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O'REILLY AUTO PARTS 300 ADVANCE
NATIVE TEXAN BRENNAN POOLE LOOKING TO BE NEXT NASCAR XFINITY SERIES CHAMP FROM THE LONE STAR STATE
FORT WORTH, TEXAS (April 5, 2016) - Last year, the only full-time native Texan in the XFINITY Series – Prosper’s Chris Buescher – went on to capture the series championship in just his second full season in that NASCAR national series.
Now Brennan Poole will carry the Texas flag moving forward in the series as a rookie and is aiming for the same success as Buescher soon.
Poole, a 24-year-old from The Woodlands on the outskirts of Houston, is in the midst of his first full XFINITY Series season with Chip Ganassi Racing as he prepares for Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports 1/95.9 The Ranch Locally/PRN/SiriusXM Channel 90).
Driving the No. 48 DC Solar Chevrolet, Poole arrives at his home-state track 10th in the XFINITY Series standings through five races. He has finished among the top 15 in every start, including a best of 10th at Phoenix, and has qualified 13th or better in four of those starts.
“There was a time when I thought I wasn’t going to get the call that I was hoping to get,” Poole said. “I had some success on the ARCA Series and was still in the sport doing some spotting and trying to get in a car whenever I could, but I knew I could drive on this level.”
Poole actually has enjoyed success on every level he has competed on, beginning with quarter midgets as a youth where he earned 90 wins and a national championship in 2002. He dominated Legends Cars next with 96 wins in two years and then moved to dirt racing, where he won seven times, including the Texas World Dirt Track Championship right here at TMS. He transitioned to the late-model series and won a championship in the United Auto Racing Association Series, along with 10 wins, from 2009-11. He made the move to ARCA and stock cars in 2011 and won his debut race at Salem (Ind.) Speedway. Over three seasons in the series, he won six races and four poles.
The call he was waiting for came before the 2015 season with an offer to drive a half season in the XFINITY Series for the partnership between HScott Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing. It didn’t take him long to jump at the chance.
"I had wanted to get that call my entire career,” Poole said. “You always hope others recognize what you have done coming up through the ranks and hope they think enough of you to give you a chance and that’s what happened.”
Poole ran a limited XFINITY schedule last season, splitting seat time with Sprint Cup regular Kyle Larson in the No. 42 entry. In 17 starts, he finished among the top 15 on 10 occasions with a best result of ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Las Vegas start was his first in the series. While an opportunity to be behind the wheel is what he was looking for, Poole also spent the weeks he wasn't driving helping Chip Ganassi Racing by working as a spotter for Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray.
His dedication paid off in February of this year when Chip Ganassi Racing announced it would field Poole in the No. 48 Chevrolet with sponsorship from DC Solar for the entire season.
"It's emotional, you really can't put it into words," he said when he thinks back to getting that news. "To run for a championship at the NASCAR level is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember.
"I can't put into words what it means to be part of such a great team. There are only so many owners in the garage, and I'm with one of the best. To have someone like that believe in you, it's crazy."
Poole will be making his second XFINITY Series start at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing 13th in last April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. He returns in the No. 48 entry and is hoping to borrow a little thunder from the No. 48 in the Sprint Cup Series.
"Now that I'm in the 48 car, maybe I can get some wins at Texas Motor Speedway like another 48 has been doing," Poole said of Jimmie Johnson, who drives the No. 48 on the Sprint Cup series and has won a TMS-record six times in the series. "After racing on the big track at Texas last year, I have raced on every track they have there, and it would be unbelievable to win a NASCAR series race in my home state.”
Rookie of the Year Chase Starting Strong
Erik Jones leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings through the first five XFINITY Series races, sitting 13 points ahead of Brandon Jones and 27 ahead of Brennan Poole. It should be an interesting battle throughout the season as this young trio all find themselves among the top 10 in the overall driver standings.
Erik Jones, the 19-year-old Michigan native who drives the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota, is seventh in the XFINITY Series championship standings, 30 points behind leader Daniel SuÃ¡rez. He has a pole, three top-five finishes and an average finish of 10.8 in the first five races. He arrives at Texas Motor Speedway as the defending pole sitter and race winner of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Jones, the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, is looking to become the fourth driver to win a truck series title and a NASCAR XFINITY Series crown, joining Greg Biffle, Johnny Benson and Austin Dillon.
