Brandon Jones has a Georgia win on his mind

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Ever since he won the Xfinity Series race at Phoenix last Saturday, Brandon Jones – to borrow a line from a Ray Charles song – has had Georgia on his mind.

The Atlanta native is eager to return to his home track for Saturday’s Xfinity race at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway in suburban Hampton, Georgia.

Jones, driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra, has had a strong start to the season. He finished fourth at Daytona, sixth at Las Vegas, won the pole at Fontana (but finished 30th) and then passed Kyle Busch for the lead and held on for the final 20 laps to win at Phoenix, giving Toyota its 500th win in NASCAR competition.

“We are coming off a huge win at Phoenix Raceway and our 19 team is really excited about our 2020 season,” Jones said in a media release. “We have a lot of momentum.”

Jones returns to his home turf ranked fourth in the Xfinity point standings, 28 points behind series leader Harrison Burton. More importantly, Jones’ Phoenix win locks the 23-year-old into the Xfinity playoffs.

Jones hopes the momentum from Phoenix carries over to Atlanta. He’s made four Xfinity starts there, with a career-best fourth-place finish in last year’s race.

“Atlanta has not always been one of my strongest tracks, but neither was Phoenix,” Jones said. “Our team is up to the challenge that the track brings with the old surface which makes saving tires part of the strategy.”

That’s why Jones is approaching this weekend’s race in much the same way he approached Phoenix. With all the hard work he and his team have done in preparation for Atlanta, Jones is hoping to make it back-to-back wins.

“(Our) team has spent a lot of time over the offseason preparing for Atlanta; we probably put in 200-laps around the track using Toyota’s simulator,” Jones said. “It’s a fun race and the Atlanta fans are great.

“I think if we get our Supra dialed in to run the bottom of the track, we will be the team in victory lane.”

NOTES: Kyle Busch Motorsports announced today that Jones will return to the organization for four races in the No. 51 Tundra during the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season: June 12 at Iowa Speedway, at Pocono on June 27, at Kentcky Speedway on July 9 and Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 30.

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Joey Logano is unanimous No. 1

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Phoenix and Las Vegas winner Joey Logano rockets to the No. 1 spot in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Logano was a unanimous choice among NBC Sports’ writers, while Kevin Harvick was a close second in both the race and this week’s poll.

MORE: Ryan Newman tells Today show he wants to race “as soon as I possibly can”

Biggest drops from last week to this week: Fontana winner Alex Bowman (1st to 9th), Ryan Blaney (2nd to 8th) and Jimmie Johnson (3rd to unranked).

Fifteen drivers earned votes this week.

Here’s how this week’s power rankings look:

1. Joey Logano (40 points out of 40): Four races, two wins. May not have the fastest car but he keeps finding a way to win. Last week: 6th (tied).

2. Kevin Harvick (35 points): Has had a top 10 in each of the first four races this season – but he’s still looking for a win. Last week: 4th.

3. Kyle Busch (31 points): After a rough first two races, the defending series champ now has back-to-back top-five finishes. Last week: 6th (tied).

4. Chase Elliott (25 points): Has had excellent speed the last two races. Now he heads to his home track, where he’s never won a Cup, Xfinity or Truck race. Could this be the weekend to do so? And could he kick things off by winning the Kyle Busch bounty in Saturday’s Truck race? Last week: 6th (tied).

(tie) 5. Kyle Larson (19 points): Has been on a solid roll with three top 10s in first four races. Finally had a joint strong effort with teammate Kurt Busch for the first time this season. Last week: Unranked.

(tie) 5. Kurt Busch (19 points): After struggles in first two races, was third at Fontana and sixth at Phoenix. Not the fastest but making the most of the opportunities and finishing higher than the car runs in a race. Last week: 10th.

7. Brad Keselowski (15 points): With Logano and Ryan Blaney’s success, Keselowski may have been overlooked so far, but still has strong numbers: He has finished seventh, fifth and 11th in last three races. He’s likely licking his chops for Atlanta, where he has two wins and a runner-up in last three races. Last week: 5th.

8. Ryan Blaney (10 points): Even though he finished runner-up at Daytona, he’s had rough outings since with finishes of 11th (at Las Vegas due to pit call), 19th (tire issue with three laps to go at Fontana) and 37th at Phoenix due to a crash not of his making. Last week: 2nd.

9. Alex Bowman (6 points): Had a tough weekend with a car that was bad in practice, although it qualified eighth. In the race, finished 14th after winning the week before in Fontana. Last week: 1st.

10. Brandon Jones (5 points): It’s not every day you pass Kyle Busch to score a win in the Xfinity Series. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Aric Almirola (4 points), Clint Bowyer (4), Jimmie Johnson (2), Martin Truex Jr. (1), Denny Hamlin (1).

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

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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.

Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric on front row for today’s Xfinity race in Phoenix

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Kyle Busch won the pole and will start alongside Austin Cindric on the front row in today’s LS Tractor 200 Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

Busch and the No. 54 Toyota covered the one-mile oval at 133.983 mph, while Cindric knocked Harrison Burton, last week’s winner at Fontana, off the front row with a late run of 133.665 mph.

This will be Busch’s 24th career Xfinity start and 10th pole at Phoenix, where he’s also earned 11 wins in 23 starts. Five of those wins have been from the pole at the one-mile short track. It’s also Busch’s 68th career pole in 353 Xfinity Series races.

Burton will start third, having turned in a speed of 133.496 mph. Brad Keselowski will start forth (133.378 mph), followed by Ross Chastain (133.358 mph), Justin Allgaier (133.348 mph), Noah Gragson (133.333), Brandon Jones (133.279), Chase Briscoe (132.631) and Ryan Sieg (132.631).

A total of 39 cars made qualifying attempts for the 36-car race field. Three drivers failed to qualify: Phoenix native JJ Yeley, Matt Mills and Bayley Currey.

Qualifying results

Today’s race begins at 4 p.m. ET and will air on FS1, as well as on the radio on Motor Racing Network (including MRN.com) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The only other on-track action today at Phoenix Raceway will be NASCAR Cup qualifying at 2:35 p.m. ET for Sunday’s FanShield 500.

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

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The Xfinity Series moves on to its second race of the season this afternoon with the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Daytona winner Noah Gragson looks to make it two in a row at his hometown track, but he’ll face plenty of competition in the series’ first 1.5-mile race of the year.

Here’s all the info you need ahead of the race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:07 p.m by Kerrie Burke, VP/GM, Aliante Casino Hotel & Spa. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:16 p.m.

PRERACE: Driver/crew chief meeting is at 2:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach chaplain Billy Mauldin. The National Anthem will be performed at 4:01 p.m. by Adam Tucker as Vegas McGraw.

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

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

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage will begin at 4 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 3:30 p.m. and can also be heard at GoPRN.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com forecasts showers, a temperature of 54 degrees and 51% chance of rain for the start of the Xfinity race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch won this race last year, beating John Hunter Nemechek and Noah Gragson. Tyler Reddick won the September race last year over Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones.

STARTING LINEUP: Here is the starting lineup after qualifying was rained out.

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