XFINITY Race Preview: Atlanta

RyanReed

Ryan Reed looks to go two-for-two in 2017 in Saturday's Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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NASCAR XFINITY Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Saturday's Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Radio: PRN, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 251.02 miles (163 laps)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 163)

Races: 25
Pole Winners: 16
Youngest Pole Winner: Chase Elliott (8/30/2014 - 18 years, 8 months, 2 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Dick Trickle (11/07/1998 - 57 years, 0 months, 11 days)
Race Winners: 16
Youngest Race Winner: Jeff Gordon (3/14/1992 - 20 years, 7 months, 10 days)
Oldest Race Winner: Harry Gant (3/12/1994 - 54 years, 2 months, 2 days)
Races Won from Pole: 5
Last Race Won from Pole: Kyle Busch (2/27/2016)
Race Record: Kevin Harvick - 149.813 mph (2/28/2015)
Qualifying Record: Greg Biffle - 192.300 mph (10/25/2003)

  Last Race Most/Largest Fewest/Smallest
Cars: 40 43 - 18 Times 40 - 4 Times
Lead Changes: 5 21 - Twice 1 (8/30/2014)
Leaders: 4 11 (3/8/2008) 2 (8/30/2014)
Cautions: 5 10 (11/13/1993) 2 - Twice
Caution Laps: 21 52 (11/13/1993) 10 (3/8/1997)
Lead Lap Finish: 11 24 (3/19/2005) 4 - Twice
Running at the Finish: 32 38 (3/8/1997) 23 - Twice
Laps Led (Winner): 119 165 (3/11/2000) 1 (10/26/2002)
Margin of Victory*: 0.466 14.147 (3/11/2000) 0.119 (10/30/2004)

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

Ryan Reed’s Daytona Win Has A Season Worth Of Perks
Winning the season opener has its perks, and this season’s Daytona International Speedway victor, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed, is well aware of the prestige and spoils that come with it. 

For starters, winning all but guarantees Reed a spot in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs. Now all he has to do is qualify for the remaining regular season events and stay inside the top 30 in points.

In addition to the win, Reed captured five playoff points which he can use to his advantage come reseeding time during the playoffs.

“Having a race team that believes in you is half the battle,” said series points leader Ryan Reed. “If you show up to the race track and you have your guys already questioning you, you’re already beat. And I don’t have that.”

Reed’s Daytona prowess has been one of the series-best over the last few seasons. This past Saturday, Reed posted an average running position of 7.8, a driver rating of 108.2 and spent 83.1% of his laps completed inside the top 15.

Reed holds the standings lead with a nine-point edge over second-place Brendan Gaughan. By winning the race Reed scored 40 points, but he also finished fourth in Stage 2; where he banked seven more points to bring his total to a series-leading 47 points after Daytona.

Heading to Atlanta this weekend, Reed will look to hold on to his points lead. The Bakersfield, California, native has made three starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, posting a best finish of 15th last season.  Reed will be looking to become the first driver to win the first two races of the NASCAR XFINITY Series season since Tony Stewart did it in 2008 (Daytona, Auto Club Speedway).

Veterans Gaughan, Sadler Start 2017 Strong
Seasoned drivers, Brendan Gaughan and Elliott Sadler, have kicked off the 2017 season right where they left off in 2016 - the top 12 in points.

Following a wild race in Daytona, Gaughan is now second in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings, nine points behind Ryan Reed in the standings lead.  Richard Childress Racing’s Brendan Gaughan led 16 laps last weekend at Daytona en route to a fifth-place finish yielding 32 points. But Gaughan also capitalized on the first two Stages; finishing ninth in Stage 1 (two more points) and seventh in Stage 2 (four more points) bringing his total to 38.

Gaughan rolls into Atlanta this weekend having made five starts on the 1.5-mile speedway posting an average finish of 17.2.  He posted a series career-best finish (12th) at Atlanta in 2015.

Last season’s championship runner-up, Elliott Sadler burst into 2017 looking a strong as ever, as he currently sits third in the series standings, 14 points back from the standings leader.

Touted as one of the best restrictor-plate racers in the series, Sadler dominated most of the season-opening race at Daytona by leading 40 laps and winning the first two Stages before being caught in an accident relegating him to a 24th-place finish. Sadler’s finish in the Final Stage garnered him 13 points, but by winning the first two Stages he also gathered an additional 20 points (10 points from each Stage win) to bring his total to 33.

Plus, Sadler’s Stage wins rewarded him with two playoff points (one for each Stage win), which will be to his advantage come time for reseeding in the playoffs. 

Expect Sadler to keep his early season momentum going at Atlanta, where he has made 11 series starts posting one top five and six top 10s.  
 
Sunoco Rookie Recap: Byron Heads To Atlanta On Top
With such a high level of talent within the five Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders in the 2017 class, is shouldn’t be a surprise if they rocket to stardom.

Sunoco Rookie Standings Following Daytona: William Byron (13), Matt Tifft (10), Daniel Hemric (9), Spencer Gallagher (8) and Cole Custer (7).

JR Motorsports William Byron won the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award at Daytona this past weekend and opens the season with the lead in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Byron started the race 17th and battled his way up to a ninth-place finish. 

Byron is also ranked 10th in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver points, 19 points behind Ryan Reed in the standings lead.
This weekend will be Byron’s NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut at Atlanta.

JR Motorsports is hoping Byron can bring the organization its second Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the last four seasons (Chase Elliott, 2014).

Busch Is Back To Defend His Atlanta Win
Nobody wins more than Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

He owns the series record for wins with 86 victories in 328 starts (26.2%) – 10 of which came last season. But it wasn’t until his 2016 win from the pole that he had been to Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane.

Busch has won at 24 different tracks in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (three are no longer active in the series – Mexico City, Lucas Oil Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park). With his win at Atlanta this past season, he now only has four active tracks on the schedule he has never won at: Mid-Ohio, Road America, Watkins Glen and Pocono.

Having foregone the season opener at Daytona this season, Kyle Busch returns to the series this weekend looking to defend his lone Atlanta win in the Rinnai 250 (on FS1 at 1:30 p.m. ET).

Busch had made 12 starts at Atlanta, posting one win (2016), eight top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 11.0.
NASCAR XFINITY Series etc.

Georgia Natives Come Home – Three drivers competing this weekend have their home state recorded as Georgia – Richard Childress Racing’s Brandon Jones (Atlanta), JD Motorsports’ Garrett Smithley (Peachtree City) and RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg (Tucker). …

Doubling The Duty – Several Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be competing this weekend in the Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway – Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie, Kevin Harvick, Timmy Hill, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola. … Only two former NXS Atlanta winners are entered this weekend – Kevin Harvick (series leader in wins with four) and Kyle Busch (last season’s winner).

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