NASCAR Xfinity Series Atlanta Rinnai 250 News and Notes

Following the season-opener in Daytona Beach, the NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Hampton, Georgia, to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second stop on the 2019 schedule, the Rinnai 250, this Saturday (2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Rinnai 250
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, February 23
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 251.02 miles (163 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 163)
2018 Winner: Kevin Harvick

Atlanta Motor Speedway has hosted 27 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, with the first being held on March 14, 1992 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon – the win still is the record for youngest winner in the series all-time at Atlanta. In total, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 17 different drivers win the pole and 16 different drivers win the race at Atlanta.

Big names like Kyle Busch, who holds the record for most poles (six), and Kevin Harvick, who holds the record for the most wins (five) at Atlanta Motor Speedway, have set the stage for and Xfinity Series field entered this weekend in which each entry will be looking for their first win on the historic 1.5-mile speedway.

None of the 38 drivers that will make up the field this weekend have visited Victory Lane at Atlanta.

Harvick (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018) and Kyle Busch (2016, 2017) have won the last six Xfinity Series races at Atlanta. The last series championship contender to win at Atlanta was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2012.

This weekend’s race, the Rinnai 250, will consist of 163 laps broken into three stages. The first two stages will be 40 laps each and the final stage will be 83 laps.  Kevin Harvick won this race last season driving the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford Mustang. This weekend, Chase Briscoe will be in No. 98 Ford with crew chief Richard Boswell.

The pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (six: 1992, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2016, and 2017) than any other starting position. The next best starting position is eighth, with five wins (2002, 2006, 2007, 2014 and 2015).

JR Motorsport’s 1-2 finish at Daytona provides big spark for 2019 start

For JR Motorsports, the past two NASCAR Xfinity Series season-openers at Daytona have been like deja vu in that they have netted the same results – 1-2 finishes. Last year Tyler Reddick beat his then-JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler to the finish line in the closest finish in NASCAR history (0.0004 second), and this past weekend, Michael

Annett snapped a 229-race winless streak when his teammate Justin Allgaier pushed him to the win.

JR Motorsports once again looks formidable as the organization is looking for its third consecutive and fourth overall series driver championship. Michael Annett’s win at Daytona guarantees him a spot in the Playoffs, which is big since the Iowa native missed the postseason last year. His teammates all had solid finishes at Daytona last Saturday, as well, with Justin Allgaier in second, Chase Elliott in 10th and Noah Gragson in 11th.

Turning to Atlanta, expect the JR Motorsports stable to contend this weekend in the Rinnai 250. Annett will be looking to become just the fourth driver in series history to win the first two races of the season joining Tony Stewart (2008), Chad Little (1995) and Dale Earnhardt (1986). Annett has made seven series starts at Atlanta posting an average finish of 16.2.

Allgaier has the most starts of the JR Motorsports drivers at Atlanta with eight, and during that time he grabbed one top five and four top 10s. His average finish is a team-best 12.0.

Sunoco Rookie Noah Gragson will be making his series track debut at Atlanta this weekend. Though the Las Vegas native has made two NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts at Atlanta, posting a runner-up finish last season.

Atlanta’s Brandon Jones races to the top of the Xfinity standings

Two solid stage runs, and a third-place finish has Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones on top of the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series standings following the season-opener at Daytona. Jones, an Atlanta native, has the wind in his sails as he heads home to defend his standings lead this weekend in the Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Jones is a mere six points ahead of second-place Ross Chastain and seven points ahead of third-place Michael Annett in the series driver points standings heading to Atlanta this weekend. Jones is coming off a great race in Daytona where finished fifth in the first stage, second in the second stage and third in the final stage, accumulating enough points to take the standings lead for the first time in his career.

Jones wasn’t the only Joe Gibbs Racing star to have a nice start to their season. Christopher Bell finished sixth at Daytona and is currently sixth in championship standings. Also, Jeffrey Earnhardt made his JGR debut in impressive fashion last weekend at Daytona, leading the second-most laps (29) behind race winner Michael Annett (45) and ultimately being shuffled to a 15th-place finish. Earnhardt is currently ninth in the series standings.

