NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are taking a well-deserved break this weekend and will return to action next Friday, July 1st for 100 laps covering 250 miles in the Subway Firecracker 250 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway. This marks the season debut for NBC Sports Network as they begin coverage at 7 pm ET with a green flag around 7:30 pm ET. Radio coverage is available on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Chase Outlook: The Skinny on Where the Winners Shake Out
A little down time due to the off-weekend provides the perfect setting to take a look ahead at the three drivers who have raced their way into the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase with wins – Erik Jones, Daniel Suárez and Elliott Sadler.
If the XFINITY Series Chase were to start today, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones would be seeded in the No. 1 position. Jones is now seventh in the standings but has two wins at Bristol and Dover this season, giving him six bonus points once the Chase begins. JGR’s Sunoco Rookie candidate, Jones, has been quite impressive this season, posting five poles and a series leading eight top-fives. NASCAR Season-To-Date Loop Data also paints a more detailed picture of Jones’ success this season. He ranks second in driver rating (106.7), fourth in average running position (9.477) and third in fastest laps run (204 laps, 9.1%).
Jones’ JGR teammate and Drive for Diversity graduate, Suárez, would now be seeded second in the Chase due to his lead in the series standings and his win two weeks ago at Michigan. The Monterrey, Mexico, native is having a top-notch season, posting one pole, six top-fives and 12 top-tens to go with his win. Suárez’s victory not only secures him a spot in the Chase, he also receives three bonus points once the Chase starts. NASCAR Season-To-Date Loop Data further boasts Suárez’s ascension to a title contender. He leads the series in driver rating (106.9) and average running position (7.199), is second in laps in the top-15 (1,990 laps; 88.4%) and sits third in fastest laps run (160 laps; 8.7%).
Veteran Elliott Sadler is carrying the JR Motorsports torch this season as he is second in the series standings and secured himself a spot in the Chase with a win at Talladega in April. Sadler’s point standings position and his win have him now seeded third in the XFINITY Series Chase; though he will have the same three Chase bonus points as Suárez seeded in second. Sadler’s season has hinged on his consistency. In 14 starts this season, he has five top-fives, 12 top-tens and an average finish of 7.9. Sadler also rests just behind Jones and Suárez in NASCAR Season-To-Date Loop Data categories as well. He ranks fifth in driver rating (98.0) and average running position (9.701). He also is fourth in laps run inside the top-15 (1,937 laps; 86.0%).
Win and You’re In: Who’s Next?
Theoretically making the XFINITY Series Chase is simple – win and you’re in.
What many of the XFINITY drivers are finding is that winning in one of the most competitive series in the world doesn’t come easy, and by no means, is simple.
Ten different drivers have won this season, led by Kyle Busch with four victories. Three of the ten winners this season have been series regulars – Erik Jones with two wins, Daniel Suárez and Elliott Sadler with one each. With the weekend off, let’s take a look at the series drivers who could potentially reach Victory Lane next and click their ticket to the Chase.
First up is Richard Childress Racing’s Ty Dillon, who now sits third in the series standings, just 35 points back from Daniel Suárez in the standings lead. Dillon has come close to winning this season but has yet to close the deal. In 14 starts, he has posted five top-fives and nine top-tens, including two runner-up finishes at Richmond and Iowa. Next week, the series heads to Daytona for the last restrictor-plate race of the season. Anticipate Dillon to contend next week as he sat on the pole and led a few laps at DIS back in February.
Another driver closing in on a win this season is JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier. The Riverton, Illinois native is having a solid 2016 season as he has perched himself at fourth in the standings after posting five top-fives and 11 top-tens. Expect Allgaier as a challenger next weekend at Daytona, because not only did he finish second at Talladega earlier this season, but both his JR Motorsports teammates have won the previous two restrictor-plate races – Chase Elliott, Daytona and Elliott Sadler, Talladega.
Hornish Extends Owner Points Lead for Gibbs With Win at Iowa
Joe Gibbs sure knows how to pick solid talent to drive his cars, especially after tapping Sam Hornish Jr. to wrestle the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry to a win last weekend at Iowa. The victory was the ninth for a JGR car this season and sixth for the No 18 team. As a result of all the winning this season, Gibbs has extended his owner standings lead to 16 points over the JR Motorsports No. 88 team.
Gibbs is in search of his fifth owner’s title in the XFINITY Series. If he were to carry out the feat, he would break the series-leading tie with Richard Childress with four titles, to become the sole leader in XFINITY Series owner championships.
The man behind the scenes pulling all the strings for the No. 18 team this season is crew chief Chris Gayle, who has worked with five different drivers in 2016 – Kyle Busch with four wins this season, Matt Tifft, Sam Hornish Jr. with one win, Denny Hamlin with one win and Bobby Labonte.
In 14 starts this season, the No. 18 team has logged six wins at Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Iowa, Phoenix and Texas, ten top-fives, 12 top-tens and an average finish of 6.3.
First-Time Winners: By the Numbers
With his victory at Michigan a few weeks back, Daniel Suárez became the NASCAR XFINITY Series’ 145th different winner and the first first-time winner of 2016. With that in mind, let’s take a gander at some of the first-time winner stats in the XFINITY Series:
A total of 145 different drivers have posted at least one win in the XFINITY Series dating back to the inaugural season in 1982.
Drivers from 31 different states have posted at least one win in the XFINITY Series; led by the state of North Carolina with 23 different series winners calling it their home state.
Kyle Busch leads the series in wins with 80 victories; he posted his first series win at Richmond spring race in 2004.
Of the 145 series winners, six were foreign-born drivers: Daniel Suárez, Mexico at 2016 Michigan; Nelson Piquet Jr., Brazil at 2012 Road America; Marcos Ambrose, Australia at 2008 Watkins Glen; Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia at 2007 Mexico City; Ron Fellows, Canada at 1998 Watkins Glen and Larry Pollard, Canada at 1987 Hampton, VA.
The inaugural XFINITY Series season (1982) saw 14 different first-time series winners – the most of any single season. Excluding the 1982 inaugural season, the most first time winners in a single season is six, and it happened seven times including 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2004 and 2006.
Since 2010, 19 different drivers have posted their first XFINITY Series career win; with five of those coming from the 2014 season.
Three drivers in the 2016 top-ten of the XFINITY Series standings are looking for their first career series win – Darrell Wallace Jr. and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Brandon Jones and Brennan Poole.