Strong Start for JR Motorsports

R.Smith-C.Elliott

JR Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (right) and Regan Smith are running one-two in Nationwide Series points entering Saturday's race in Charlotte. (Photo: Getty Images)

The JR Motorsports team looks to continue its early-season Nationwide Series roll with a strong outing in Saturday’s HISTORY 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The trio of series pointS leader Chase Elliott, Regan Smith and Kevin Harvick figures to be a factor in Saturday’s 11th race of the campaign based on their success so far in 2014.

After seeing his father, Bill, announced as one of the 2015 inductees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Elliott will go into Saturday’s race atop the series standings by two points over teammate Smith and Elliott Sadler, who are tied for second.  The rookie driver celebrated his high school graduation last weekend with a top-five finish at Iowa Speedway.

With his schoolwork behind him and the schedule about to heat up, Elliott is excited about the prospects of adding to his accomplishments.

"More than anything, I'm looking forward to getting into a consistent racing routine," said Elliott.  "Now that graduation is complete and in my rear view mirror, the focus is Charlotte.

"I know it's early in the year.  There's so much racing to go and everybody knows that.  We have to make sure we keep our head where it needs to be and stay on the right track.  We'll continue to get better because that's what our competition is doing right now."

That competition includes Smith, who - as he did last year - has gotten off to a strong start.  After winning the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, Smith has seen a consistent rhythm around his race team and weekly improvement.

"Once we got through those first few races, we’ve seen things start coming together," said Smith, who also had a top five last Sunday in Iowa.  "We’re right there in the hunt for points, which is good considering we haven’t run as great as we want to through the first 10 races."

Harvick returns to the team’s No. 5 Chevrolet, which he drove to a dominant victory at Richmond International Raceway in his last ride - when he led 202 of 250 laps.  The veteran driver has six top fives and 15 top-10 finishes at Charlotte, and takes a wealth of experience into Saturday’s race.

"Charlotte is starting to get back to its old characteristics, with the asphalt wearing out," said Harvick, who will also shoot for his third career Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup Series win on Sunday.  "That gives us a lot of different options on the track as far as which line we run.  I expect that to be the case even more for the Nationwide race Saturday afternoon.  The track will get hot and slick, so you’ll see guys running high and low trying to find grip.  It’ll be fun."

Smith didn’t have much fun at Charlotte when the series competed at the track last October, when late-race pit road strategy derailed his day.  He’s hoping for better things come Saturday including some added performance from the organization’s 1.5-mile track package.

"We want a little more speed out of our car at some of these intermediate tracks," Smith said.  "We've had that at times and, unfortunately, don’t always get the finishes we deserve.  We've been steadily improving and that’s a good sign.  You want to run your best at the end of the year, not at the beginning."

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