Buescher ready to claim Xfinity Series title, but so are three others

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Xfinity Series points leader Chris Buescher spoke this week about his championship hopes in today’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But Buescher’s comments could have been said by any of the three drivers he’ll be battling to win the Xfinity championship.

“I think we can go get this thing,” Buescher said. “Our team has been very good all year. I’m very proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish and how consistent they have been, so we’ll go into Homestead and see how it plays out.

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Chris Buescher

“Everything that’s in our control, we can handle that. It’s just the rest of the components of this thing and the way racing goes, you’re never fully in control. We’ll go have some fun and see if it all plays out, and hopefully we get to raise a trophy.”

Buescher takes an 18-point edge into today’s race on Chase Elliott. Buescher leads Ty Dillon by 22 points and Regan Smith by 24. Buescher clinches the championship with a finish of 13th or better, or 14th with at least one lap led, or 15th and the most laps led.

He has been one of the most consistent drivers in the Xfinity Series this season. In 32 starts, he has two wins, 11 top-fives and 20 top-10s. That consistency, particularly in the second half of the season, has been significant, given Buescher has not won a race in the last 20 starts.

Buescher also has an average finish of 8.3 this season, best of the four Xfinity title contenders.

“(It’s) been a pretty solid season for us, been really happy with everything we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. “(We) built also the momentum we had from the 2014 season and were able to have a good year with good consistency.

“We’re looking forward to getting to Homestead and finishing it off. It’s one of my favorite racetracks that we go to, probably my favorite mile-and-a-half. It’s got an asphalt that’s worn out and makes for better racing from some of the other places we go to.”

But Buescher isn’t the only one who’s been consistent this season, especially down the home stretch. So, too, have been his three rivals.

Elliott, son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, has one win, 11 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes, with an average finish of 8.9.

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 17: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, walks on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott

But Elliott has struggled at times, as compared to last season. During his 2014 championship season, he won three races and had 16 top-fives (along with 26 top-10s). He also led the Xfinity points for much of the season. He’s not led the points this year.

“Things definitely had its up-and-down times,” Elliott said. “We’ve had times where I feel like we’ve been pretty strong and we’ve given a lot of effort to try to improve upon throughout the year. We’re fortunate to get to victory lane once so far and we’re certainly trying to get there again before the year is out.

“Homestead is a place that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years. I think it produces some good racing. Hopefully we can go put on a good show for the fans and try to give ourselves a chance this weekend and worry about the things that we can control and forget about the rest.”

The third Xfinity contender, Dillon, is hoping to emulate what older brother Austin did in 2013 by winning the Xfinity championship.

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Ty Dillon

After winning at Indianapolis last season, the younger Dillon brother has failed to reach victory lane in 2015, but he’s tempered that with 12 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes in 32 starts.

His 8.7 per-race average finish in 2015 puts him between Buescher and Elliott. Plus, he’s doing some of his best racing of late: five top-five finishes, plus two other top-10 showings in his last eight starts.

“We led most of the series at the beginning of the year and started off pretty solid,” Dillon said. “Midway through the season we started having some issues and things that we couldn’t really control and made some changes within our team and changed crew chiefs, and it’s really, really turned our program around here lately.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity this weekend of hopefully winning the championship and getting our first win of the year, and also racing in the Sprint Cup race (on Sunday) and getting as much experience for the future.”

Smith has the biggest hurdle to overcome, 24 points behind Buescher, while six behind Elliott and two behind Dillon. Smith has had some strong runs the last two months that allowed him to cut into Buescher’s lead.

Had it not been for poor showings at Daytona and Dover in the early part of the season, Smith likely would be much closer to Buescher today.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 - Qualifying
Regan Smith

“Obviously we haven’t had a great year because we’re not going into Homestead with the points lead,” said Smith, who finished runner-up to Elliott in last year’s championship battle. “We’re doing the chasing right now. But with that said, we’ve had good consistency throughout the majority of the season.

