Joe Gibbs Racing has never won an Xfinity race on the 1.5 mile track but all three of their drivers had great speed during all three qualifying sessions. Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez will all lead the field to green when the 200-lap race rolls off later this afternoon.
Busch led round one in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota with a lap time of 29.522. Busch bettered his time by .086 in round two with 29.436. He went on to grab his 50th Xfinity pole in the five-minute dash known as round three, posting a time of 29.559.
Jones had solid qualifying laps to earn a front row starting spot. He recorded a lap of 29.566 in the final round and will start second in the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
Suarez wasn't far behind his teammates in the qualifying rounds. He will start third behind Busch in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota. Suarez is currently ranked second in the Xfinity standings, just three points behind Elliott Sadler.
Tune into FS1, PRN and Sirius XM Channel 90 for race coverage starting at 12:30 PM PT, 3:30 PM ET.
Here's how the qualifying session stacked up:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Erik Jones
3. Brandon Jones
1. Kyle Busch
2. Daniel Suarez
3. Erik Jones
Top 10 Starters
1. Kyle Busch
2. Erik Jones
3. Daniel Suarez
4. Chase Elliott
5. Brandon Jones
6. Justin Allgaier
7. Elliott Sadler
8. Brendan Gaughan
9. Ty Dillon
10. Aric Almirola
Austin Dillon is the defending race winner and he is hoping for a repeat in the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet. If that would happen, Dillon would become the first driver to win back‐to‐back series races at Las Vegas. The double‐duty driver for Richard Childress Racing led 183 laps in 2015's race to capture the victory. Dillon has three starts, one win, three top‐10's and an average finish of 4.7 at the intermediate track north of the strip.
Along with Dillon, there are four other drivers running both Saturday's and Sunday's races. One of them is Kyle Busch in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota. The Vegas native is coming off a win in Atlanta a week ago, which marked his 77th victory in the series. On his home turf, Busch has made 11 starts, earned three top fives and an 18.2 average finish.
Ones to Watch
While it's possible this race could be dominated by cup regulars, let's take a look at the Xfinity favorites and contenders:
‐ Elliott Sadler is the current points leader, three points over Daniel Suarez. It's early in the season but, according to loop data, the No. 1 One Main Chevrolet driver is seventh in average running position with 8.5. and has a eighth‐place driver rating of 97.6. Sadler has nine starts at Vegas with an average finish of 12.3.
‐ Daniel Suarez is currently ranked second in the standings behind Sadler. The No. 19 ARRIS Toyota driver has only one start at Vegas in which he finished 10th.
‐ Erik Jones is the leading rookie in the bunch. The reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion started third and led seven laps before getting into an accident in last year's Vegas Xfinity race. Jones will be looking for better results when he straps into the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
‐ After taking flight with the US Thunderbirds at neaby Nellis Air Force Base, 22‐year‐old Ryan Reed will make his 75th Xfinity start in the No. 6 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang. The Roush‐Fenway driver has been able to not only promote awareness for diabetes but beat the odds of the disease himself.
‐ Brendan Gaughan is another hometown favorite that must not be forgotten. The No. 62 South Point Chevy driver returns to his home track ranked sixth in the Xfinity standings. He's made five previous starts and earned one top five as well as three top‐10 finishes in his own backyard.
Qualifying will begin Saturday morning at 9:45 AM PT (track time), 12:45 PM ET and can be seen on FS2. Then you will want to return to the couch for the main event, which will kick off at 1:00 PM PT, 4:00 PM ET on FS1, PRN and Sirius XM Channel 90.
Atlanta Motor Speedway… What comes to mind when you hear those words? A race plagued by weather? Boring? SMI’s next demise? For me, I hear the words abrasive and tire management. That is what happened this weekend for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500. It was an exciting race that went 209 laps caution-free at the start. Drivers were on wheel, turning right to go left.
Ed Clark and his team at the Atlanta Motor Speedway did a better job this year marketing the event compared to last season. Clark and his team had more time to market the event to the Atlanta fan base, which struggles to support their own sports teams. The weather was something that plagued last year’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500. The “Chamber of Commerce Weather” for the race weekend was a factor for many of the fans in attendance for the weekend. Attendance for the event was better than the year’s prior. Fans loved the new ticket packages being offered by Atlanta.
I was able to attend the double-header on Saturday between the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race. All three races were filled with great unknown. The first ever use of the new caution clock for the Camping World Truck Series, and the new low-downforce package for the Sprint Cup Series were used for the first time at Atlanta.
On Saturday, fans were treated to the second edition of the NASCAR Double-Header at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race was considered “boring” to the fans around me in the stands. Kyle Busch won for the first time at the Atlanta Motor Speedway ending the win streak of Kevin Harvick at the 1.54-mile track. Fans were treated to the battle of Kyle Larson trying to close the gap on Kyle Busch in the final laps. After the Heads Up Georgia 250, fans had roughly thirty minutes to reprogram their scanners, reapply sunscreen, and refuel on beverages and food.
