Getty Images

Xfinity practice report from Fontana

Leave a comment

Justin Allgaier wrapped up the second and final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway with the top speed (178.059 mph).

Tyler Reddick was second fastest (177.139), followed by Christopher Bell (176.956), Kyle Busch (176.670) and Noah Gragson (176.432).

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Preece (176.280), Cole Custer (176.061), Chase Briscoe (175.794), John Hunter Nemechek (175.640) and Brandon Jones (175.200).

A total of 34 drivers took to the track in the session.

Qualifying will take place Saturday at 1:10 p.m. ET.

A few hours later, the Production Alliance Group 300 race (150 laps/300 miles) will take the green flag at 5 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Click here for the full second practice speed chart.

FIRST PRACTICE:

Cole Custer was fastest in the first of two Xfinity Series practices Friday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

The Stewart Haas Racing driver roared around the 2-mile high speed oval in his Ford Mustang at 177.039 mph, the only driver to exceed 177 mph.

Christopher Bell was second fastest (176.882 mph), followed by the man who is getting the most attention this weekend, Kyle Busch (176.350 mph), who is seeking to become only the second driver in NASCAR history to reach 200 wins in a career.

Busch comes into this weekend with 199 career NASCAR wins: 52 in Cup, 53 in Trucks and 94 in Xfinity. He can reach 200 with a win in Saturday’s Xfinity race or in Sunday’s Cup event.

Tyler Reddick was fourth fastest in the session (175.970 mph), leading a surge of five Chevy drivers in a row, followed by Justin Allgaier in fifth (175.833), Noah Gragson (175.653), Jeremy Clements (174.834) and John Hunter Nemechek (174.478).

Rounding out the top 10 were Austin Cindric (174.338 mph) and Ryan Preece (174.350).

The final Xfinity practice will take place later this afternoon from 4:35 to 5:25 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full Xfinity practice speed chart.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at Atlanta

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
3 Comments

HAMPTON, Ga. — Christopher Bell held off Cole Custer on the final lap to score his ninth career Xfinity Series victory Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The victory was the 150th for Toyota and first for the Supra.

“That’s really really big It all just boils down to the fact that you don’t get to be a first-time winner very often,” Bell said. “There’s a very good possibility Kyle (Busch) is going to win one of the next three (races) and I beat him to Victory Lane. I’m all smiles right now.”

Custer placed second and was followed by Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and reigning series champion Tyler Reddick.

Click here for race results

Click here for points report

Jeffrey Earnhardt placed a career-best sixth. His previous best finish had been 12th at Bristol in August 2014 and Talladega in May 2015. Earnhardt is not scheduled to be back in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 car until Talladega in April.

Bell led 142 of 163 laps.

Daytona winner Michael Annett placed 12th.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Christopher Bell

Next: The series races at 4 p.m. ET March 2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Jeffrey Earnhardt, Xfinity team have been ‘putting all of our focus’ into Atlanta

Getty Images
1 Comment

While last Saturday’s Xfinity Season opener at Daytona marked Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s debut with Joe Gibbs Racing, most of his team’s energy was spent preparing for another race.

The No. 18 team’s main concern entering 2019 was what awaited them in the season’s second race weekend in Atlanta.

“When we started to prepare for this season, we didn’t really focus on Daytona,” Earnhardt said in a media release. “Then we went down there and ran well. We’ve been putting all of our focus into Atlanta from the very start of this.”

In a rather uneventful Daytona race, the grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. started second and led the first 29 laps before losing the lead on the last lap of Stage 1 to Justin Haley and finishing fourth. He then placed outside the top 10 in Stage 2 and finished 15th in the race, three spots shy of his career-best result.

The 29 laps led were more than in his first 66 Xfinty starts combined.

Now comes Earnhardt’s second of nine Xfinity starts with JGR. He will try to really show off what he’s capable of as a driver on the abrasive 1.54-mile surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Going into Atlanta, I feel like we’re going to be even better than we were last weekend,” Earnhardt said. “The Gibbs cars ran well in Atlanta last year, but it’s a track where the quality of your equipment really shows and it’s more about the driver than compared to Daytona, which can be a wildcard.”

Earnhardt has two Xfinity starts at Atlanta, but none since 2015. His best result is 25th.

JGR has two Atlanta wins in 43 combined Xfinity starts there. Both victories belong two Kyle Busch (2016-17). Last year JGR had one top five (Christopher Bell, third) and a top 10 (Kyle Benjamin, eighth) while Brandon Jones placed 17th.

