NASCAR XFINITY Series 300 at Fontana Preview


Next Race: 300 by Janssen
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 19
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (150 laps)

Suárez Extends Standings Lead on Way to California

Following the second installment of the #NASCARGoesWest part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule, Daniel Suárez now finds himself with an eight-point lead over second-place Elliott Sadler.

Suárez is honing his skills and has been quite impressive in the first four races of the season, posting two top-fives and four top-tens, including a third-place finish this past weekend at Phoenix. Not only is Suárez racking up strong finishes, he is producing hefty loop data statistics. He hasn’t posted a driver rating less than 100 points this season and his average running position is 5.3. Suárez is also one of only five drivers this season to complete 100 percent of the laps scheduled thus far.

The 24-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver heads to California this weekend for the 300 at Auto Club Speedway. The young driver made his series track debut at Auto Club Speedway last season, starting 13th and finishing ninth.

Much of Suarez’s success is because of his relationship with crew chief Scott Graves. Graves came to Joe Gibbs Racing this season following a 2015 campaign in which he led driver Chris Buescher and Roush Fenway Racing to a series title. Graves and Buescher finished fifth in this event last season.

Top-Five in Points are Well Represented by JRM and RCR

Joe Gibbs Racing now holds the top spot in the XFINITY Series standings with driver Daniel Suarez, but the rest of the top-five drivers are from JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing.

In second is JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler (-8). Sadler held the points lead for the first two races of the season, but dropped to second following Las Vegas. Sadler’s consistency has been his advantage. In four starts this season, he has posted one top-five and four top-tens. His average finish in 2016 is 7.3. Sadler has made 11 starts at Auto Club, posting three top-fives and seven top-tens.

Third is Richard Childress Racing’s Ty Dillon (-9). Dillon’s season started slow with a 13th-place finish at Daytona, but has since picked up, finishing the next three races with a top-five and two top-tens. Dillon has two starts at Auto Club, posting one top-ten and an average finish of 11.0.

Fourth now belongs to veteran Justin Allgaier (-12), who joined JR Motorsports this season. In four starts this year, Allgaier has posted one top-five and three top-tens. Allgaier has made seven series starts at Auto Club posting two top-tens and an average finish of 14.6.

Rounding out the top-five in points is Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate / Richard Childress Racing driver Brandon Jones (-15). Jones kicked the season off with a top-ten finish at Daytona and has run consistently ever since. His average finish this season is a 9.8. This weekend will be Jones’ series track debut.

Erik Jones a Serious Contender this Season

Erik Jones is looking to become the fourth driver to win a Camping World Truck Series and an XFINITY Series title, joining Greg Biffle, Johnny Benson and Austin Dillon. Despite Jones’ hiccup to open the season at Daytona, he has been the best championship contender since then, posting three top-fives and sitting sixth in the series standings, just 18 points behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suárez.

In the last three races (Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix), Jones hasn’t started worse than second and hasn’t finished worse than third. His average finish in the last three races is 2.7. In the process, Jones has jumped from 22nd to sixth in championship points.

Jones heads to California this weekend to continue his streak of top-three finishes he has going this season. In his series debut at Auto Club Speedway last year, he won the pole and finished third.

Owner Points Battle is Tight at the Top

Just ten points separate the top-four car owners in the XFINITY Series owner standings after the fourth race of the season. Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 is on top of standings followed by JR Motorsports’ No. 88 (-7), Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 (-9) and Richard Childress Racing’s No. 2 (-9).

Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team, led by crew chief Chris Gayle, has been unstoppable since being in an accident at Daytona, winning the following three races with driver Kyle Busch. Seven drivers in series history have won three or more consecutive races. Only two drivers have done it more than once – Sam Ard (four wins: 9/17/1983 – 10/8/1983); (three wins: 5/5/1984 – 5/19/1984) and Kyle Busch (three wins: (4/5/2008 – 4/20/2008); (three wins: 3/16/2013 – 4/12/2013). This weekend Kyle Busch could become the second driver in series history to win four consecutive races, joining Ard. In 16 starts at Auto Club Speedway, Busch has posted a series-leading six wins. His average finish at ACS is 6.6.

Busch will have his work cut out for him this weekend. Defending winner Kevin Harvick is also entered and will be driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. Harvick has made 19 starts at Auto Club, posting one win, 12 top-fives and 16 top-tens.

Noteworthy in the XFINITY Series

NASCAR XFINITY Series in California:  Though all three NASCAR national series have joined to race on 17 different tracks in the state of California, the XFINITY Series has only competed at one – Auto Club Speedway. Auto Club has hosted 26 series events dating back to the inaugural XFINITY Series race held on 10/19/1997 and won by Todd Bodine.

California Drivers In The XFINITY Series: Of the 431 California natives that have competed in at least one NASCAR national series event, only 68 have competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, led by Kevin Harvick with 329 series career starts. Of the 68 Californians who have competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, only 15 have won a race and just seven have won multiple races. Kevin Harvick leads all Californians with 46 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins.