Xfinity Race Preview: Kentucky

Kentucky Speedway

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Kentucky Speedway this week for Friday night's Alsco 300. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Entry List | Past Race Winners | Schedule of Events

NASCAR Xfinity Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Friday night's Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

Radio: PRN
TV: NBCSN, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 Ends - Lap 45; Stage 2 Ends - Lap 90; Final Stage Ends - Lap 200

Races: 21
Pole Winners: 16
Youngest Pole Winner: Joey Logano (6/14/2008 - 18 years, 21 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Jay Sauter (6/16/2001 - 38 years, 11 months, 25 days)
Race Winners: 13
Youngest Race Winner: Joey Logano (6/14/2008 - 18 years, 21 days)
Oldest Race Winner: Elliott Sadler (9/24/2016 - 41 years, 4 months, 25 days)
Races Won from Pole: 7
Last Race Won from Pole: Kyle Busch (7/8/2016)
Race Record: Austin Dillon - 151.643 mph (6/29/2012)
Qualifying Record: Busch - 187.318 mph (7/8/2016)

  Last Race Most/Largest Fewest/Smallest
Cars: 40 43 - 13 Times(9/22/2012) 40 - 8 Times(7/13/2008)
Lead Changes: 16 17 (9/26/2015) 2 (6/16/2001)
Leaders: 8 9 (6/16/2002) 2 (6/16/2001)
Cautions: 12 12 (9/24/2016) 2 (6/29/2012)
Caution Laps: 64 64 (9/24/2016) 12 (6/29/2012)
Lead Lap Finish: 20 22 - 2 Times (6/12/2010) 8 (6/29/2012)
Running at the Finish: 27 35 (6/17/2006) 26 (9/22/2012)
Laps Led (Winner): 11 192 (6/29/2012) 3 (6/19/2004)
Margin of Victory*: 0.246 9.828 (6/29/2012) 0.036 (6/16/2002)

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

Friday Night Under the Kentucky Lights: A Playoff Preview
Performing well is especially important this weekend at Kentucky Speedway in the Alsco 300 on Friday because not only is the 1.5-mile track nestled in the ‘Bluegrass State’ hosting some great racing action this weekend, but it will also host the first event in the opening round of 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs. Friday night competitors will get their chance at not only going for the win to lock themselves into the playoffs, but also preparing for the post-season itself.

Getting off to a good start in the playoffs is key, as the first two rounds are just three races each. The Round of 12, which opens the 2017 Xfinity Series post-season, includes Kentucky Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then comes the Round of 8, which has Kansas Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway, and leads into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last season’s mid-summer Kentucky event proved to be quite the preview to what happened in the playoffs later that season. While Kyle Busch won last July’s race, Daniel Suárez (third) and Elliott Sadler (sixth) were the some of the highest finishing championship contenders. Later that season in the playoff opener at Kentucky, Sadler won and Suárez finished runner-up. Both went on to make it to the Championship 4, with Suárez edging Sadler out for the title.

Playoff Picture: Top Five Drivers Need a Win
Kentucky Speedway offers a great opportunity for NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contending drivers to get a win and lock themselves into the 2017 post-season. Five such drivers ranked high in points need a win to solidify their bid for the playoffs this season.

Elliott Sadler - No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – currently leads the series standings and is a comfortable 276 points ahead of 13th in standings, but has yet to win and lock himself into the playoffs. Though Sadler hasn’t won since the playoff Kentucky race last season (21 races ago), he has had an impressive 2017 season, posting the series-most top fives (seven) and top 10s (13). Expect Sadler be strong this weekend, in 11 starts at Kentucky Speedway, he has posted one win (2016), five top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 7.4.
 
Brennan Poole – No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro – is the second-highest ranked driver in the series standings without a win, but he is 101 points ahead of 13th position. Poole made the playoffs as a rookie last year and is looking to follow it up in his sophomore season. Though he has posted five top 10s in 2017, he is still looking for his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series win. Kentucky is a track well-suited for Poole to score his first win. In four series starts at the famed 1.5-mile speedway, he has posted two top 10s.
 
Daniel Hemric – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro – is currently fifth is the series standings and is 91 points ahead of 13th-place, the first position outside the playoffs. Hemric is proving to be an emerging star as the Richard Childress Racing driver has posted a pole, two top fives and five top 10s this season.  This will be Hemric’s series track debut at Kentucky this weekend, but he does have two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at the 1.5-mile facility, posting a best finish of third last season.
 
Cole Custer – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang – is a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender with all the talent in the world, but has been wrestling through a roller-coaster of a season. He currently is seventh in the championship standings, after posting three DNFs in the first seven races, but the youngster has fought through the adversity, and now is 60 points ahead of 13th-place in the standings. Custer has posted two top fives and six top 10s this season. This will be his second career start at Kentucky this weekend, he made his track debut last season – starting eighth but finishing 32nd.
 
Matt Tifft – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry – has stepped into the car (No. 19 Toyota team) that won the title last season as a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and has handled the opportunity quite well. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is eighth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings, 57 points ahead of the playoff’s cutoff (13th). Tifft’s 2017 season has seen four top 10 finishes. Count on Tifft to do well this weekend, he has made two series starts at Kentucky and has finished in the top-10 in both, posting an average finish of 7.5.
 
Rookie Spotlight: JR Motorsports' William Byron Seeking Three in a Row
No Xfinity Series driver is hotter right now than JR Motorsports' Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender William Byron. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native is coming off back-to-back wins at Iowa and Daytona, and now heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Alsco 300 on Friday trying to become the first rookie in series history to win three races in a row and the eighth driver all-time.

If Byron achieves the feat of winning three consecutive NXS races or more he will join Sam Ard (the only driver to win four straight in 1983, three straight in 1984), Kyle Busch (2008, 2013, and won three straight twice in 2016), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1999), Harry Gant (1991), Mark Martin (1997), Ryan Newman (2005) and Larry Pearson (1987).

This weekend will be Byron’s first series start at Kentucky Speedway, but the 19-year-old made one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at the 1.5-mile track last season and won.

Busch Is Back To Win
Since Richard Petty has earned the nickname ‘The King’ it is only fitting then Kyle Busch be called ‘The Prince’ as he is second only to Petty (200) on the NASCAR national series wins list with 173 checkered flags, and this weekend the winningest driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history (87 wins) returns to defend his victory at Kentucky Speedway and add another notch closer to the King’s total.

Busch has 38 Monster Energy wins, 87 XFINITY wins and 48 Camping World Truck wins, totaling a cool 173, just two wins away from 175 NASCAR national series wins.
 
Busch has made nine series starts at Kentucky Speedway posting two wins (2004, 2016), seven top fives and an average finish of 6.8. He won last season’s race from the pole and dominated the event, leading 185 of 201 laps.
 
Busch will not be the only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to compete in the Alsco 300 this weekend. Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick will also be making an attempt at the win this Friday night.

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