter, they have similar formats to the Cup.
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