“I think our main problems came within the first six races. We had a crash and we had a parts malfunction that kind of put us in a hole, so we’ve been trying to dig out of that hole all year long and have chipped away at it, and certainly closed it up.

“So to even be going into Homestead with a chance to win the title, it has been a lot of work to get to that point.”

Smith has earned two wins, as well as 11 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes this season, with an average finish of 9.0.

With his contract not renewed for 2016, Smith will be making his last appearance in the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

It’ll be a bittersweet moment, but he hopes to make the best of it.

“I started my tenure at JR out on a bang (won his first race for the organization in the 2012 season finale at Homestead), and would like to end it the same way,” Smith said.

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Daniel Suarez fastest in final Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Suarez completed a sweep of Saturday’s two Cup practice sessions by posting the top speed in final practice for the Coca-Cola 600.

Suarez recorded a speed of 180.704 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway. He made 51 laps in the session.

“I will say one of the best (cars of his Cup career) for sure,” Suarez said. “I feel like this year I’ve had some good race cars with an opportunity to finish in the top five and top 10, but I feel like this car has been pretty solid.  It’s fast and it’s not comfortable to drive 100 percent, but I don’t feel like anyone out there is comfortable right now, so it’s been sunny and hot and slick and that makes things a little bit more difficult, but overall my team has been doing a very good job with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance.  We have a good piece and hopefully we can take advantage of it tomorrow.”

The top five was completed by Daniel Hemric (180.686 mph), Denny Hamlin (180.553), Ryan Preece (180.469) and Kyle Busch (180.276).

“I felt pretty good with our practice there,” said Hamlin, who will start 20th Sunday. “It was one of our better practices of the year. We’re going to have to start from deep in the field, which is going to be a challenge with traffic, but we’ve got a long race to get it done. Pretty happy with where we’re at.”

Busch has the best 10-lap average at 179.485 mph

Chase Elliott recorded the most laps in the session with 62. He was 18th on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

Christopher Bell wins pole for Xfinity Charlotte race

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Christopher Bell will start first in today’s Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bell won his third pole of the season with a speed of 184.313 mph. His previous poles were at Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway.

The top five is completed by Cole Custer (183.187 mph), Tyler Reddick (182.192), Austin Dillon (181.659) and Brandon Jones (181.610).

Justin Haley will start 35th after an axle broke on his No. 11 Chevrolet in the middle of his qualifying run.

Ross Chastain did not finish his qualifying run after experiencing an electrical problem in the ignition on his No. 4 Chevrolet. He will start 37th out of 38 cars.

The Alsco 300 is scheduled to start at 1:16 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Check back for more.

Today’s Xfinity race at Charlotte: Start time, lineup and more

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After a two-week break, the Xfinity Series returns to action today for the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: North Carolina Basketball Legend Phil Ford will give the command to start engines at 1:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 1:16 p.m.

PRERACE: Driver/crew chief meeting is at 10:45 a.m. Driver introductions begin at 12:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1 p.m. by Billy Mauldin, CEO and President of Motor Racing Outreach. U. S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Marc Wilka will perform the National Anthem at 1:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. The Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 12:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 90 degrees and a 20% percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Brad Keselowski won this race over Cole Custer and Christopher Bell.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Daniel Suarez fastest in second Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Suarez topped the speed chart in Saturday’s first Cup Series practice for the Coca-Cola 600.

Suarez posted a top speed of 182.143 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was filled out by defending 600 winner Kyle Busch (182.051 mph), Austin Dillon (181.488), Ryan Blaney (181.397) and Kevin Harvick (181.366).

Denny Hamlin, who was sixth on the chart, recorded the most laps with 52.

Dillon had the best 10-lap average at 180.639 mph.

Ryan Newman got into the Turn 3 wall as the session ended and suffered significant damage to the right side of his No. 6 Ford. The team is repairing the car.

Final practice is set for 11:05 a.m. ET

Click here for the speed chart.