DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Brennan Poole will start from the pole in today’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 from Daytona International Speedway.
In the first round of qualifying, Ben Kennedy was fastest at 182.593 mph. Blake Koch was second fastest at 182..460 mph. Joey Logano was third fastest at 182.234 mph. William Byron was fourth fastest at 182.205 mph. Matt Tifft rounded out the top-five at 182.190 mph. Notable drivers who did not advance to the second round were Erik Jones (P14), Ty Dillon (P15), Cole Custer (P19), and Justin Allgaier (P25).
In the final round of qualifying, Poole posted a lap fast enough for the pole at 182.949 mph. Kennedy will start second with his speed of 182.793 mph. Byron will start third with his speed of 182.626 mph. Koch will start fourth with his speed of 182.508 mph. Daniel Hemric will start fifth with his speed of 182.474 mph.
The Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 from Daytona will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Chip Ganassi Racing was one of the better seasons for the team. The team fielded two full time rides with Brennan Poole in the no. 48 with Justin Marks and Kyle Larson sharing the ride in the No. 42 Chevy.
For Poole, the 2016 season started off on the wrong foot at Daytona with a 27th place finish. Poole was able to rebound with a 14th place finish in Atlanta to go on a run of 13 top-20 finishes including a near victory at Talladega after a last lap crash in the tri-oval where he was the leader at the line, but was not the leader at the point of the caution flag waving. His streak of top-20 finishes ended with a crash at Daytona. Despite the poor finishes at Daytona in 2016, Poole remained consistent throughout the season. He rattled off five top-10 finishes throughout the next seven races. Despite a dismal 28th place finish at Bristol in August, Poole gained a Chase berth and four top-10 finishes. When the Chase began at Kentucky, Poole scored a top-10, but a 15th and an 18th place finish at Dover and Charlotte knocked him out of contention for championship after the first round. Despite being knocked out of contention in the opening round of the Chase, Poole scored two more top-10 finishes. The 2016 season ended for Poole with a 27th place finish at Homestead-Miami. Despite not contending for a championship, he finished eighth in the points.
In his first full-time season in Xfinity competition, Poole was able to complete 5538 of 5579 laps in the season with 11 laps led. He scored four top-fives, 17 top-10’s, had an average start of 13.1, an average finish of 12.4, and only one DNF on the season.
With the No. 42, Larson drove the car 16 times in 2016, where he saw the most success of any driver in that car. Larson kicked off the 2016 season where he scored a 34th and second place finish at Daytona and Atlanta. After a three week hiatus, Larson jumped back into the car for Texas and Bristol in which he scored an 11th and third place finish respectively. He returned to the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway in which he finished in the sixth position. A week later, Larson went to victory lane in the inaugural Xfinity race at Pocono. Despite the event being shortened due to weather, this was the first victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016 Xfinity competition. When Larson returned to the no. 42 team for Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, Bristol, Darlington, Chicago, Charlotte, and Kansas, Larson scored top-five finishes in each event. When the series returned to Texas Motor Speedway, Larson scored the victory after starting in the fifth position. Larson closed out the 2016 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he started and finished seventh.
In his 16 starts, Larson competed in 2683 of the 2692 laps in the season while leading 651 laps. He has 11 top-five’s, 14 top-10’s, an average start of 5.8, an average finish of 6.1, and zero DNF’s.
While Larson was in the 42 car for 17 races in 2016, Marks was in the ride for 17 races. Despite the success Larson had in the car, Marks struggled. He started the season in Las Vegas where he crashed ending up in a 34th place. Marks was in the car for Phoenix, Richmond, and Talladega, where he finished within the top-15 in each of the events. At Dover, Marks was involved in an accident that resulted in a 40th place finish. He returned to competition at Michigan and was in the car for five consecutive weeks where his best finish was 12th at Kentucky and his worst finish was 37th at Daytona. At Loudon and Iowa, Marks scored top-20 finishes. His first and only win of the 2016 season came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where Marks won in a rain plagued event. After his win, Marks struggled at Road America and Richmond where he had finishes outside of the top-20. In his remaining three races of the season, he had 15th place finishes at Kentucky and Phoenix, but a 31st place finish at Dover.
In his 17 starts, Marks competed in 2537 of 2887 laps while leading 43 laps. He had one top-five, one top-10, an average start of 17.6, an average finish of 20.9, and four DNF’s in 2016.
The 2016 season was a step in the right direction for Chip Ganassi’s Xfinity Series program. 2017 will be a stronger year for the team. With the return of Poole in the 48 and the new duo of Larson and Tyler Reddick in the 42, CGR will be a force to be reckoned with. It will be interesting to see if Poole will be able to make a second appearance in the Chase. Since names are made in the Xfinity Series, it will also be interesting to see what name Reddick will make for himself and how Poole will add on to his legacy within the series. For Marks, the verdict is still out on where we will end up, if anywhere, in Xfinity competition.
In what was supposed to be the rain free day of the weekend, rain halted the racing 53 laps into the 100 laps race and by the NASCAR rule book, once the race is passed halfway it is deemed official if weather comes. Pole-sitter Erik Jones was closing in on Larson when the rain hit the race track.
NASCAR waited an hour and 35 minutes before calling the event due to rain. Once the track was near dry it began to pour, which led the series director to call the remainder of the race.
Larson led on several different occasions for a total of 27 circuits. It marks the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers' fourth career win in 82 XFINITY Series starts, and his second career win at Pocono, winning an ARCA event two years ago.
"I'm happy with it," Larson said of the rain coming in and ending the race. "We were good, a little bit better than i thought we would be. We were more comparable to the Gibbs cars than I thought we would be based off practice and qualifying."
