Xfinity Race Preview: Pocono

Pocono Raceway

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend for its second race at "The Tricky Triangle." (Photo: Getty Images)

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Entry List | Schedule of Events

NASCAR Xfinity Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Saturday's Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway.

Radio: MRN, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 100 laps
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 (Ends on lap 25), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 50), Stage 3 (Ends on lap 100)

Races: 1
Youngest/Oldest Pole Winner: Erik Jones (6/4/2016 - 20 years, 5 days)
Youngest/Oldest Race Winner: Kyle Larson (6/4/2016 - 20 years, 5 days)
Races Won from Pole: 0
Race Record: Kyle Larson - 118.421 mph (6/4/2016)
Qualifying Record: Erik Jones - 175.929 mph (6/4/2016)

  2016 Race
Cars: 40
Lead Changes: 6
Leaders: 5
Cautions: 5
Caution Laps: 14
Lead Lap Finish: 25
Running at the Finish: 32
Laps Led (Winner): 27
Margin of Victory: Caution

NASCAR Ladder System Once Again Proves to be Fruitful
With the recent announcement that Darrell Wallace Jr. will be moving from the NASCAR Xfinity Series up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to replace an injured Aric Almirola in the iconic No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, he now joins a long list of drivers that have climbed the NASCAR ladder to success.

Over the last few seasons, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has had a migration-sized influx of NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers getting an opportunity to compete at NASCAR’s highest level; including Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Daniel Suárez, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain, Ryan Sieg and now the most recent, Darrell Wallace Jr.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series is a proving ground for many in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series today. 11 former Xfinity Series champions are now competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series full-time – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher and Daniel Suárez.

Three of the 11 Xfinity champions have gone on to win a title in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015).

Darrell Wallace Jr. will run the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing one more time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend at Pocono. Last season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Pocono, Wallace started last (40th) and drove to a 16th-place finish.

Four Sunoco Rookies In the Top 10 Through 11 Races
The next wave of young drivers is already showing their merit this season as four Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders are ranked inside the top 10 of the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings and are currently playoff-bound.

JR Motorsport’s William Byron is presently sitting third in the standings, 57 markers behind points leader and teammate Elliott Sadler. In 11 starts this season, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native Byron has posted two top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 13.1. This weekend will be Byron’s series track debut at Pocono Raceway. Byron won from the pole in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Pocono last season, leading 44 laps.

Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric is currently fifth in the standings, 92 points behind the standings lead. In 11 starts this season, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has posted two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 15.9.  Hemric will be making his series track debut at Pocono this weekend. Over the last two seasons he has made two NCWTS starts at Pocono, posting a best finish of ninth in 2015.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Tifft is up to eighth in the standings heading into Pocono this weekend. In 11 races this season, the Hinckley, Ohio, native has posted one top five, nine top 10s and one pole. His average finish this season is 15.3.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer (10th in points) rounds out the Sunoco rookies in the top 10 in the driver standings through 11 races. This season, the Ladera Ranch, California, native has posted two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 18.3. This weekend will be Custer’s series track debut at Pocono. Custer made one start at Pocono in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season, posting a fifth-place finish.

Chip Ganassi Racing Hopes to Keep Pocono Wins to Themselves
Last season was the first time the NASCAR Xfinity Series has competed at Pocono Raceway, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson took the victory. This season, Larson is back to make sure Chip Ganassi Racing defends their crown.

Coming off a victory at Dover last weekend, Kyle Larson is having an impressive part-time schedule in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In just six starts, he has posted three wins (Auto Club Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Dover International Speedway), five top fives, six top 10s and average finish of 2.5.

The Elk Grove, Calif., native will be back in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Pocono with crew chief Mike Shiplett, trying to make it back-to-back victories. But Larson won’t be the only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver trying his hand at the win this weekend in the series – Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suárez and Brad Keselowski will also be in the field.

Outside Looking In: Sieg, Gaughan, Jones Face Uphill Climb to the Playoffs
The 2016 post-season was the first time the NASCAR Xfinity Series had incorporated an elimination-style playoff in the format to crown the season’s champion. Twelve drivers make the playoffs at the start of the post-season and through four rounds of elimination, a champion emerges. Ryan Sieg, Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones all participated in last season’s playoffs, but this season the threesome faces not making the post season, as they are outside the top 12 in points and are without a win in 2017.

RSS Racing’s Sieg finished the 2016 season ninth in the final playoff standings – a career-best for Sieg and the organization. This season, Sieg is currently 14th in the driver standings, 33-points back from 12th-place Dakoda Armstrong in the last playoff position.  In 11 starts this season, Sieg has posted four top-20 finishes and an average finish of 21.5. Last season at Pocono, Sieg started 15th and finished 29th in the rain-shortened event.

Richard Childress Racing’s Gaughan finished 12th in last season’s final playoff standings. This season, he sits 15th in points, 43 markers back from the playoff cutoff line after posting one top five and two 10s. His average finish in 2017 is a 23.7, down more than 10 spots compared to last season (12.2). Gaughan’s current situation is in large part due to his three DNFs this season. Gaughan finished 14th at Pocono in last season’s event.

A younger RCR driver, Jones, is trying to avoid the "sophomore slump" in his second season in the series. In 2016, Jones finished 10th in the final playoff standings in his rookie campaign, but currently sits 16th in points with the threat of not making it back into the playoffs this season. In 11 starts in 2017, Jones has posted an average finish of 23.2. In last season’s Pocono race, he started 14th and finished eighth.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Benjamin Is Back: Joe Gibbs Racing has tapped rising star Kyle Benjamin to drive the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with crew chief Chris Gabehart this weekend at Pocono. Benjamin made his series debut at Richmond earlier this season, starting second and running upfront most of the event until a late incident relegated him to a 32nd-place finish.

Mears In For Almirola: With Aric Almirola sidelined due to a back injury, car owner Fred Biagi has slotted veteran driver Casey Mears into the No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Racing Ford this weekend at Pocono. Mears has made four starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 20.5.

Next MRN Broadcast

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Dec. 19, 2017 7:00 PM ET

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