“I really feel (Daytona was) just the beginning of what will turn out to be the best season I’ve had in a long time,” Earnhardt said. “As I said, we’ve been working on our Atlanta preparation for a few months now, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when we go out and do the same this weekend. I’m looking forward to adding a few more things to the list of career firsts and career highs by the time we leave Georgia.”

Earnhardt’s crew chief, Ben Beshore, called Daytona a “positive” experience for the team but said Atlanta will present “quite a difference” when it comes to team communication.

“There’s a lot more going on,” Beshore said. “You’re not wide open all the way around and you’re not at the mercy of who is pushing you or who is in front of you. Atlanta is a lot more handling focused and Jeffrey is going to be out there by himself to where he controls his own destiny with the feedback he gives to us.

“We’ve done a lot of work on that communication ahead of time so that when we arrive there is already a comfortability level and we’re able to give him the adjustments he needs to keep the iK9 Toyota Supra up front.”

 

Joe Gibbs Racing secures sponsor for 24 Xfinity races

True Speed Communication
Leave a comment

Xtreme Concept Inc. has expanded its partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing and will sponsor Jeffrey Earnhardt, Kyle Busch and Brandon Jones across 24 NASCAR Xfinity races this season.

iK9, a comprehensive canine solutions provider for detection and service dogs administrated by Xtreme Concepts, will be the lead brand for each driver.

Xtreme Concepts will sponsor Jeffrey Earnhardt in nine Xfinity races in the No. 18 Toyota Supra this season. Those races will be:

Feb. 16 – Daytona International Speedway

Feb. 23 – Atlanta Motor Speedway

April 27 – Talladega Superspeedway

May 25 – Charlotte Motor Speedway

June 1 – Pocono Raceway

Aug. 10 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Aug. 24 – Road America

Nov. 9 – ISM Raceway (Phoenix)

Nov. 16 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready to win Xfinity races 

Kyle Busch will drive the No. 18 with sponsorship from iK9 in five races. Those races will be:

March 2 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

March 9 – ISM Raceway (Phoenix)

March 16 – Auto Club Speedway

March 30 – Texas Motor Speedway

Aug. 3 – Watkins Glen International

Brandon Jones, who is running the full season in the No. 19 Xfinity Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing, will have iK9 on his car in 10 races starting April 27 at Talladega.

“We are firm believers in the power of motorsports as a marketing platform, and it’s why we’ve expanded our partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing to promote the iK9 brand for the majority of the Xfinity Series schedule,” said Landon Ash, founder of Birmingham, Alabama-based Xtreme Concepts, in a statement. “We’re investing in young talent in Jeffrey Earnhardt and Brandon Jones, and also proven talent in Kyle Busch. These three personalities can deliver for iK9 on the racetrack and interact with our customers off the track. They’re specialized athletes who align very well with iK9, as we provide the skills and support necessary for our clients to care for their highly specialized dogs.”

 

Stewart Haas Racing names Mike Shiplett as Cole Custer’s crew chief

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stewart Haas Racing on Friday announced that NASCAR veteran Mike Shiplett has been named crew chief for the No. 00 Xfinity Series Ford and driver Cole Custer.

I’m very excited to start here over at Stewart Haas Racing,” Shiplett said on the first-ever SHR Podcast. “There’s a lot of technology. I’ve been here a little over two weeks and I’m learning a lot of stuff.”

Shiplett became available when Chip Ganassi Racing shut down its 2019 Xfinity Series racing operation on Jan. 4.

Yes, doors close, but fortunately opened up pretty quick thanks to (SHR president) Joe Custer,” Shiplett said. “Just putting our best foot forward and getting ready for the 2019 race season.

“The goal every week is to go and win races. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a lot of young drivers and get them their first wins. I’m very proud of that.”

Shiplett takes over for Jeff Meendering, who was the 21-year-old Custer’s crew chief last season. Meendering has moved on to Joe Gibbs Racing for the upcoming Xfinity Series as crew chief for Brandon Jones.

“I’m looking forward to working with Cole and refining his talents, see where he needs help and just helping him in those areas so he can win multiple races each year,” Shiplett said.

Shiplett has served as a crew chief for 191 Xfinity Series races dating back to 2007, with 17 wins, 49 top-five and 83 top-10 finishes. Drivers he’s worked with include Kasey Kane, Elliott Sadler, Patrick Carpentier, Kyle Larson, Justin Marks, Brennan Poole, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Jamie McMurray and John Hunter Nemechek.

Shiplett also has 121 starts as a NASCAR Cup crew chief, with zero wins, three top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Drivers he worked with include Terry Labonte, Mike Wallace, Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger.

Follow @JerryBonkowski