XFINITY Race Preview: Las Vegas

XFINITY Series

Saturday's Boyd Gaming 300 will be the 21st XFINITY Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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NASCAR XFINITY Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Saturday's Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Radio: PRN, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: FS1, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

Races: 20
Pole Winners: 15
Youngest Pole Winner: Ty Dillon (3/8/2014 - 22 years, 0 months, 9 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Mark Martin (3/06/1999 - 40 years, 1 months, 25 days)
Race Winners: 14
Youngest Race Winner: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3/10/2012 - 24 years, 5 months, 8 days)
Oldest Race Winner: Mark Martin (3/5/2011 - 52 years, 1 months, 24 days)
Races Won from Pole: 5
Last Race Won from Pole: Kyle Busch (3/5/2016)
Race Record: Kyle Busch - 145.415 mph (3/5/2016)
Qualifying Record: Brad Keselowski - 185.427 mph (2/27/2010)

  Last Race Most/Largest Fewest/Smallest
Cars: 40 43 - 15 Times 40 - 4 Times
Lead Changes: 2 25 (3/15/1997) 2 (3/5/2016)
Leaders: 2 12 - 3 Times 2 (3/5/2016)
Cautions: 3 13 (3/1/2008) 3 - 2 Times (3/5/2016)
Caution Laps: 15 60 (2/28/2009) 15 - 2 Times (3/5/2016)
Lead Lap Finish: 11 19 (3/2/2003) 9 - 3 Times (3/8/2014)
Running at the Finish: 32 38 - 2 Times 25 (2/28/2009)
Laps Led (Winner): 199 199 (3/5/2016) 1 (3/5/2011)
Margin of Victory*: 0.817 8.428 (3/2/2002) 0.101 (3/10/2007)

*Since 1993 (advent of digital timing and scoring); does not include races completed under caution

Back On Top: JR Motorsport’s Elliott Sadler Is New Points Leader
Just two races into the 2017 season, Elliott Sadler has launched himself into the standings lead by three points over Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and JR Motorsports teammate William Byron as the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Las Vegas for the Boyd Gaming 300 on Saturday, March 11 at 4 p.m. ET (FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sadler led the XFINITY points standings following 14 races last season; which should make it no surprise the veteran from Virginia is back on top. Sadler dominated the season-opener at Daytona two weeks ago, leading 40 laps and winning the first two stages, but was caught in a late-race incident that relegated him to a 24th-place finish. Under the new enhanced format, Sadler was able to gather valuable points during the first two stages; plus, he accumulated two playoff points.  This past weekend at Atlanta, Sadler drove from a 22nd starting position to finish fifth, garnering enough points to take the series lead. 

Sadler’s points lead isn’t astronomical, so he will have his work cut out for him this weekend at Las Vegas if he wants hold off second-place William Byron (-3), third-place Ryan Reed (-4) and fourth-place Brendan Gaughan (-8) from the standings lead.  Sadler has made 10 series starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, posting two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 11.9. He finished eighth at LVMS last season.

Sadler’s early 2017 success is a direct result of his performance on track. Currently, Sadler leads or is near the top of several season-to-date loop data categories following the first two races of the season – Average Running Position (6.401, second-best); Driver Rating (102.5, third-best); Laps In The Top 15 (260, third-best) and Laps Led (40, third-best) – in each of the listed loop categories Sadler is the highest ranked NXS championship contender.

Veterans Vs. Young Guns: Average Age Keeps Trending Towards The Youngsters

If you were to look at the ages of the drivers in the top 10 in points following Atlanta, you would see it is a mixed bag of veterans and young guns. The current average age of the drivers in the top 10 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings following Atlanta is 27.3 - with six of the 10 drivers at or under the age of 25.

Twenty-seven years ago, seven of the top 10 in NXS points following Atlanta weren’t even born yet. It was 1990, and boy have times changed since then. The biggest movie that year was Home Alone, most popular TV show was CHEERS, and Portland, Oregon, native Chuck Bown at the age of 36 years old was the NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.

The average age inside the top 10 in points has gradually moved more to the younger age drivers over the years. Especially in comparison to 1990, when the average age of the drivers inside the top 10 in final standings was 37.0, with the youngest driver Bobby Labonte at 26 years old.

Fast forward to the present, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series has definitely set itself up as the series "where names are made" with the youth movement making a mark. Of the current top 10 in the driver standings Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan are the elder statesmen at 41 years of age. The other eight drivers are not older than 30; with William Byron, the youngest competitor, at the age of 19.

Over the last 15 seasons the average age of the drivers inside the top 10 in points at the end of the season has trended towards the younger end of the spectrum by on average seven years (2002, 33.0 and 2016, 26.6). the average age hasn’t been above 30 since 2009. 
 
