Colin Garrett

Xfinity Series storylines for Darlington

Leave a comment

Remember the Xfinity Series?

It’s been a while. Xfinity Series drivers will compete Tuesday night at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on FS1) in their first race since March 7 at Phoenix Raceway.

Jeff Meendering, the last crew chief to win in Xfinity, looks back at the March 7 race and it “honestly feels like it was the last race of the season and we’re getting ready to start a new season.”

But it’s not a new season. It’s race No. 5 of the 2020 season. Here’s a refresher on where the Xfinity Series is heading to Darlington.

1.) Joe Gibbs Racing Strikes Back

Entering 2020, there were a lot of questions surrounding Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver lineup, which consisted of Brandon Jones (one win in 137 starts), Harrison Burton (nine Xfinity starts, winless in 38 Truck Series starts) and Riley Herbst (winless in 17 Xfinity/Truck Series starts).

Even Jeff Meendering, crew chief on Jones’ No. 19 Toyota, had concerns.

We were pretty nervous going into the West Coast swing that, ‘Oh my gosh, we could come home and be in trouble car wise from potential wrecks and everything,'” Meendering said. “It actually didn’t turn out anything like that.”

Instead, JGR went into NASCAR’s COVID-19 imposed lockdown with two consecutive wins after Burton won at Auto Club Speedway and Jones found Victory Lane at Phoenix. Meanwhile, Burton, who finished in the top five in all four races, leads the point standings. The team’s only DNF was from Herbst at Daytona.

“We heard the doubters from outside, I guess, but that just only motivated us to be better,” said Burton, who went winless as a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver in the Truck Series in 2019. “There was the Big 3 last year (Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer), we had a meeting and we wanted our three guys to be the Big 3 this year. We wanted to race each other every weekend for wins and go against each other every weekend and have to beat our JGR teammates, which is kind of how it’s been.”

While Burton, 19, has led the charge for JGR, it’s Jones, 23, who is the veteran of the group. He’s in his fifth full-time Xfinity campaign and third with JGR.

“We all laughed at the start of the year,” Jones recalled. “I said, ‘Well, dang boys. I’m the old man of the group I guess this year.’ But it is it is interesting. Christopher (Bell) last year was obviously dominant. But I still have more races than he had in Xfinity, but he just took to the car so well. But this year kind of coming in, I feel that I’m kind of playing that role now a little bit. I’ve definitely helped (Burton and Herbst) come up to speed at race tracks and they’ve actually helped me too.”

Burton recalled how advice from Jones helped in his effort to win in his first start Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 29.

“I asked him, ‘Hey Brandon, how far are you going to drive in (to the turns)?’ and I ended up winning … and he said ‘I’m never telling you how deep I drive in ever again!'”

But with where the Xfinity Series is going tomorrow, Jones’ experience will be invaluable.

2) Darlington Rookie Stripes

When the green flag drops on Tuesday night’s Xfinity race, it will be a big moment for select drivers in the 39-car field.

Among the competitors will be 11 – more than 1/4th of the field – who have never taken a lap around Darlington. Not in practice, qualifying or a race.

The first lap will truly be the first lap of action at Darlington for Burton, Jesse Little, Herbst, Anthony Alfredo, Myatt Snider, Kody Vanderwal, Colby Howard, Ronnie Bassett Jr., Mason Massey, Joe Graf Jr. and Colin Garrett.

“I think I’d lie if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about it,” said Burton. “But the cool thing is, everybody’s nervous about it. Everyone’s in the same boat. … There’s an advantage to have in your head that everyone’s in the same boat and you just have to do your job the best you can do it.”

As for Burton’s crew chief, Ben Beshore, he doesn’t have too many concerns about Burton’s first Darlington experience.

“I felt that way about Fontana too and he showed up there and hauled ass,” Beshore said. “He’s really quick to adapt and uses the tools that he has available to him before he gets there. Whether it be studying data or notes that I sent him or running in iRacing races, he seems to be able to use that to his advantage.”

Little, a rookie driver for JD Motorsports, took on the mindset of “they’re gonna race with or without me” as he dove into his preparation of watching film, taking notes, talking to drivers and making laps on iRacing. Meanwhile, he reiterates to himself “I’m gonna go there and I’m gonna be cautious.”

When it came to advice from drivers, he didn’t have to go far.

“Definitely lean heavily on my roommate/landlord,” Little said.

That would be Cole Custer, current Cup Series rookie and winner of last year’s Xfinity race at Darlington.

“I’ve picked his brain as much as I can,” Little said. “I can’t really think of a better Xfinity driver to do it than him. … He’s helped me out quite a bit … (Making sure I’m not) psyching myself out, not being too timid or scared, you know, in a sense of, ‘It is Darlington, but if you approach it this way it’s really just another racetrack and you know, you’ll enjoy it.'”