Brandon Jones, the 19-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia that drives the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet, is fourth in the XFINITY Series championship standings, 21 behind Suarez. He has posted three top-10 finishes and has an average finish of 10.6 in five starts.
Poole, the 24-year-old Texan for Chip Ganassi Racing, is 10th in the overall standings on the strength of finish among the top 15 in every start with a best finish of 10th.
Series Juggernauts of the 1.5-Mile Tracks
The XFINITY Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway is one of eight 1.5-mile tracks that the series will compete on throughout the season. In the past three seasons, Joey Logano has had the best average finish on 1.5-mile tracks in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (3.4). Among this season’s series championship contenders, the three drivers with the best average finishes on this size track over the past three seasons are Erik Jones (7.0), Ty Dillon (8.6) and Daniel SuÃ¡rez (9.1). Kyle Busch has the most wins on 1.5-mile tracks in the XFINITY Series over the last three seasons with 10, followed by Brad Keselowski with seven, Kevin Harvick with five and Austin Dillon with three. Erik Jones (two) and Brendan Gaughan (one) are the two active series title contenders who have won on 1.5-mile tracks in the past three seasons.
TEXAS TECH GRAD GUIDING POINTS-LEADING TEAM
Scott Graves, the crew chief of XFINITY Series points leader Daniel SuÃ¡rez and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, may hail from upstate New York, but he has Texas connections.
Graves, a native of Clifton Springs, New York, is a 1994 graduate of Texas Tech, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He also teamed last season with native Texan Chris Buescher, who grew up in Prosper, and won the XFINITY Series title with Roush Fenway Racing. He has not missed a beat transitioning to JGR and Suarez as the sit atop the series standings and they have not finished worse than eighth through the first five races.
JOE GIBBS RACING TEAM TO BEAT IN EARLY GOING
Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the XFINITY Series in the early stages of this season, in large part to defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch who has won three of the first five races and led 85% of all laps run. With Busch ineligible for the series championship as a Sprint Cup regular, JGR teammate Daniel Suarez leads the standings while rookie Erik Jones is seventh.
"We have a lot of good people putting in a lot of hard work to get to the point we are at," Jones said. "To be as fast as we are is a great feeling, but at the same time a little frustrating as we are racing our teammates. We all have pretty much the same stuff, and when you get outrun by a teammate, it's never fun knowing it was probably you holding the car back. We are going to do the best we can. We have been close to Kyle and right there with Daniel and hopefully we can break through at Texas this week."
The duo will have to contend with Busch once again this weekend as he is entered in Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. He is the all-time XFINITY Series victory leader at Texas Motor Speedway with seven while Jones is the defending pole sitter and race winner of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
STRONG START FOR SUAREZ
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez is off to a strong start this season, leading the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship standings by 10 points over Elliott Sadler after the first five races. He sits atop the standings on the strength of top-10 finishes in every start thus far, including three among the top five.
How strong is that start? Consider Suarez's start in the first five races is better than those of the last five series title winners. The chart below compares Suarez to the previous five champions in their respective championship-winning seasons through the first five races of the season.
Driver Average Finish Driver Rating Season
Daniel Suarez 4.8 112.8 2016
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 6.2 114.7 2012
Chris Buescher 7.8 100.5 2015
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 8.2 108.0 2011
Chase Elliott 8.8 99.5 2014
Austin Dillon 9.8 95.2 2013
Cup Feel in XFINITY Race
There will be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series flavor in Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway with Dale Earnhardt Jr., defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola all scheduled to be in the field.
NASCAR announced earlier this year that the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series will have a similar Chase format that has become popular in the Sprint Cup Series.
The final seven races of the season, including the series second stop at Texas Motor Speedway in November, will decide the champion from the 12 drivers that will qualify over the season.
“The Chase format is going to add a little bit of stress in my life,” XFINITY Series driver Ryan Reed said. “We have seen what it has done on the Cup side with all the drama and excitement and I think it will do the same thing on the XFINITY Series. It should provide a tight championship battle and go to those last three races, including the one at Texas.”