xfinity series

March 19 in NASCAR history: Austin Dillon steals Xfinity win at Auto Club in 2016

Leave a comment

On March 19, 2016, Kyle Busch looked well on his way to winning his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series race to begin the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 133 of 200 laps in a race at Auto Club Speedway.

Then on Lap 200, moments after taking the white flag, Busch’s left-front tire gave out. That allowed teammate Daniel Suarez to speed by in Turn 2.

But Suarez’ time in the lead was short lived. His No. 19 Toyota had barely exited the turn when it ran out of gas.

With Suarez falling off the pace on the apron, Busch was able to drive his wounded car back to the point position entering Turn 3.

With Busch limping along, Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet pounced in Turn 4. Dillon darted to the outside of Busch and scrapped the wall as he navigated a small hole left by Busch.

Dillon drove away to lead his only lap of the race and to claim his seventh career Xfinity win.

“I was worried about our fuel, stayed focus on that the whole time,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “(Busch) tried to screw me there at the end, but didn’t work out for him, did it?”

Busch would bounce back to win the following week at Texas. He would go on to win 10 times in 17 Xfinity starts that year.

Also on this date:

1995: After a five-year break from the track, David Green wins in the Xfinity Series’ return to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

2000: Ward Burton ended a five-year winless streak in the Cup Series with a victory at Darlington Raceway. It was his second of five career wins, all with Bill Davis Racing.

Family-owned Xfinity teams brace for long break

Brandon Brown
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Less than 24 hours after NASCAR announced it would not hold races until at least May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandon Brown was trying to look on the bright side.

The 26-year-old driver at Brandonbilt Motorsports, a family-owned Xfinity Series team with shop locations in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Mooresville, North Carolina, was discussing what the team would do until NASCAR’s scheduled return in two months.

“So North Carolina has our pull down rig,” Brown told NBC Sports on Tuesday morning. “So there’s plenty of time to go test. If they want to test a thousand different setups, then by all means, please do. We don’t really get a research and development team being a smaller organization. Now is the time to take advantage of what what we can.”

It was then that Brown was informed that due to “unprecedented events,” NASCAR had just announced a ban on all forms of testing not related to the Cup Series’ Next Gen car.

“Well, I guess we are not doing any research and development, so they’re going home,” Brown said, adding all that may be left to do is “put a car cover (on his race cars) I guess.”

The “unprecedented events” cited by NASCAR is COVID-19, which in less than a week has brought sports and the world in general to a halt. According to the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine coronavirus resource center, the virus has resulted in 5,853 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 97 confirmed deaths.

It’s also placed small teams in the Xfinity Series like Browns’ in a precarious position with likely no regular sources of income until its next scheduled race, May 23 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“What do you think about something that’s never, ever happened to anybody in their lifetimes?” Tommy Joe Martins asked Tuesday morning from Las Vegas. “It’s just not something any of us could probably have been prepared for. So we’re just going to try to make the best of it.”

Martins co-owns and drives for Martins Motorsports, the Xfinity team that relaunched this year. Without prize money from races, which Martins said Monday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Late Shift” comprises 80-85% of the team’s budget, it has to furlough its five full-time employees after the first postponed race weekend.

Martins said the team will likely keep crew chief Danny Johnson on part-time and try to help crew members file for unemployment.

“I’m of the opinion this is probably going to get worse for a while,” Martins said. “There might be some sort of a pause in domestic travel or some other things that fall out from it. … Whether you believe that it’s that serious or not, the reaction to it will be serious. It has been very serious and it will affect your life. I think that’s something I’ve taken away from it.”

The impact of the pandemic is hitting Martins on two fronts. Tuesday was his last day of work as a driving instructor at the Ron Fellows Racing School in Las Vegas. Martins said over the last few years he had built a financial cushion for himself that could leave him in a good spot for the next four to five months.

While Monday brought news of NASCAR teams sending employees home as a safety precaution, Brown said his team will try to keep the shop open for two, possibly three weeks.

“We survive on the purse money and we survive on sponsorships, but our sponsors are also struggling,” Brown said. “Parts of their businesses are getting shut down or told they can’t operate. Take for instance, our Daytona sponsor, Larry’s Lemonade. They own a bar and restaurant, but nobody’s going there right now. Without a good income, I wish I had a true deadline of what it’s going to be, but they’re discussing that now. It’s up to the team’s leadership. … But if I had to make a guess, two to three weeks and then we’ll probably be sitting at home.”

When it comes to his personal financial well being, Brown said, “I’ll do OK.

“It’s going to hurt quite a bit, because all of my income comes from working with sponsors and it seems to me right now that companies aren’t really focused on their marketing programs. So a lot of those got put on hold.”

In a teleconference Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR President Steve Phelps was asked what plans the sanctioning body had to financially help teams.

“Are we concerned about teams broadly and their financial health? Of course we are,” Phelps said. “We want to make sure that each of our teams gets through this, each of our stakeholders in the industry gets through this crisis as well as we all can.

“Lots of things on the table. No specifics at this point that we are prepared to discuss.”

Both Brown and Martins have other worries related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For myself, I’ve had to take precautions a little extra serious because my younger brother, who had to come home from school (at James Madison University), he suffers from Crohn’s Disease, which is an auto immune disorder,” Brown said. “So I have to take it really serious because if I bring anything home, I don’t know what complications that could bring to him.”

Martins is thinking about his parents, who are both are in their 60s and live in Mississippi.