Unlike Burton and Herbst at JGR and Alfredo at Richard Childress Racing, Little won’t make his first visit to Darlington in top equipment.

That’s something that concerns former JD Motorsports driver, Ross Chastain.

“I probably feel … the worst for Jesse, just knowing that situation and how important practice is,” Chastain said. “Even though in a normal situation going there he would only have one set of tires, he would have limited laps, but he would have 10 quality laps to learn the track and he has nothing now and you’re going to get thrown into a random draw starting position. That’s tough. Just because I know that.

“Harrison, Riley, those guys … They know their car is going to go down in the corner and it’s going to do normal stuff. Jesse’s, it can do something that he’s not expecting. And I just know that. He’s probably got the biggest, biggest challenge, but when you catch them or you’re passing them or they’re passing you, you just have to trust them.”

3) Briscoe’s Opportunity

The turnover in the Xfinity Series driver ranks this year stands out when looking at the results of the 2019 race at Darlington.

None of the top five finishers – Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Dale Earnhardt Jr. –  are entered in Tuesday’s race, with Custer, Reddick and Bell now rookies in the Cup Series.

That’s leaves Chase Briscoe as the highest-finishing returning driver from last year. In his first start at Darlington, he started fifth and finished sixth.

Count the 25-year-old driver among those excited about a lack of on-track preparation for the race.

“I actually like the no practice and qualifying deal,” Briscoe said. “I feel like that kind of fits my team’s style. You know, last year I wouldn’t have said that at all. But this year, even at the end last year we were just always really good off the truck.”

Briscoe heads into Darlington with three tops 10s, including one win (Las Vegas) through four races this season.

“I feel confident that we’ll be good,” Briscoe said. “And you know, there’s a lot of inexperienced guys in the field as far as never even racing at Darlington. I don’t have a ton of experience there, but at least I know what to expect. I think the biggest question mark for myself is (it’s) at nighttime now. How much does that change things? Last year, it was a pretty hot race and we were slick and sliding around. That fits my driving style a lot more.”

Briscoe also is concerned about there being more grip on the track, a result of Sunday’s Cup race. It’s a situation Xfinity drivers are not used to.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous about the added grip that we’re gonna have, just because I feel like that kinda kind of evens the playing field,” Briscoe said. “Regardless of the temperature outside, it’s still gonna be slick to a certain extent.”

4) What day is it?

While the Cup Series competed on Sunday, Justin Allgaier watched from a distance.

The JR Motorsports driver said it was “hard to not get your blood pumping” as he’s in the final days of prepping for his own return to racing.

Allgaier and the rest of the Xfinity Series race at Darlington and then six days later will race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the oval.

“Some of the most difficult races that we have on the schedule now on the Xfinity Series side … are kind of happening in a short amount of time,” said Allgaier, who has nine Xfinity starts and two Cup starts at Darlington. “I’m looking forward to it. I think that it’s going to be a little bit different being (at Charlotte) on a Monday. Obviously, Memorial Day. It’s going to be super, super weird.

“But somebody the other day asked me if it threw me off to race on a Tuesday at Darlington. I said ‘Well, to be honest with you, because of this pandemic, I don’t know what day it is half the time anyways. So a Tuesday and a Saturday, they’re kind of the same.”

With the Charlotte race being held at night, rather than in the day like the last oval race there, Allgaier predicted that the track will have “a little bit more character” to it.

“We all call bumps character, we know that,” Allgaier said. “The weather has been kind of hot, cold, hot, cold here in North Carolina, obviously. And that a lot of times has more affect than just all the time hot or all the time cold.”

5) Over prepared

When Jeff Meendering was first able to enter the JGR shop after stay-at-home orders were lifted in North Carolina, his first stop was his office. The next was to check on the condition of the car Brandon Jones would race at Darlington.

“Obviously, we shuffled some our cars around a little bit,” Meendering said. “Our car racing at Darlington was originally going to be our Atlanta backup car. And the car we were taking to Texas originally is now going to Charlotte. So we’ve had to shuffle some stuff around, looking at the condition our cars are in and what makes sense with a limited crew to put it out.”

Despite the 10-week shutdown, Meendering’s team had been able to put together car builds through at least August. But Meendering and much of the NASCAR world didn’t know where they’d be racing beyond Charlotte until last week. On Thursday, NASCAR announced Cup and Xfinity would race at Bristol Motor Speedway the weekend after the Charlotte races.

“Those builds we were just basing them off of what the original schedule was,” Meendering said. “We got pretty deep into the original schedule. … We might have built for races that we don’t even go to now. I feel like we’re over prepared for whatever could get thrown at us.”

