Story By: NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Defending NASCAR Xfinity Series championship organization JR Motorsports returns this season with a full contingent of drivers to try to make it two titles in a row, and three in the last five seasons. JR Motorsports drivers finished 1-2-3 in the final standings last season – the first time an organization has taken all three top spots.
Championship-winning driver William Byron has moved up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to drive for Hendrick Motorsports this season. In his place will be Tyler Reddick, driving the No. 9 Chevrolet with championship winning crew chief David Elenz. Joining Reddick this season will be the rest of the cast of characters from last year – Elliott Sadler (No. 1 car), Justin Allgaier (No. 7) and Michael Annett (No. 5).
Elliott Sadler will be back in the No. 1 Chevrolet with crew chief Kevin Meendering. The duo finished the 2017 season second in the points. Expect Sadler to be hungry for another shot at the title in 2018. Sadler has made 17 starts at Daytona, posting six top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 14.5.
Justin Allgaier returns to the No. 7 again this season with crew chief Jason Burdett. Allgaier finished third last season after posting two wins, 10 top fives and 17 top 10s. Allgaier has made 14 series starts at Daytona, posting three top fives and six top 10s. He finished second in the July race in 2016.
Michael Annett will be back in the No. 5 again this season with crew chief Jason Stockert. Annett finished last season ninth in the final standings after posting seven top 10s. Annett has made 12 series starts at Daytona, posting two top 10s.
“The Series Where Names Are Made” Reaches Milestone 100th Race With Xfinity As Entitlement Partner
Xfinity and its parent company Comcast joined the NASCAR fold at the beginning of the 2015 season, and since then the company has held the distinction of primary sponsor for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. This weekend at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR and Xfinity have reached a milestone in their partnership as it will be the 100th event as the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Over the last three seasons a lot has happened with Xfinity. There have been three different series champions (2015 Chris Buescher, 2016 Daniel Suárez and 2017 William Byron) from three different organizations (2015 Roush Fenway Racing, 2016 Joe Gibbs Racing, 2017 JR Motorsports) driving three different manufacturers (2015 Ford, 2016 Toyota and 2017 Chevrolet) during that time span. (Also of note, all three champions will be racing full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018.)
The series saw its first foreign-born champion when Suárez took the title in 2016. Then the series saw its second Sunoco Rookie of the Year take home a title this past season when Byron became just the second rookie in series history to win a championship joining Chase Elliott (2014).
The great action during the last 99 NASCAR Xfinity Series races did not stop at just the diversity of the championships. Last season, the series tied its own record (1988 season) for the most different winners in a single season with 18 different drivers pulling into Victory Lane in 2017. In total, over the last 99 races there have been 29 different winners in the NASCAR Xfinity Series; 19 with multiple wins. Plus, there have also been 29 different pole winners since Xfinity has joined the series.
The season kicks off this week on FS1, below is a breakdown of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Daytona television programming:
- Friday, Feb 16 – Practice – FS1 (12 p.m. ET)
- Friday, Feb 16 – Final Practice – FS1 (2 p.m. ET)
- Saturday, Feb 17 – Qualifying – FS1 (9:30 a.m. ET)
- Saturday, Feb 17 – Race – FS1 (2 p.m. ET)
Nine Drivers To Vie For The Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of The Year Honors in 2018
Much like the first day of school, this weekend at Daytona International Speedway will have plenty of new faces to learn in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage as nine drivers will be competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2017. The nine-driver class is the largest group of competitors entered in the program since 2014, when there were 10 drivers entered. (2017 – 6 drivers, 2016 – 7 drivers, 2015 – 7 drivers).
This season’s class will include (alphabetical order): Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), Josh Bilicki (No. 45 J.P. Motorsports Toyota), Spencer Boyd (No. 76 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet), Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford/No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford), Kaz Grala (No. 24 JGL Racing Ford), Alex Labbe (No. 36 DGM Racing Chevrolet), Matt Mills (No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet), Vinnie Miller (No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet), Tyler Reddick (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet).
Early favorites to take rookie of the year honors this season are Christopher Bell from Joe Gibbs Racing and Tyler Reddick from JR Motorsports. Both are with the organizations that won the last two driver championships, and both posted wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last season (Reddick at Kentucky and Bell at Kanas).
Tyler Reddick’s former teammate William Byron took home the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year trophy driving the No. 9 car Reddick will be piloting this season. Eight of the nine rookie candidates are entered this weekend at Daytona, but only Reddick has made series starts at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway. Reddick has made two series starts at Daytona, posting a best finish of 20th last season.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed Is Looking For Another Season-Opening Win At Daytona
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed has won the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in two of the last three seasons (2015, 2017) and this weekend he looks to make it three out of the last four. Reed now returns to Daytona this season looking to become the fifth driver in series history to win back-to-back season opening races joining Tony Stewart (four straight 2008-2011), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (three straight 2002-2004) and NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (five straight 1990-1994, series-most) and Darrell Waltrip (1983, ’84).
Last season’s Daytona victory was Reed’s lone win, but it elevated him to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs where he finished the season eighth in the final standings. Roush Fenway Racing has won three of the last seven NASCAR Xfinity Series titles (Chris Buescher 2015, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2011, 2012) and Reed wants to add his name to the list.
Reed has made eight series starts at Daytona, posting two wins, three top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 11.2 – the best among series championship contenders.
Daytona International Speedway: Quick Stats
- Daytona International Speedway has hosted 52 NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
- 27 different drivers have won at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, led by Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart with seven wins each. Joe Nemechek and Ryan Reed lead all drivers entered this weekend in wins with two each.
- Nine of the 27 series Daytona winners have multiple wins – Ryan Reed and Joe Nemechek are the only active drivers with multiple wins.
- Former winners’ active this weekend (six): Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Joe Nemechek and Ryan Reed
- Race Record – Geoff Bodine (157.137 mph, 2/16/1985)
- 40 different drivers have won the pole, led by Joe Nemechek with four.
- Qualifying Record – Tommy Houston (194.389 mph, 2/14/1987)
- Former pole winners’ active this weekend (seven): Joe Nemechek (5), J.J. Yeley (2), Austin Dillon (2), Aric Almirola, Elliott Sadler, Brandon Jones and Daniel Suárez each have one.
- All-time Lap Leader – Dale Earnhardt Jr., 560 Laps Led
- Single Race Laps Led Record – Joe Nemechek, 105 Laps Led (2/14/1998)
NASCAR Xfinity Series Etc.:
Monster Energy Series Moonlighters: This weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be joined by six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers at Daytona International Speedway – Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suárez. Four of the six drivers are former series Daytona winners: Almirola (July 2016), Dillon (July 2015), Elliott (Feb. 2016) and Logano (July 2011).