Bowman Edges Jones for Pole
Alex Bowman edges Erik Jones to win the pole at Michigan by one hundredth of a second. JR Motorsports takes three of the top five. This is Bowman’s third career pole, and his first pole at Michigan. Bowman edges Jones with a speed of 191.59 mph, Jones qualified second with a speed of 191.535 mph, followed by Elliott Sadler (191.342 mph), Justin Allgaier (191.210 mph), and Kyle Busch (190.779 mph).
At Michigan, Joe Gibbs Racing was going for their 11th Xfinity Series pole. At the start of the qualifying session, the air temperature at Michigan was 80 degrees and was warming rather quickly. Two rounds of single car qualifying took place for the Menards 250.
In the first round of qualifying, teams were battling a hot and slick racetrack. Alex Bowman was fastest in this round with a speed of 191.821 mph. followed by Erik Jones (191.286 mph), Elliott Sadler (191.047 mph), Kyle Busch (190.668 mph), and Blake Koch (190.653). Wind played a major factor towards the end of the qualifying session. All three Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports cars advanced to the second round. Wind played a major factor towards the end of this round. Notables drivers not advancing include Darrell Wallace Jr. (17), Brendan Gaughan (14), Ty Dillon(13). All drivers will race this afternoon.
In the second round of qualifying, track temperature was at 121 degrees with the air temperature being 84 degrees. Round two was stopped for a moment by debris, a trash bag. The top 12 teams were separated by less than a half a second.
Xfinity teams will have their cars impounded before the start of today’s race. The Menards 250 will be on Fox Sports 1 starting at 1 p.m with Raceday.
Close but Not Close Enough for Daniel Suarez
Prior to the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series season, consistency won race teams championships. This season it's abut balancing winning and a good finish, knowing when it's time to turn up the volume.
Second year XFINITY Series driver Daniel Suarez is currently in the midst of attempting to drive his way into Victory Lane. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team has found consistency and how to be fast. Over the last month the train of JGR cars has been nearly a half-second faster than the field, sweeping the first three positions in qualifying multiple times.
The Mexico native is thankful for the opportunity, but knows that consistency is the key to winning. Competing in the top 5, the team is looking to make the jump into Victory Lane.
Through 12 races, Suarez has recorded four top-5 finishes and racked up nine top 10s, while leading eight laps. The No. 19 car sat on the pole at Auto Club Speedway in March, and has started in the top 10 for each race this season.
While driving for JGR, Suarez compares his notes with 2009 XFINITY Series champion Kyle Busch and rookie teammate Erik Jones.
But Suarez knows that he can’t compare himself to them yet.
“We’re going to be there,” Suarez told Speedway Digest. “It’s just a matter of time. They have Kyle, who has a lot more racing experience than me, and Erik has more experience at the national level than me. We are going to be there for sure.”
The 24-year-old came into Pocono as the point’s leader by 14 markers over JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler. The No. 1 car has a victory, as opposed to Suarez, locking Sadler into the Chase. But Suarez believes if the team keeps running up front, that it’s not a matter if the team will win, rather when it will win.
“I think being patient,” Suarez said on how he can win. “I think putting some good races together has been our strength. I think we will win, but just have to be patient and stop worrying about wining because that is not helping us right now. We need to continue what we are doing and go from there.”
Joe Gibbs Racing has three full-time XFINITY Series cars, with two full-time drivers. Jones has two victories in 2016, but has seven top-10 finishes. The new Chase formant to the series revolves around winning and consistency, which the team feels they have.
Jones and Sadler are the two XFINITY Series regulars to enter Victory Lane in 2016. Suarez has a best result of second at Las Vegas, where he finished just behind Busch, who was in the midst of winning three straight races in the series.
According to several drivers, JGR is the team one must go through in order to win a race this season. The competition between the teammates is extremely high because they want to outdo the other one and cross the checkered flag first.
“I think the series is getting better, but Joe Gibbs Racing is on top and I know that my teammates have a lot of competition and the biggest competition is in house,” he said. “It’s a good company and a good organization. I’m excited to be a part of this organization and hopefully we can put something together to get a victory.”
The only races that Suarez has finished outside of the top 10 in 2016 was a 12th-place effort at Texas and at Charlotte, he got caught up in a wreck on Lap 25 when he slid into some oil that was laying on the racetrack. He came back to finish 14th at the 1.5-mile racetrack.
