The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Chip Ganassi Racing was one of the better seasons for the team. The team fielded two full time rides with Brennan Poole in the no. 48 with Justin Marks and Kyle Larson sharing the ride in the No. 42 Chevy.
For Poole, the 2016 season started off on the wrong foot at Daytona with a 27th place finish. Poole was able to rebound with a 14th place finish in Atlanta to go on a run of 13 top-20 finishes including a near victory at Talladega after a last lap crash in the tri-oval where he was the leader at the line, but was not the leader at the point of the caution flag waving. His streak of top-20 finishes ended with a crash at Daytona. Despite the poor finishes at Daytona in 2016, Poole remained consistent throughout the season. He rattled off five top-10 finishes throughout the next seven races. Despite a dismal 28th place finish at Bristol in August, Poole gained a Chase berth and four top-10 finishes. When the Chase began at Kentucky, Poole scored a top-10, but a 15th and an 18th place finish at Dover and Charlotte knocked him out of contention for championship after the first round. Despite being knocked out of contention in the opening round of the Chase, Poole scored two more top-10 finishes. The 2016 season ended for Poole with a 27th place finish at Homestead-Miami. Despite not contending for a championship, he finished eighth in the points.
In his first full-time season in Xfinity competition, Poole was able to complete 5538 of 5579 laps in the season with 11 laps led. He scored four top-fives, 17 top-10’s, had an average start of 13.1, an average finish of 12.4, and only one DNF on the season.
With the No. 42, Larson drove the car 16 times in 2016, where he saw the most success of any driver in that car. Larson kicked off the 2016 season where he scored a 34th and second place finish at Daytona and Atlanta. After a three week hiatus, Larson jumped back into the car for Texas and Bristol in which he scored an 11th and third place finish respectively. He returned to the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway in which he finished in the sixth position. A week later, Larson went to victory lane in the inaugural Xfinity race at Pocono. Despite the event being shortened due to weather, this was the first victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016 Xfinity competition. When Larson returned to the no. 42 team for Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, Bristol, Darlington, Chicago, Charlotte, and Kansas, Larson scored top-five finishes in each event. When the series returned to Texas Motor Speedway, Larson scored the victory after starting in the fifth position. Larson closed out the 2016 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he started and finished seventh.
In his 16 starts, Larson competed in 2683 of the 2692 laps in the season while leading 651 laps. He has 11 top-five’s, 14 top-10’s, an average start of 5.8, an average finish of 6.1, and zero DNF’s.
While Larson was in the 42 car for 17 races in 2016, Marks was in the ride for 17 races. Despite the success Larson had in the car, Marks struggled. He started the season in Las Vegas where he crashed ending up in a 34th place. Marks was in the car for Phoenix, Richmond, and Talladega, where he finished within the top-15 in each of the events. At Dover, Marks was involved in an accident that resulted in a 40th place finish. He returned to competition at Michigan and was in the car for five consecutive weeks where his best finish was 12th at Kentucky and his worst finish was 37th at Daytona. At Loudon and Iowa, Marks scored top-20 finishes. His first and only win of the 2016 season came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where Marks won in a rain plagued event. After his win, Marks struggled at Road America and Richmond where he had finishes outside of the top-20. In his remaining three races of the season, he had 15th place finishes at Kentucky and Phoenix, but a 31st place finish at Dover.
In his 17 starts, Marks competed in 2537 of 2887 laps while leading 43 laps. He had one top-five, one top-10, an average start of 17.6, an average finish of 20.9, and four DNF’s in 2016.
The 2016 season was a step in the right direction for Chip Ganassi’s Xfinity Series program. 2017 will be a stronger year for the team. With the return of Poole in the 48 and the new duo of Larson and Tyler Reddick in the 42, CGR will be a force to be reckoned with. It will be interesting to see if Poole will be able to make a second appearance in the Chase. Since names are made in the Xfinity Series, it will also be interesting to see what name Reddick will make for himself and how Poole will add on to his legacy within the series. For Marks, the verdict is still out on where we will end up, if anywhere, in Xfinity competition.
In an emotional victory for Chip Ganassi Racing as they remember Bryan Clauson, Justin Marks wins at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after battling heavy rain, dry conditions, and Sam Hornish Jr. This is Mark’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series win in 25 starts. Hornish finished second with Ryan Blaney in third, Ty Dillon in fourth, and Justin Allgaier in fifth.
“My specialty is road racing. I don’t get much opportunity to do it. When the opportunity presents itself, I really have to take advantage of it. I knew if we raced in the rain that we would have a shot at winning it. I’m just really happy,” said an emotional Marks in a post-race victory lane interview.
“it’s just great for the team. We’ve got Justin and Kyle winning both in the 42 car. It’s just a great day for Chip Ganassi Racing,” said Mike Shiplett, crew chief on the no. 42.
The Mid-Ohio Challenge experienced eight cautions for a total of 32 laps. One caution flew for weather. Five cautions flew for cars going off the racing surface. There was only one debris caution. The caution flew once for a major accident that collected five cars.
There were 13 lead changes among eight different drivers. Marks led the most laps at 43 for a total of three times. Hornish Jr. led a total of three times for eight laps. Ty Dillon led a total of two times for five laps. Owen Kelly also led two times during the race for two laps. Darrel Wallace Jr. led once for seven laps. Blaney also led once for a total of six laps. Brendan Gaughan led once for three laps. Ross Chastain also led once for one lap.
The average speed of the race was 53.437 mph. The time of race was 3 hours, 10 minutes, 09 seconds. The margin of victory for Marks was 3.707 seconds.
Elliott Sadler continues to hold onto the point lead heading into next weeks event at Bristol Motor Speedway by 25 over Daniel Suarez. Dillon is in third 33 points behind, Erik Jones is fourth 52 points behind, and Justin Allgaier is 54 points behind.
The next race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be Friday, August 19 for the Food City 300. USA Network will be host to the race beginning at 7:30 pm eastern. Performance Racing Network will have radio coverage from Bristol at 7 pm.