Brandon Jones has made three series starts at his home track, Atlanta Motor Speedway, posting an average finish of 14.0. Earnhardt has made two series starts at Atlanta, posting a best finish of 25th in 2014. Bell made his series track debut at Atlanta last season, starting on the pole, leading 12 laps and finishing third.

Ross Chastain raced his way to second in points following Daytona

After a one-race stint with the Kaulig Racing No. 10 team to start the season that has him sitting second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship standings, Ross Chastain returns to JD Motorsport’s No. 4 Chevrolet Camaro team for this weekend’s Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Chastain’s performance in the season-opener at Daytona was just a continuation of his growth in talent on display for everyone to see. The Florida native actually finished 13th in the final stage, but he finished second in the first stage and won the second stage, giving him enough points to catapult ahead of some of the drivers who finished the race ahead of him. Now the Florida watermelon farmer is second in the Xfinity championship standings, the highest he has ever ranked in the series points.

Heading to Atlanta this weekend, Chastain will look to build on his early 2019 success. Chastain has made four series starts at Atlanta, posting his career-best finish of 16th last season.

RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg has strong start to 2019

Starting out the season on the right foot can be imperative with how close the competition is in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. That’s why RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg was so happy following his top-five finish this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Leaving Daytona, Sieg is ranked seventh in the driver championship standings, which could have key championship implications down the road. Sieg has missed the Playoffs the past two seasons after making in the inaugural year in 2016.

Sieg has made five series starts at Atlanta, posting an average finish of 20.6.

GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek comes out of the gate as the top Sunoco Rookie

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Driver Organization Points
John H. Nemechek GMS Racing 37
Justin Haley Kaulig Racing 31
Noah Gragson JR Motorsports 31
Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing w/ Fred Biagi 25
Brandon Brown Brandonbilt Motorsports 19

The 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year class has come out swinging this year and look to be a force to be reckoned with in the run for series title.

GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek grabbed the first rookie of the race award this season as the highest finishing rookie in the season-opener at Daytona with an eighth-place result. Now Nemechek sits atop the 2019 rookie standings by six points ahead of second-place Justin Haley and third-place Noah Gragson as the series heads to Atlanta.

Nemechek made his Xfinity Series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway last season, running up front for most of the day; starting third and finishing fourth.

As for the other four rookies, Chase Briscoe made his series track debut last season at Atlanta with a 15th-place finish. Brandon Brown made his series track debut in 2017, posting a 23rd-place finish. Both Gragson and Haley will be making their series track debuts this weekend in Atlanta.

New winners aplenty in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over last three seasons

One thing that the NASCAR Xfinity Series prides itself on is grooming the next wave of young talent. No stat proves that more than when the series ushers in new winners, and over the last three seasons the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen a dozen first-time winners in the series – including Michael Annett’s big win last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Below is a look at the 12 new winners the series has seen over the last three seasons (2017-2019):

Season First-Time Winner Organization
2019 Michael Annett JR Motorsports
2018 Chase Briscoe Biagi-DenBeste Racing
2018 John H. Nemechek Chip Ganassi Racing
2018 Ross Chastain Chip Ganassi Racing
2018 Spencer Gallagher GMS Racing
2017 Alex Bowman Chip Ganassi Racing
2017 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing
2017 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing
2017 Jeremy Clements Jeremy Clements Racing
2017 Ryan Preece Joe Gibbs Racing
2017 Tyler Reddick Chip Ganassi Racing
2017 William Byron JR Motorsports

Atlanta Motor Speedway has been the home to five first-time winners in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Jeff Gordon (1992), Mike Skinner (1999), Jamie McMurray (2002) and Carl Edwards (2005).

For Gander Outdoors Truck Series News and Notes from Atlanta, click here.

For Monster Energy Cup Series News and Notes from Atlanta, click here.


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