NASCAR XFINITY Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Preview

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NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will race 300 miles during 200 laps in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, Friday, April 8th. FOX Sports 1 will begin their pre-race coverage at 8 pm ET with a green flag around 8:30 pm ET and radio coverage by PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

Suárez Rides to Texas Anticipating to Build on his Early Momentum

After a two-week hiatus, the NASCAR XFINITY Series is back in action Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. One driver especially excited to get back to racing is series standings leader Daniel Suárez. Suárez holds a ten-point lead over second-place Elliott Sadler and a 19-point lead over third-place Justin Allgaier.

“I’m excited about going to Texas and getting back in my Toyota this week,” Suárez said. “We were so close to the win in Fontana and all I could think about over the break was getting back on the track with my guys.”

Over the past three races, Suárez has extended his points lead from three points to eight to ten over Sadler in second and there are no signs of him slowing down.

Suárez, 24, is a graduate of the NASCAR Next initiative and Drive for Diversity program operated by Rev Racing. Now piloting the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Suárez has posted one pole, three top-fives, five top-tens and a series-leading 4.8 average finish in the first five races of the season.

Comparing Suárez’s start to the starts of the last five champions in their respective championship-winning seasons – Daniel Suárez, 4.8 average finish (2016); Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 6.2 (2012); Chris Buescher, 7.8 (2015); Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 8.2 (2011); Chase Elliott, 8.8 (2014) and Austin Dillon, 9.8 (2013) – Suárez’s start in the first five races is better, and in most cases, far better, than those of the last five series title winners.

Suárez has made two series starts at Texas, posting one top-ten and an average finish of 12.0. In his last race at Texas, he started fifth and finished sixth.

“I enjoy racing at Texas (Motor Speedway) and I think our mile-and-a-half program at JGR is really strong,” Suárez said. “I’m excited to hit the track and continue to build on the momentum from the start of the year.”

Sadler Can Rely on Experience to Catch Suárez

JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler is second and down ten points, but he’s in the best position to catch the series standings leader Daniel Suárez, and this weekend’s stage, Texas Motor Speedway, is as good as any to go after the top spot.

Sadler’s tenure within NASCAR has been lengthy, and with it has come some undeniable experience. To put in perspective the age gap between Sadler and Suárez, Sadler started racing in the XFINITY Series in 1995 at the ripe age of 20, three years after Suárez was born in 1992.

But Sadler isn’t letting the youthfulness of his competitors get the best of him, in five starts this season he has posted two top-fives, five top-tens and an average finish of 6.8.

Sadler has made 16 starts at Texas, posting two poles, three top-fives, nine top-tens and an average finish of 12.4. In four of his last five starts at Texas he has finished inside the top-ten.

Chase Bubble Could Bounce this Weekend at Texas

The XFINITY Series Chase will kick off at Kentucky Speedway on September 24. Twelve drivers will compete in an elimination-style, seven-race, three-round Chase. Below is a look at the six drivers sitting on the bubble of the Chase cutoff line heading into Texas this weekend.

In:

  1. Brennan Poole (+22) – Poole, a Woodlands, Texas native, drives the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 48 Chevrolet this season with crew chief Chad Norris. Poole, 24, is 22 points ahead of the Chase cutoff line after posting one top-ten and an average finish of 15.0 through the first five races of 2016. He made his series debut at Texas last season, starting 22nd and driving up to a 13th-place finish.
  2. Blake Koch (+14) – Koch hails from West Palm Beach, Florida and drives the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet with crew chief Chris Rice. Koch now is inside the Chase cutoff by one point over 12th-place Jeb Burton. Koch has posted one top-ten and four top-20 finishes this season. Koch has made ten series starts at Texas, recording four top-25 finishes. Last fall he logged a 21st-place finish – his career-best at Texas.
  3. Jeb Burton (+13) – Burton sits teetering on the Chase cutoff line, one point behind 11th-place Blake Koch and 13 points ahead of 13th-place Dakoda Armstrong. Burton, from Halifax, Virginia, drives the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer this season. In five starts in 2016, he has posted one top-ten and four top-20 finishes. This weekend will be his series track debut at Texas, but don’t count him out just yet. On the first two 1.5-mile tracks this season, he did well, finishing tenth at Atlanta and 17th at Las Vegas.