While completing all but one lap through the first 12 events, Suarez is consistently consistent. In order to take that next step, he feels he needs to get even more out of their racecars.
“I think everything is about being smart and knowing what we can get out of our racecar during the race,” Suarez elaborated. “When you have a third-place car, finish third. If you have a racecar that can finish third, then you’ll have a racecar that can finish second and then first.”
Last season, Suarez had 18 top-10 finishes in the 33-race schedule, with a best finish of second at Bristol in the spring, but led 54 laps. In his rookie campaign, he was also working with Eric Phillips. This year he is working with Scott Graves.
Graves is in the midst of his first year with the JGR organization. The veteran crew chief has spent the last four years as a crew chief for Roush Fenway Racing, including a championship with Chris Buescher last year. He has four wins on his resume in 80 career races as a crew chief in the XFINITY Series.
Since the crew chief swap, Suarez’ average starting position and average finishing position has both increased by over four positions. His confidence is at an all-time high, and Graves is accustomed to being in the points lead as he held that position with Buescher for 26 races in 2015.
If the Latin American driver does get a victory in the XFINTIY Series, he will become the first Hispanic driver to win a race in the series since 2007, when Juan Pablo Montoya was triumphant at Mexico City.
“I’m very lucky to be a Latin American driver and I feel proud to represent a lot of people up here in the United States,” Suarez said. “That would be really cool to do it this year and we are going to work hard to get there.”
It has been a quick rise for the Latino driver. Suarez competed in the NASCAR Mexico Series for four full-time seasons between 2011 and 2014. In those years he had a best championship result of second in 2013. Despite winning five races the following season, he finished sixth in the standings.
Suarez has raced 19 events in the Camping World Truck Series with eight top-five finishes with four second-place efforts.
Kyle Larson Outlasts the Rain in Pocono
In what was supposed to be the rain free day of the weekend, rain halted the racing 53 laps into the 100 laps race and by the NASCAR rule book, once the race is passed halfway it is deemed official if weather comes. Pole-sitter Erik Jones was closing in on Larson when the rain hit the race track.
NASCAR waited an hour and 35 minutes before calling the event due to rain. Once the track was near dry it began to pour, which led the series director to call the remainder of the race.
Larson led on several different occasions for a total of 27 circuits. It marks the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers' fourth career win in 82 XFINITY Series starts, and his second career win at Pocono, winning an ARCA event two years ago.
"I'm happy with it," Larson said of the rain coming in and ending the race. "We were good, a little bit better than i thought we would be. We were more comparable to the Gibbs cars than I thought we would be based off practice and qualifying."
Jones finished second on the afternoon after starting from pole, but never leading a lap. For the majority of the 53 laps the No. 20 car was in the runner-up position, first chasing his teammate Kyle Busch then chasing Larson. He felt like this race was another race that she let slip away.
"We had by far one of the best cars in the field today, so it's unfortunate," Jones said of his second-place effort. "Our Camry was good, but just not enough time t get back to the lead and have a shot at it. It's pretty frustrating because this whole year has been a season of just missing it by that much. We missed it in a couple races by penalties and circumstances and today was another one of those days where we had another good shot at the win, but with the way it played out it just didn't work out for us."
Ty Dillon finished third, posting his fourth top-five finish of 2016.
After leading the opening 16 laps, Busch couldn't get back through traffic to take the lead back after making a pit stop under the first caution flag. Finishing fourth on the afternoon, he felt that the team was a step behind.
Joey Logano rounded out the top five after getting off-sequence with the competition.
Elliott Sadler, Paul Menard, Brandon Jones, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.
Brennan Poole finished 12th, ending a streak of four consecutive top 10 finishes, which is a career-high in his rookie season.
On Lap 20, Justin Allgaier made contact with the wall in the "Tunnel Turn" which resulted in a 39th-place finish. The No. 7 team dropped to seventh in the points after starting the race third in the standings.
The series is set to return to action next Saturday at Michigan, where Busch is the defending winner of the event, which was his first race back in the XFINITY Series after his leg injuries last February in Daytona. .
Joe Gibbs Racing Faster than the Field in Pocono
For the fifth time in 2016, Erik Jones will start from the pole in an XFINITY Series race. In the second round of qualifying he laid down a lap of 175.926 mph, which was much faster than the rest of the field. In the first round of qualifying the No. 20 Toyota was over a half-second faster than second-place.
