FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR XFINITY Series makes its first of two stops this season at Texas Motor Speedway with Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 (12:30 p.m. CT, TV: FOX, Radio: PRN, SiriusXM Channel 90 and 95.9 FM The Ranch locally).
Here are “5 Things You Need To Know” about the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the My Bariatric Solutions 300 heading into this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
- BEATING AROUND THE BUSCH: Competitors can breathe a collective sign of relief that Kyle Busch will not be competing in the My Bariatric Solutions 300. In 20 XFINITY Series career starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Busch owns a speedway-record eight wins, including one in this event last year, as well as a track-best 15 top-five finishes. Joe Gibbs Racing Racing Cup teammate Daniel Suarez will be wheeling the No. 18 Toyota entry.
- CUP RUNNETH OVER: Since Texas Motor Speedway began hosting two XFINITY races beginning in 2005, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers running in the series have won 20 of the 24 races. The four winners that were full-time XFINITY Series drivers at the time were Trevor Bayne (fall of 2011), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (spring of 2012), Chase Elliott (spring of 2014) and Erik Jones (spring of 2015). The good news is that full-time XFINITY Series drivers have won this spring event two of the last three years.
- MAN OF ALL SEASONS: The only full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series driver to collect top-10 finishes in both series races at Texas Motor Speedway last year was Justin Allgaier. He finished sixth in the spring event and followed up with a 10th in the fall.
- ONE-STOP SHOPPING: The XFINITY Series will have same-day qualifying for Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300. Sports Day Powered by The Dallas Morning News Qualifying Day will begin at 9:35 a.m. CT Saturday, just over three hours prior to the start of the race.
- WISE CHOICE: The race has been re-titled the My Bariatric Solutions 300, which was formerly the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 for the past 15 years. Wise Health System signed a five-year agreement earlier this year to serve as the race entitlement sponsor while O’Reilly moved up to sponsor this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at TMS.
REED AIMING FOR PLAYOFFS: Identical to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit, the XFINITY Series season started with five winners in the first five races. Two winners are full-time NXS drivers – Ryan Reed and Justin Allgaier – while the other three were Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch moonlighting in the series.
Reed and Allgaier head into Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway (12:30 p.m. CT, TV: FOX, Radio: PRN, SiriusXM Channel 90 and 95.9 FM The Ranch locally) tied for third in series points, 46 points behind Elliott Sadler and 29 behind second-place William Byron, both JR Motorsports drivers.
Reed has two career wins, both coming at Daytona including this year’s season opener. At Texas Motor Speedway, however, the 23-year old has not cracked the top 10 in six career races. He has an average start of 13th and average finish of 15th. He does come into this race after posting his best finish at TMS last fall when he finished 12th.
“It’s tough to get a win in the XFINITY series,” Reed said. “We all know that with all the Cup guys a win can be few and far between, so when you do get a win, you get locked in (to the playoffs) and you enjoy it.”
The victory at Daytona put Reed into the series’ playoffs for the second consecutive year. He said he is now just after more victories this year.
“I think our playoff format is awesome,” he said. “You are not going to know who the champion is until you leave Homestead and that last race. It has raised the intensity and I have never felt that kind of pressure. Our playoffs have everything you want in sports.”
DOUBLING UP: Kevin Harvick, with five XFINITY Series wins at Texas Motor Speedway, will lead the contingent that will be performing double duty with entries in Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 and Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Joining Harvick will be Joey Logano, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and J.J. Yeley.
BYRON LOOKING FORWARD TO TMS RETURN: William Byron didn’t win in the most recent XFINITY Series race, but he did earn a well-timed boost of confidence. He finished fifth at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., which was the best in the field of the XFINITY Series regulars and solidified his spot of second place in the points.
It was his second consecutive top-five finish and he is now only 17 points behind points leader, and JR Motorpsorts teammate, Elliott Sadler. The driver he is chasing also happens to be the one he credits for helping him during his rookie season in the series.
“Elliott has been helping me so much,” Byron said. “We’re able to talk about restarts or what happened last weekend, little things that make a big difference, knowing what to do inside the car with switches, how to get the best restarts, how to communicate with your team. He’s been a great resource.”
Byron, the XFINITY Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader to date with a 17-point lead over Daniel Hemric, also has Dale Earnhardt Jr., his team’s owner to learn from as well.
“It’s really cool. He’s really involved with our team,” Byron said. “I grew up watching him and now being able to talk to him and get to know him and talk about racing, just trying to learn from him.”
This will be Byron’s first start in an XFINITY Series race at Texas after winning the Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race last June at the track. He followed that with a sixth-place finish in the fall truck race.
“I’m really looking forward to just starting the new chapter of the race track,” Byron said. “I have a good history with the victory there in June and hopefully I can carry some of that confidence into this year.”
SADLER SETTING THE STAGE: Veteran Elliott Sadler, the 41-year-old JR Motorsports driver who was the series championship runner-up last season, currently sits atop the series standings. Sadler has not won a race just yet, but he owns the only two stage wins by an XFINITY Series driver (out of 12 possible as the other 10 have been won by Cup regulars). His two top-five finishes suggest he is poised to take a trip to Victory Lane soon.
CHECK IT OUT: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not be racing in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 this week at Texas Motor Speedway, but is the owner of JR Motorsports that has the top two cars (Elliott Sadler and William Byron) in the series early in the season. Earlier this week, he celebrated the 19th anniversary of the first XFINITY Series win of his career. It came on April 4, 1998 at Texas Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 300, in which he started 16th. Earlier this week, he tweeted a photo of his paycheck from that first win:
That was a special year for Earnhardt Jr. as he would win seven times in what was known as the Busch Grand National Series at the time. He then went on to edge Matt Kenseth for the title later in the year.
BONUS TIME: Ryan Blaney will be one of eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers that are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
He will be driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske and the 23-year old is looking forward to getting extra track time.
“I think what any driver wants is more track time and that’s why a lot of Cup drivers want to run XFINITY and Trucks to help prepare them for Sunday,” Blaney said. “I can’t say the Cup and XFINITY cars drive very similar, but it’s nice to know the track and you might pick up something in the race that can help you. It’s nice to get some more track time, more seat team and more experience is always a benefit.”
Blaney made his debut for Team Penske in the XFINITY Series at Phoenix earlier this year and finished second after starting 33rd.
He has been a part of Team Penske XFINITY Series titles in the past and says that experience has helped him grow as a driver.
“To share the titles with Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) – that was neat to get their take on things and see how they like their cars,” he said. “That helped me out a lot when I was just running part-time in XFINITY. We were strong at that time period, I was just getting started (in my NASCAR career) and it was awesome to be a part of that.”
PENSKE ON TOP: That No. 22 Ford has Team Penske at the top of the owner’s points in the XFINITY Series after five races. The team has accumulated 233 points to lead Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 by 33 points. JR Motorsports No. 1 car piloted by Elliott Sadler is in third with 189 points.
Team Penske continues to shuffle their three Cup drivers in and out of the No. 22 and No. 12 cars. Joey Logano found himself in Victory Lane at Las Vegas while Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney have both taken stage wins in runner-up performances.
The only win from these three teams in the first five races was by Ganassi’s Kyle Larson in the most recent race at Fontana. At the XFINITY Series level this season, he has made three starts, finishing first at Auto Club, second in Las Vegas and third in Atlanta.
THIS WEEK’S VIDEO: Listen to NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Elliott Sadler on the series playoff format.