The Great Clips 200 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was a rather eventful race. Trucks that were dominate throughout the whole race crashed allowing John Hunter Nemechek to capture his second career Camping World Truck Series win. The caution clock expired twice during the race. Fans enjoyed the idea of the caution clock because without it Matt Crafton would have continued his dominance at Atlanta. Fans cheered when the caution clock expired for the first time on lap 28. At the beginning of the race, the time remaining on the caution clock was not available on Sprint Vision, but after about 10 minutes, fans could see how much time was remaining. The second caution clock provided for an “amazing restart”, according to some fans. Matt Crafton and Daniel Suarez were turned coming off of the second turn by Suarez’s teammate, Christopher Bell, red-flagging the race. Fans cheered when Crafton and Suarez were able to walk away, and booed when they saw that Christopher Bell caused the accident. When it looked like Bell was on his way to victory, he had a tire go down and he hit the wall coming off the fourth turn. The impact to the wall was loud enough where fans with scanners could hear the impact. Fans were excited when John-Hunter Nemechek held off Cameron Hayley to win.
Atlanta Motor Speedway does a good job of getting fans to renew their tickets for the next season. When a fan renewed their tickets for 2017, fans were able to receive a QuickTrip Gift Card, Spy Sunglasses, and a Brookstone tool. Fans who renewed are placed in the AMS Insider’s Club. This club allows for fans to have preferred parking in the front three rows of the unreserved lots of the speedway, a coupon book up to $40, and over 750 exclusive prizes. I was an AMS Insiders Club Member for this weekend. I was able to go into race control and the Performance Racing Network Booth as one of the prizes. Fans were able to see how a radio broadcast works from the booth perspective, and how race control is run during the event.
The Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 showed a great step in the right direction for the low-downforce package. Tire management was key in the race and drivers were forced to manage their tires with perfection. After about 35 laps, drivers were planning their stops to get four fresh Goodyear tires. Drivers were able to pass throughout the field, no matter where they were on the speedway. The leader was not able to run away with the lead in clean air. Drivers were able to battle for the lead, unlike other 1.5-mile events. NASCAR Overtime also played a role into the race. However, I had to explain to some fans about the new overtime line. The anti-climatic finish allowed for Jimmie Johnson to win. Fans were amazed that the drivers with dirt backgrounds struggled with the new package. Cars that were fast in practices throughout the weekend, struggled during the race.
There are 40 drivers currently featured on the entry list for the event, meaning no one will go home after qualifying on Saturday afternoon. The No. 89 Chevrolet withdrew from the event, making 40 drivers on the list.
Ben Rhodes will make his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut on Sunday behind the wheel of the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. Ryan Blaney will also step behind the wheel of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford. Boris Said, who made his last start at the Talladega Superspeedway, will pilot the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Making his 50th NASCAR XFINITY Series start on Sunday will be Dakoda Armstrong. Armstrong comes into the weekend still seeking his first career victory in the series. His best finish last season came at the Richmond International Raceway where he brought home a seventh-place run. Armstrong has two starts at Iowa with an average finish of 21.0.
Darrell Wallace Jr. comes into the stand-alone event with the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points lead by one point over Daniel Suarez. Ross Chastain sits 23 points behind Suarez in third.
Ty Dillon comes into the Iowa Speedway with the series driver points lead by nine points over Chris Buescher. Chase Elliott, the defending XFINITY Series champion, ties Darrell Wallace Jr. in third. The tie breaker will go to Elliott because he has four top five finishes over Wallace. Rounding out the top five is Regan Smith with a 43-point gap behind Dillon.
The No. 22 Discount Tire Ford owned by Roger Penske continues to dominate the owner point’s standings. The No. 22 Ford sits 62 points ahead of the No. 3 with Richard Childress Racing. The No. 60 with Roush Fenway Racing sits third in the owner point standings.
FOX Sports 1 will carry the live coverage of the 3M 250 at the Iowa Speedway that will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET. on Sunday. The Motor Racing Network will carry the live radio broadcast. Fans away from their television can also watch the race on FOX Sports Go.
Kevin Harvick’s dominance in NASCAR’s west coast swing continued with a win at the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive4Clots.com 300. Harvick pulled away from Brendan Gaughan within the final laps to capture his first XFINITY Series win at Auto Club Speedway.
Harvick dominated the race, leading 100 of the 150 laps. He was also the only Cup Series driver to finish among the top five. The win was also his 46th XFINITY Series career win.
“I’m just a lucky guy to be piloting really fast cars,” said Harvick in Victory Lane. “We’ve just got to keep riding the wave.”
Harvick had also won the XFINITY race at Atlanta earlier in the season.
Closing out the top five in Fontana where Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher. Seven of the top 10 finishers were NASCAR XFINITY Series regulars.
After the final restart, Gaughan had been gaining spots and moving closer to Harvick. At the end 3.317 seconds separated the two.
“I would have loved one shot at a restart, just to see if I still had something for him,” said Gaughan after the race.
12 Sprint Cup Series drivers competed in Saturday’s race in preparation for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.
During NASCAR’s west coast swing – with races at Las Vegas and Phoenix – Harvick has dominated the Cup Series races. Saturday’s race was his first in the XFINITY Series during the west coast race weekends. Harvick has a chance to go for three wins in a row on Sunday in the Cup Series.
The XFINITY Series will be going on a break until the race at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10 – the first night race of the year.
Heading into the break Ty Dillon remains as the points leader, with a five point lead over Buescher. Defending series champion Elliott sits in third.