Out:

  1. Dakoda Armstrong (-13) – Armstrong is the first driver outside of the Chase cutoff line looking in. Just 13 points separate him from 12th-place Jeb Burton. He is piloting the No. 28 JGL Racing Toyota with crew chief Steven Lane. Armstrong, 24, from New Castle, Indiana, has posted two top 20s and an average finish of 19.4 this season. He has four series starts at Texas where he’s recorded one top-ten and average finish of 16.5.
  2. Jeremy Clements (-17) – Clements has to face an uphill climb being 17 points behind the cutoff line to the 2016 XFINITY Chase. Clements, 31, from Spartanburg, South Carolina, drives the No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet with his father Tony Clements serving as crew chief. He has an average finish of 20.2 this season with a best finish of 15th at Daytona. He has made 14 starts at Texas, posting an average finish of 25.3.
  3. Ryan Sieg (-22) – Tucker, Georgia’s Ryan Sieg sits 15th in the standings, 22 points back from the Chase cutoff line. Sieg, 28, drives the No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet with crew chief Kevin Starland. He has posted three top-20 finishes and an average finish of 21.2 in five races this season. Sieg has made four series starts at Texas where he owns an average finish of 20.8.

Joe Gibbs Atop the Owners Points through Five Races

On the fenders of the supremely hot Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs rode to the top of the XFINITY Series car owner points standings just five races into the season. A mere six points separates Gibbs’ first-place No. 18 Toyota team from second-place Richard Childress’ No. 2 Chevrolet team.

Gibbs is on the hunt for a XFINITY Series-record fifth owner championship.

JGR’s No. 18 team opened the season with Texas wheelman and former series champ Bobby Labonte at Daytona. Since then, Kyle Busch has been behind the wheel. In five starts, the No. 18 JGR team has posted three wins and four top-fives. This weekend, Busch will be back in the seat to try to add to his series record seven wins at Texas Motor Speedway.

Austin Dillon will pilot the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Texas. Dillon has made seven starts at the 1.5-mile oval where he claims five top-fives, seven top-tens and an average finish of 4.9.

NASCAR Texas Ties: Poole, Starr Back Home in Lone Star State

NASCAR national series racing has roots in Texas that date back to the 1960s. The very first NASCAR national series race in Texas was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event held at Texas World Speedway in 1969 won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac. A total of 105 NASCAR national series races among three tracks have been held in the state of Texas: Texas Motor Speedway (96), Meyers Speedway (one) and Texas World Speedway (eight). The XFINITY Series has held 30 races in the state of Texas, all at Texas Motor Speedway. Mark Martin won the first XFINITY Series race held at TMS in 1997.

A total of 82 drivers who have competed in at least one NASCAR national series race have their home state recorded as Texas. Of the 82 Texas drivers, 19 have competed in the XFINITY Series. Of the 19, only five Texas natives have won in the XFINITY Series: Terry Labonte (11 wins), Bobby Labonte (ten), Chris Buescher (three), Bobby Hillin Jr. (two) and James Buescher (one). Two drivers from Texas have won the XFINITY Series championship – Bobby Labonte (1991) from Corpus Christi and Chris Buescher (2015) from Prosper.

This weekend, two drivers from the great state of Texas are on the entry list for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday night – Brennan Poole (The Woodlands) and David Starr (Houston).

Poole will handle the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Starr will pilot No. 44 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender Erik Jones Calls Texas a Favorite Track

While his teammates have been the talk of the series – Kyle Busch winning three straight races and Daniel Suárez extending his points lead – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Erik Jones has been quietly making the uphill pilgrimage through the XFINITY Series driver standings. This weekend, Jones returns to Texas Motor Speedway, a track that he says, has quickly grown dear to him.

“Texas Motor Speedway has quickly become one of my favorite tracks with a lot of great memories, from receiving my diploma at driver intros to winning my first XFINITY race,” Jones said. “It’s a place I’ve really enjoyed racing from the start and definitely one I’ve had circled on my calendar as one where we could get a win. It’s a fun place, a place where we can put on a show for the fans and that makes it a lot of fun for the drivers.”

Jones captured his first series career win at Texas last season. He returns this weekend to defend his win and get his first victory in 2016.

The 19-year-old Michigan native is now seventh in the series standings on the strength of three top-fives in the first five races of 2016.

Noteworthy in the XFINITY Series 

Brandon Jones Rocking Texas Rangers Paint Scheme

XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender Brandon Jones’s No. 33 Chevrolet has a sports sponsor, the Texas Rangers for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday. Jones will sport a Texas Rangers firesuit, while his car wrap features the team’s logo with baseballs on the door. The 19-year-old threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Rangers game with the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Wednesday.

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