Kyle Busch has been fast since the No. 18 team unloaded on Thursday. He was second overall at 175. 203 mph. His only win at Pocono in NASCAR came last summer when he won in the Camping World Truck Series.
The third Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Daniel Suarez was third quick at 174.784 mph. It his 12th top-10 start of 2016, in 12 events.
Kyle Larson was fourth at 173.568 and Joey Logano rounded out the top five at 172.781 mph.
Elliott Sadler was sixth, Paul Menard seventh, Ty Dillon eighth, Justin Allgaier ninth and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.
The top 12 cars in the second round of qualifying were separated by two seconds.
Notable drivers to miss the top 12 cutoff were a pair of rookies led by Brennan Poole who posted the 13th best lap, with Brandon Jones 14th, Cup Series driver Aric Almirola 16th and Brendan Gaughan 17th.
Darrell Wallace, Jr. was the second to last car to attempt a qualifying lap in the opening round. The No. 6 Ford got loose getting into the corner and went for a long spin, keeping it off the wall. In doing so, Bowman was on track for his warm up lap and had to pull his car into the pits to cool the engine down.
Bowman posted the eight fastest lap even with a hot engine, while Wallace will have to come from the rear as he never made a full lap.
The green flag is set to wave shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET.
Denny Hamlin Comes Back to Win at Charlotte
With less than 40 laps to go Hamlin had to go to the rear for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop under caution.
It took the No. 18 car just over 30 laps to get up to third after restarting 14th.
Then a caution flew with under two laps to go and changed the entire outcome of the 300-mile race.
Hamlin's JGR teammate and pole-sitter Erik Jones brought out a caution when he cut down a right front tire, pounding the outside wall. The No. 18 team decided to come down and put four tires on their machine, while the two race leaders stayed out.
On the green-white-checkered finish, Hamlin grabbed the lead coming to the white flag where he wouldn't look back en route to JGR's seventh win of the season in the series.
"It was a second opportunity," Hamlin said of his victory. "I was hoping for that caution there and the end and we got it. We were able to get four tires and took off. It was a little closer than I thought, we were just really right in those last couple of laps."
Austin Dillon was the first off pit road taking just two tires after the final caution. He gained one position in the final two laps, finishing in the runner-up position.
After leading 58 laps and being one of two drivers to stay out under the late race caution, Joey Logano came home third. This is his second top-five finish in five races this season in the No. 22 car, which is still looking for its first victory as a team.
"We had a car that was capable of winning if circumstances were right," Logano said of his third-place effort. "I thought I was going to have a good restart next to [Kyle] and I thought if we cleared him, like we did, we would have a shot. It was just really hard to hold off those four tires."
In his second career start Cole Custer came home with a fourth-place finish. His JR Motorsports teammate, Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.
Kyle Larson made a bold move in Turn 3 of the final lap going for the win, but came up short and hit the outside wall. It cost him dearly as he finished sixth after leading 46 laps.
Larson was the leader of the race when the final caution flag flew and the No. 42 team decided to stay out. Going into the final set of corners he had a shot at the victory, but came up short of his third career XFINITY Series triumph.
"I didn't get a great take-off and Joey [Logano] got around me and was sucking on my door," Larson said of the final restart. "Denny [Hamlin] gave me a shot and i was surprised at how much grip I had. It's pretty hard to beat four tires."
Rookie Brandon Jones finish seventh, with RCR teammate Ty Dillon eighth, Brennan Poole ninth and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 10.
There were eight cautions in the race for 54 laps. In the two races combined at Charlotte in 2015, there were just six cautions total in 600 miles of competition.
On Lap 25, a caution flew and took out three of the first six drivers in the running order after they slid through some oil on the track in Turn 3.
It started when pole-sitter, Jones was making a move on race leader Hamlin, but slid in the oil and made contact with the wall. From there his JGR teammate, Daniel Suarez slid and had his car saved until coming back up the track into the wall where he was met by Elliott Sadler. All three drivers went at least one lap down
Suarez rebounded to finish 12th, while Sadler came home 28th and Jones 31st.
Next weekend, the XFINITY Series will tackle Pocono Raceway for the first time in series history.