“They’re locked down for the most part,” Martins said. “They’re kind of the target age for this being really bad. My mom has rheumatoid arthritis, my dad’s really lived with diabetes on a very minor scale for a while now. My dad’s still very active and diabetes hasn’t really affected his life the way it affects a lot of people. But still, that puts him at a major risk for this. Just told him to be very, very careful. … Obviously, I’d love to be home with them, but honestly I just traveled over the last few weeks and the question that I have right now as a citizen is: ‘Do I have this?’

“Really, you can’t get that answer yet. So I’m just trying to be as careful as I can right now and I really don’t want to drive home and hang out with them just yet until we kind of know all the facts about this.”

NASCAR weekend schedule at Atlanta

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the three-race West Coast swing now in its rearview mirror, NASCAR moves on to another three-race swing with a trio of consecutive races on 1.5-mile tracks, starting with this weekend’s slate of races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

All three national series will be in action at the Hampton, Georgia track, with the Truck and Xfinity Series racing Saturday, followed by the Cup race Sunday.

For Friday, wunderground.com forecasts a high of 68 degrees and a 48% chance of rain.

Saturday’s forecast calls for cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and a 14% chance of rain.

On Sunday, the forecast calls for a high of 71 degrees and 36% chance of rain at the time scheduled for the green flag to wave.

Here’s the full weekend schedule with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, March 13

11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Truck garage open

11:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

12:30 – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Truck practice (no TV)

2:35 – 3:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)

3:35 – 4:25 p.m. – Cup practice (FS1)

4:32 – 4:57 p.m. – Final Truck practice (FS1)

5:02 – 5:27 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

5:35 – 6:25 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1)

Saturday, March 14

7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

7:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage open

8:30 a.m. – Truck garage open

10:05 a.m. – Truck qualifying impound (single vehicle/one lap all positions) (FS1)

11:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying impound (single vehicle/one lap all positions) (FS1)

12 p.m. – Truck driver/crew chief meeting

12:05 p.m. – Cup qualifying impound (single vehicle/one lap all positions) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

12:45 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

1 p.m. – Truck driver introductions

1:30 p.m. – Truck race (Stages 30/60/130 laps = 200.02 miles) (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

3:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. – Xfinity race (Stages 40/80/163 laps = 251.02 miles) (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 15

10 a.m. – Cup garage open

12 p.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

2 p.m. – Cup race (Stages 105/210/325 laps = 500.5 miles) (Fox, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Xfinity set to reach new track winner mark for first time in 22 years

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Unless Joe Nemechek, who hasn’t won a NASCAR Xfinity race since 2004, wins Saturday’s Xfinity event at Atlanta Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on FS1), the series will accomplish something that hasn’t been done since Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first championship season in the series

A non-Nemechek winner will become the fifth driver to earn their first victory at a track in the opening five races of the season.

They’ll have Brandon Jones to thank.

When Jones passed Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go on his way to a win at Phoenix Raceway last weekend, he kept Busch from claiming his 12th series victory on the 1-mile track.

While it was Jones’ second career Xfinity win, it was his first at Phoenix.

Jones followed Noah Gragson‘s first career win to open the year at Daytona, Chase Briscoe‘s first win at Las Vegas and Harrison Burton‘s first career victory at Auto Club Speedway.

Now here’s where we make you feel old.

The Xfinity Series has not seen a new track winner in each of the first five races of a season since 1998. That year, the first 10 races of the year featured new track winners, including the first career wins of Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth.

The streak is primarily a sign of the times. The trio of Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell, who won 34 of 99 Xfinity races over the previous three seasons, have moved to the Cup Series.

It’s also a result of NASCAR limiting drivers who earn points in the Cup Series to five Xfinity starts a year.

Busch isn’t scheduled to make another Xfinity start until May 23 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with six races between starts. Brad Keselowski also competed in Phoenix, but a Team Penske spokesperson said the team hasn’t solidified the remaining schedule for its No. 12 car.

The streak could continue next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

None of the current full-time Xfinity drivers have won there. Even though Earnhardt is slated to compete in the March 21 race, he hasn’t won there in five career starts.

What’s the next track the Xfinity Series will visit where one of its full-time drivers has already won?

The May 2 race at Dover International Speedway. Justin Allgaier won the spring 2018 race there.

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Atlanta

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After three weekends on the West Coast, NASCAR returns to the Southeast this weekend to race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

All three national series will be in action, with the Gander RV & Outdoors Series racing for the first time since Las Vegas.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three series.

Cup – Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

Thirty-eight cars are entered in the race.

Ross Chastain is entered in his fourth race in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford as Ryan Newman continues to recover from a head injury.

Brad Keselowski won this race last year over Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – EchoPark 250 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the race.

Myatt Snider is entered in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for his first start of the year.

Christopher Bell won this race last year over Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Vet Tix Camping World 200 (1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

It’s officially bounty week in Truck Series.

Among the 38 trucks entered into the event (only 32 will qualify for it) are three full-time Cup Series drivers who will attempt to earn the $100,000 bounty placed against Kyle Busch by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of the series sponsor.

The trio of bounty hunters include:

Chase Elliott, who is entered in GMS Racing’s No. 24 Chevrolet.

John Hunter Nemechek, entered in NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet

Brennan Poole, entered in On Point Motorsports’ No. 29 Toyota.

If any of the drivers are able to finish ahead of Busch in the race, he will claim the bounty. If none of them do, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones will get a shot a Busch and the $100,000 next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Also entered in the race is Ryan Truex in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

Busch won this race last year over Johnny Sauter and Grant Enfinger.

Click here for the entry list.