Jones finished second on the afternoon after starting from pole, but never leading a lap. For the majority of the 53 laps the No. 20 car was in the runner-up position, first chasing his teammate Kyle Busch then chasing Larson. He felt like this race was another race that she let slip away.
"We had by far one of the best cars in the field today, so it's unfortunate," Jones said of his second-place effort. "Our Camry was good, but just not enough time t get back to the lead and have a shot at it. It's pretty frustrating because this whole year has been a season of just missing it by that much. We missed it in a couple races by penalties and circumstances and today was another one of those days where we had another good shot at the win, but with the way it played out it just didn't work out for us."
Ty Dillon finished third, posting his fourth top-five finish of 2016.
After leading the opening 16 laps, Busch couldn't get back through traffic to take the lead back after making a pit stop under the first caution flag. Finishing fourth on the afternoon, he felt that the team was a step behind.
Joey Logano rounded out the top five after getting off-sequence with the competition.
Elliott Sadler, Paul Menard, Brandon Jones, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.
Brennan Poole finished 12th, ending a streak of four consecutive top 10 finishes, which is a career-high in his rookie season.
On Lap 20, Justin Allgaier made contact with the wall in the "Tunnel Turn" which resulted in a 39th-place finish. The No. 7 team dropped to seventh in the points after starting the race third in the standings.
The series is set to return to action next Saturday at Michigan, where Busch is the defending winner of the event, which was his first race back in the XFINITY Series after his leg injuries last February in Daytona. .
With less than 40 laps to go Hamlin had to go to the rear for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop under caution.
It took the No. 18 car just over 30 laps to get up to third after restarting 14th.
Then a caution flew with under two laps to go and changed the entire outcome of the 300-mile race.
Hamlin's JGR teammate and pole-sitter Erik Jones brought out a caution when he cut down a right front tire, pounding the outside wall. The No. 18 team decided to come down and put four tires on their machine, while the two race leaders stayed out.
On the green-white-checkered finish, Hamlin grabbed the lead coming to the white flag where he wouldn't look back en route to JGR's seventh win of the season in the series.
"It was a second opportunity," Hamlin said of his victory. "I was hoping for that caution there and the end and we got it. We were able to get four tires and took off. It was a little closer than I thought, we were just really right in those last couple of laps."
Austin Dillon was the first off pit road taking just two tires after the final caution. He gained one position in the final two laps, finishing in the runner-up position.
After leading 58 laps and being one of two drivers to stay out under the late race caution, Joey Logano came home third. This is his second top-five finish in five races this season in the No. 22 car, which is still looking for its first victory as a team.
"We had a car that was capable of winning if circumstances were right," Logano said of his third-place effort. "I thought I was going to have a good restart next to [Kyle] and I thought if we cleared him, like we did, we would have a shot. It was just really hard to hold off those four tires."
In his second career start Cole Custer came home with a fourth-place finish. His JR Motorsports teammate, Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.
Kyle Larson made a bold move in Turn 3 of the final lap going for the win, but came up short and hit the outside wall. It cost him dearly as he finished sixth after leading 46 laps.
Larson was the leader of the race when the final caution flag flew and the No. 42 team decided to stay out. Going into the final set of corners he had a shot at the victory, but came up short of his third career XFINITY Series triumph.
"I didn't get a great take-off and Joey [Logano] got around me and was sucking on my door," Larson said of the final restart. "Denny [Hamlin] gave me a shot and i was surprised at how much grip I had. It's pretty hard to beat four tires."
Rookie Brandon Jones finish seventh, with RCR teammate Ty Dillon eighth, Brennan Poole ninth and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 10.
There were eight cautions in the race for 54 laps. In the two races combined at Charlotte in 2015, there were just six cautions total in 600 miles of competition.
On Lap 25, a caution flew and took out three of the first six drivers in the running order after they slid through some oil on the track in Turn 3.
It started when pole-sitter, Jones was making a move on race leader Hamlin, but slid in the oil and made contact with the wall. From there his JGR teammate, Daniel Suarez slid and had his car saved until coming back up the track into the wall where he was met by Elliott Sadler. All three drivers went at least one lap down
Suarez rebounded to finish 12th, while Sadler came home 28th and Jones 31st.
Next weekend, the XFINITY Series will tackle Pocono Raceway for the first time in series history.
Brennan Poole was a contender for the ARCA Series title a mere two years ago. However, he was able to race just five times in 2013, and he has yet to race this year.
The 23-year-old continues to search for funding as he has a seat waiting for him at Venturini Motorsports with his close friend, Justin Boston. In just 28 career starts, Poole has won five ARCA Series events. But even winning races is not enough when you have to compete with others to find funding.
This weekend, Poole has the chance to race for Venturini Motorsports – well, kind of. John Wes Townley, driver of the No. 15 Toyota, is racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Wauters Motorsports. As he attempts to compete for both championships, Townley will have Poole qualify and practice his car this weekend at Pocono, and possibly a few other events this season.
“We did pretty well. We were just a little tight. This track has changed a lot over the winter,” Poole said. “We didn’t even make a qualifying run in practice. We will have to see what happens and hope the changes will work for John.”
The car which Townley will be racing at Pocono is the one Poole went to victory lane with at Michigan last season – a race which he ran up front in. Though he is not sure when he will be back in a car for Venturini Motorsports, Poole hinted that he is working on a deal to get him back in the car, but everything revolves around funding in this era of racing.
Poole was able to set a lap time of 53.223 seconds which was just over a tenth slower than Kyle Larson's time of 53.106 seconds.