Age Stats:

All-time youngest NASCAR XFINITY Series race winner: Joey Logano (Kentucky, 2008) - 18 years, 0 months, 21 days.
All-time youngest NASCAR XFINITY Series Las Vegas Motor Speedway winner: Austin Dillon (2015) - 24 years, 10 months, 8 days.

Playoff Outlook: Following Race No. 2 - Atlanta
Just because we have only had two NASCAR XFINITY Series races this season doesn’t mean we can’t already start looking at the post-season and who, as of right now, would be included in the playoffs. Of the 12 drivers currently eligible for the 2017 playoffs, only four of them competed in last season’s playoffs – Ryan Reed, Elliott Sadler, Brendan Gaughan and Brennan Poole. Eight different organizations are currently represented by the drivers that are eligible for 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs following the race at Atlanta.

Below is a quick look at the top five seeded drivers if the playoffs were to start this weekend:

1.    Ryan Reed – No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang –
Currently holds #1 seed due his win at Daytona. The Bakersfield, California native has five playoff points (series-most) and has an average finish of 9.5 in his first two 2017 starts. Reed, at the age of 23, will be making his fourth series start at Las Vegas this weekend. In his previous three starts at LVMS, he posted an average finish of 14.3 (sixth-best among championship contenders). 
2.    Elliott Sadler – No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Sadler currently holds the points lead, but would be seeded second in the playoffs due to his lack of wins. The Emporia, Virginia, native has been strong this season, winning the first two stages at Daytona (collecting two playoff points) and posting a top-five finish last weekend at Atlanta.  Sadler has made 10 series starts at Las Vegas, posting four top 10s and an average finish of 11.9.
3.    William Byron – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Currently the hottest rookie in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie class, Byron has posted back-to-back top-10 finishes to start the season. While this weekend will be the Charlotte, North Carolina, native’s NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut at Las Vegas, Byron did make a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at LVMS last season where he finished fifth.   
4.    Brendan Gaughan – No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro – Veteran RCR driver Brandan Gaughan has kicked 2017 off with two strong starts, posting a top five and an average finish of 9.0. Returning to Las Vegas this weekend, his hometown, Gaughan will be making his seventh career start at LVMS.  The 41-year old, in his six previous starts at Las Vegas, has amassed one top five and four top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile speedway is a 9.5 (third-best among championship contenders).
5.    Matt Tifft – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry – Tifft is one of three Sunoco Rookies this season currently eligible for the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver from Hinckley, Ohio, has posted an average finish of 11.5 in his first two 2017 starts. The 20-year old will be making his NASCAR XFINITY Series career track debut this weekend at Las Vegas. 

One For One: Busch Making Most Of His Starts In 2017
The lion’s share of Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR XFINITY Series success can be attributed to the winning ways of Kyle Busch. With a series-leading 87 wins, including last weekend’s race at Atlanta, his career winning percentage is now an astounding 26.4% (series-best). Busch is scheduled to run just 10 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2017 and he plans to win them all.

Busch will be back in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry this weekend at his hometown track - Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch has made 12 starts at Las Vegas, posting one win (2016), four top fives and an average finish of 16.8. He has finished runner-up or better in his last three starts at LVMS.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:

Nevada Natives – Three drivers entered this weekend have their home state recorded as Nevada – Kyle Busch (Las Vegas), Brendan Gaughan (Las Vegas) and Spencer Gallagher (Las Vegas). …

Possibility Of New Vegas Winner Is High – Only four former NXS Las Vegas winners are entered this weekend - Kyle Busch (2016), Austin Dillon (2015), Brad Keselowski (2014) and Jeff Green (1997) – just 10% of the field; giving the other 90% a chance to become a new winner at LVMS. …

Wins From The Pole – The last two NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway have been won from the pole. A total of 198 races in NASCAR XFINITY Series history have been won from the pole. Since the inception of the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 1982, seven tracks have hosted three or more consecutive races won from the pole, led by New Hampshire; where the last fives races have been won from the first starting position. If a driver wins this weekend at LVMS from the pole, the track will become the eighth different track with three consecutive races won from the pole. The other seven tracks are Auto Club (2008-2010); Hickory (all three in 1983); Kentucky (2008-2010); Martinsville (1982-1983); New Hampshire (2012-2016); Phoenix (2012-2013) and Rougemont (1986-1987). …

NXS Milestones –
Elliott Sadler will be making his 332nd start this weekend at Las Vegas which will tie him with Todd Bodine for the 15th on the series all-time starts list. … David Starr will attempt to make his 100th NASCAR XFINITY Series start this weekend at Las Vegas. If qualifies for the event, he will be the 130th different driver in series history to make 100 or more starts. … Darrell Wallace Jr. will attempt to make his 75th career NASCAR XFINITY Series start this weekend at Las Vegas.

Double Duty –
Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola are all scheduled to compete in both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series events this weekend at Las Vegas.

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Mar. 27, 2017 12:00 PM ET

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