On Saturday afternoon, The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns for its first of 33 rounds for the series, and it is shaping up to be one of the best seasons for that series in recent memory.
The season opening race at Daytona International Speedway has shown to be either a wreckfest which we saw in 2015, or a close finish, which we saw last season between Chase Elliott and Joey Logano. Currently, 46 drivers will compete for 40 spots for Saturday Afternoon’s PowerShares QQQ 300 from the Daytona.
Ryan Reed is the sole former race winner to be entered in Saturday’s race while last years winner Chase Elliott isn’t entered. Former winners include Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr., Randy LaJoie, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, James Buescher, Regan Smith along with some others. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Tony Stewart are tied with most victories in this race both with seven wins.
2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion Daniel Suarez will race in the PowerShares QQQ 300 before making his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut on Sunday in the 59th Annual Daytona 500. Suarez got the call to move up to the MENCS after Carl Edwards announced his retirement earlier in the off-season. Suarez will use the Xfinity Series race on Saturday as a chance for some extra track time, and he will ultimately chase after his fourth victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Suarez isn’t all that Gibbs is bringing with him to Daytona. His teammate from the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Erik Jones, will pilot the No. 20 HISENSE Toyota Camry to gain experience at Daytona before he heads to Cup full-time this season. Also joining Suarez and Jones on Saturday will be Matt Tifft, who will be running full-time in the No. 19. Tifft was supposed to run a partial schedule in 2016 but a brain tumor set him aside for a for motnhs before he returned to racing in the summer months. He will partner with Tunity, who sponsored JGR numerous times last season.
The biggest competition JGR faced in 2016 was JR Motorsports, a team who has added some new bullets for this season in the form of 2016 NCWTS Rookie of the Year William Byron and Des Moines, Iowa native Michael Annett. Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier both return to the team this year. Both drivers made the Final Four in last season’s playoffs. JR Motorsports visited victory lane last season at Daytona with Chase Elliott, but piloting the No. 88 this weekend will be Kasey Kahne, who won at Daytona in the July race in 2014.
Richard Childress Racing returns to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a new face in the crowd. Daniel Hemric joins the party for 2017 piloting the No. 21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet. He makes the transition from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and will certainly be a driver to keep an eye on this season. Former Xfinity Series champion Austin Dillon will also be in the field, piloting the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for the team. Returning to Richard Childress Racing from last season will be Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan who will both be competing for the Xfinity Series Championship. Ty Dillon will also run a partial schedule as he moves up into the MENCS for Germain Racing. Dillon will pilot the No. 3 car for an unknown amount of races this season.
A wide arsenal of drivers are moving up from the NCWTS including William Byron, Cole Custer, Spencer Gallagher, Tyler Reddick, and Daniel Hemric. Each of these drivers have proven their worth in the Truck Series, and will now have the opportunity to shine bright as they compete for Rookie of the Year honors.
Fans looking for an underdog to cheer for should look no further than Blake Koch to run well this weekend at Daytona. The driver of the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro was successful in Kaulig Racing’s freshman season, and the sophomore should be no different.
With a race like Daytona, there is always a chance for a first-time or surprise winner, so there could well be some surprises throughout Saturday afternoon’s event.