#NASCAR XFINITY Series, Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Preview

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NASCAR XFINITY Teams are  at Talladega Superspeedway for the Sparks Energy 300 and racing that covers 300.58 miles over 113 laps on Saturday, April 30th. FOX will start their pre-race coverage at 2:30 pm ET with a green flag around 3 pm ET and radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

 

Suárez Opens Up Points Lead as Talladega Approaches

Tension within the XFINITY Series championship battle has slightly loosened for standings leader Daniel Suárez after he posted his fourth top-five of the season, increasing his lead to nine points over new second-place driver, Elliott Sadler. Heading into Richmond, Suárez held a six-point lead over Erik Jones.

In eight starts this season, Suárez has posted four top-fives, seven top-tens and an average finish of 6.3 – best among title contenders.

Suárez’s performances on NASCAR’s two biggest ovals has improved. In his first two starts at Daytona, 39th and Talladega, 31st, he finished outside the top-30. Since then, he has finished 15th at Daytona last July and eighth there this past February.

“In my race last year (at Talladega), we had a fast Toyota Camry, I just got caught up in an accident towards the middle portion of the race and that set us back,” Suárez said. “We learned a lot in Daytona about our restrictor-plate package that I think we can carry over to this weekend. Anything can happen at Talladega, but I’m looking forward to the race on Saturday and hopefully coming home with our first win!” 

Sadler Gains Ground in Points, Sets Sights on Lead

Virginia native Elliott Sadler performed stoutly in front of his hometown crowd last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, posting his best finish of third this season and in the process leaped two spots in the points to second, just nine markers back from standings leader Daniel Suárez.

Sadler’s success comes at an opportune time as the series heads to Talladega, a track at which he won two seasons ago.  In seven starts at Talladega, Sadler has posted the one win in 2014, four top-fives and seven top-tens.

Cash It: Runner-Up Finish at Richmond has Dillon Back in the Title Mix

Ty Dillon’s title chances started to look a little hazy when he had dropped back to sixth in the points following Texas, but he rebounded mightily following his best finish this season of second, last weekend at Richmond. Dillon not only finished second in the race, he also won the XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash bonus, taking home an extra $100,000. Dillon now sits third in the standings, just 19 points back from the standings lead.

In three starts at Talladega, Dillon has posted one top-ten and an average finish of 15.6.

Sunoco Rookie Update:  One Jones Slips, the Other Capitalizes

The tale of two Joneses continues.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones and Richard Childress Racing’s Brandon Jones are the two front-runners in this season’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign. Erik Jones now leads Brandon Jones by 27 points in the rookie standings.

Erik Jones’s season has had its ebbs and flows. Richmond wasn’t kind to Erik Jones last weekend, as he was in two separate accidents during the race, relegating him to a 34th-place finish – his worst of the season.  Jones has posted one win and five top-fives this year.

This weekend, the young the JGR driver will have his work cut out for him. He has only made four series starts on restrictor-plate tracks with three at Daytona and one at Talladega, posting one top-ten finish at Daytona – July, 2015. His lone Talladega start resulted in a 30th-place finish due to overheating.

“Talladega is definitely a place where you have to have everything go right, not only from a team perspective, but also from the perspective of being in the right spot at the right time of the race, and making sure you are up front and challenging for the win all day and trying to miss the wrecks and stay out of everything,” Erik Jones said. “If that happens, then usually you can be up at the front with a chance to win.”

On the other hand, Richard Childress Racing’s Brandon Jones has seen a season of solid consistency with not one finish outside the top-15. In eight starts in 2016, he has posted four top-tens and an average finish of 9.9.

This weekend will be Brandon Jones’ series debut at Talladega, but if his performance earlier this season at Daytona of seventh-place is any sign of how he will do, expect a solid performance.

XFINITY Series Chase Outlook: Breakdown by Team

With eight series races in the books, it’s time to take a look at how the XFINITY Series Chase is going to shake out with respect to the teams. Below is a snapshot of the teams that now have drivers who qualify for this season’s XFINITY Series Chase: 

Joe Gibbs Racing – Erik Jones (one win) and Daniel Suárez (points lead)

JR Motorsports – Elliott Sadler (second in points) and Justin Allgaier (seventh in points)

Richard Childress Racing – Ty Dillon (third in points), Brandon Jones (fourth), Brendan Gaughan (sixth)

Chip Ganassi Racing – Brennan Poole (eighth in points)

Roush Fenway Racing – Ryan Reed (ninth in points) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (tenth in points)

Richard Petty Motorsports – Jeb Burton (11th in points)

RSS Racing – Ryan Sieg (12th in points)

The seven-race XFINITY Series Chase will begin at Kentucky Speedway on September 24th, and feature 12 drivers and two elimination rounds, with four drivers competing in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

Dale Jr. Takes JR Motorsports to Owner Points Summit with Win at Richmond

With a big win in dominating fashion last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team from third in the XFINITY Series car owner points to first by one point over second-place Richard Childress and his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team.

Earnhardt’s win at Richmond was his first in JR Motorsports’ equipment. It marked his last start of the season.

This weekend, 2014 series champion Chase Elliott takes the reins of the 88. Elliott has made four starts this season, posting a win in the season opener at Daytona, and four top-fives. His average finish this season is 3.5.

The No. 88 JR Motorsports team is led by crew chief David Elenz, who is serving as crew chief for eight different drivers behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet this season – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Kenny Habul, Cole Custer and Josh Berry.    

Also Noteworthy in the XFINITY Series

Defending Winner Returns: Joey Logano won at Talladega last season and will return to defend his victory in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford this weekend. Logano led 40 laps which is the most, on his way to the checkered flag last season. This will be Logano’s third series start this season.

Tifft To Pilot JGR’s No. 18: Matt Tifft returns as the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota this weekend at Talladega. Tifft has made one earlier series start at Talladega posting a 23rd-place finish. When he is not behind the wheel, Tifft attends the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. He is a sophomore business management major.

NASCAR XFINITY Series in Alabama – There have been 24 XFINITY Series races held in the state of Alabama – all at Talladega Superspeedway. The very first XFINITY Series race held in Alabama at Talladega Superspeedway was in 1992 and won by Ernie Irvan in a Chevrolet, at 158.359 mph.

Alabama Drivers in NASCAR XFINITY Series – A total of 72 drivers with their home state recorded as Alabama have made at least one start in a NASCAR national series race. Of the 72 Alabama drivers, only 20 have competed in the XFINITY Series. Of the 20 that have competed in the XFINITY Series, Steve Grissom has made the most starts (309); followed by Mike Harmon (205) and Davey Allison (86). Only three drivers with their home state recorded as Alabama have won in the series – Steve Grissom (11 wins), Bobby Allison (two wins) and Neil Bonnett (one win).  Mike Harmon from Birmingport and Darrell Wallace Jr. from Mobile are the only two active drivers from Alabama competing this weekend.

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