 

Myatt Snider wins pole for Xfinity Series opener at Daytona

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Myatt Snider claimed the pole for today’s Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

The son of NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider, the 25-year-old Richard Childress Racing driver earned the pole in his first career Xfinity start. He posted a top speed of 188.430 mph.

Snider is the 12th driver to win the pole in their Xfinity debut.

It is the third consecutive pole for RCR in the season-opening race at Daytona, following Tyler Reddick in 2019 and Daniel Hemric in 20018. It is RCR’s 10th Xfinity pole at Daytona, which leads all teams.

Snider, the 2018 Truck Series rookie of the year, is driving RCR’s No. 21 car part-time this year.

“The last couple of days have been interesting,” Snider told FS1. “I’ve about gone to school basically. This is completely different from the truck series and how the truck series races. But I’m just blessed with the opportunity to race at Richard Childress Racing. … But we’ve got an insanely fast race car, obviously. I’m so stoked to be with these guys. … I can’t put it into words. First career start, first career pole.”

More: Myatt Snider’s European racing adventure

Snider will be joined on the front row by defending race winner Michael Annett.

The top five is completed by Justin Haley, Jeb Burton and SS Greenlight Racing’s Joe Graf Jr.

The Kaulig Racing cars driven by Ross Chastain and AJ Allmendinger each suffered similar mechanical issues in the left front during their qualifying runs, according to team general manager Chris Rice. It resulted in them posting the two of the slowest speeds in qualifying. With a lack of owner points, Allmendinger and Chastain failed to make the race.

Chastain will still get to race with Ryan Sieg‘s team allowing him to drive Jeff Green‘s 38 car.

The other DNQ drivers were Tommy Joe Martins, Chad Finchum and Colin Garrett.

Prior to qualifying NASCAR announced a L2 level penalty against MBM Motorsports and its No. 66 team for an improper body modification on the nose.

Crew chief Sebastian LaForge has been suspended for six Xfinity races effective immediately and fined $50,000.

The team has also been docked 75 owner points.

The No. 66 car, driven by Timmy Hill, qualified 26th for today’s race.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Preliminary entry lists for Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Leave a comment

The NASCAR family is all in one location this weekend as all three national series trek back out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Cup Series begins its 10-race playoff as the Xfinity Series finally ends its regular season. The Gander Outdoors Truck Series concludes its first playoff round after two weeks off.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the race weekend.

Cup – South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 39 entries for the race.

The three cars owned by Rick Ware Racing don’t have drivers attached to them.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 car.

Last time, Joey Logano won the spring race over Brad Keselowski. Keselowski won this race last year over Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity Series – Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 entries for the race, which is a full field.

No driver is attached to Rick Ware Racing’s No. 17 car.

Riley Herbst is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Elliott Sadler is entered in his second race of the year in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet.

Landon Cassill is entered in Morgan Shepherd‘s No. 89 Chevrolet.

Kyle Busch won the spring race at Las Vegas while Ross Chastain claimed the win in this race last year.

NASCAR rules mandate that drivers who have declared for Cup Series points cannot participate in the final races of the Xfinity season, which begins at Las Vegas.

Click here for the entry list.

Truck Series – World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

There are 36 trucks entered into the race. A full race field is 32 trucks.

Niece Motorsports will have three entries, with Ross Chastain in the No. 45, Angela Ruch in the No. 44 and Colin Garrett in the No. 38.

Tyler Dippel is back in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet after being suspended one race for a criminal charge in New York that was dropped two weeks ago.

Derek Kraus is entered in the No. 19 Toyota owned by Bill McAnally Racing. Kraus is the current points leader in the K&N Pro Series West.

Kyle Busch won the spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Grant Enfinger won this race last year.

Click here for the entry lists.

 

 

Colin Garrett to make Xfinity debut at Richmond

MBM Motorsports
Leave a comment

Colin Garrett will make his Xfinity Series debut Friday at Richmond Raceway driving the No. 66 Toyota for MBM Motorsports, the team announced Wednesday.

Garrett, 18, will make his first start in a national NASCAR series event. He has 14 starts in the K&N Pro Series East since last year with one top five and seven top 10s.

Garrett won the 2017 NASCAR Limited Sportsman Division championship.

A native of Elmo, Virginia, Garrett will be sponsored this weekend by “Racing For Heroes,” an approved 501(c)3 charity that empowers Veterans through motorsports, health, wellness and employment opportunities.

“I’m super stoked to be running with MBM Motorsports for my NASCAR Xfinity debut,” Garrett said in a press release. “I’m going there to gain experience in one of the top three national series, and to finish in the top 20 would be a great day for us overall.”

Garrett joins Tyler Matthews in making his Xfinity debut this weekend.