NASCAR Xfinity Series at Charlotte Preview: Seven things to know

Image courtesy of @FordPerformance.

The Xfinity Series departs from the cornfields of Iowa for the big city life of Charlotte on Saturday. Less than a week after his first win of the season, Chris Buescher will be looking to conquer the Xfinity field along with multiple Sprint Cup regulars in the field.

Saturday’s Hisense 300 will serve as a warmup for the Coca-Cola 600 as drivers like Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Blaney will all be running 900 miles this weekend. In anticipation of the first half of that marathon, here’s a look at everything NASCAR fans need to know for the Xfinity event.

 

1. Watch/Hear/Stream

When: Saturday, May 23, 2015, 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway

TV: Fox Sports 1

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Radio: Performance Racing Network

2. Buschwackers Return

Much to the chagrin of Xfinity Series fans, premier series drivers will be back on the entry list at Charlotte. Buescher was able to pull out the second win of the year for a full-time Xfinity driver in Iowa, but that success might be short lived.

All-Star race winner Denny Hamlin is in the field. 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick is on the entry list. With myriad other drivers from the top level looking for a tuneup, fans will likely witness another predictable name at the top of the leaderboard.

3. Dash 4 Cash Begins

It’s not quite the Winston Million from the old days in the Winston Cup, but the Dash 4 Cash is a great opportunity for young drivers. The Hisense 300 is the first qualifier for the illustrious competition and would give the top four Xfinity drivers a chance to win $100,000 at Dover the following weekend.

No driver will be cashing a check on Saturday night, but finishing in the top four—limited to full-time Xfinity drivers only—throws their hat into the mix. The top driver at Dover will remain in the running while only the top four from that track will have a chance again in Indianapolis later this season.

If any given driver is able to finish at the top for Xfinity drivers in all three rounds at Dover, Indy and Bristol, they’ll be eligible for the top prize at Darlington. That pays out an additional $600,000. With a sum like that on the line, expect some intense battles on the track—starting in Charlotte.

4. Full-Time Ride at Home Town Track

Image courtesy of Harrison Rhodes.

Image courtesy of Harrison Rhodes.

Harrison Rhodes has endured a long trek to get to this point in his career. A full-time student at N.C. State and full-time driver with J.D. Motorsports, Rhodes finally gets to return to his home track in Charlotte without questions of who will give him a ride.

“I would go to the track when the Xfinity Series was here in Charlotte and I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” Rhodes said. “You kind of hope that you’ll get to that level, but you never envision yourself actually getting to that point because of how hard it is.

“To be at this level, on this stage, is just a surreal feeling. … We’ll get the same amount of points, but it’s so much more with the family, friends and sponsors that I’ll have at the track.”

Rhodes’ entire story can be found in a full feature article about his path as the only full-time college student that also drives a full-time NASCAR schedule. Having his family and friends in attendance for the 300-mile race, Rhodes will look to notch his first top-20 finish with his JDM team.

5. Blaney’s Last Hoorah?

This won’t be Ryan Blaney’s last Xfinty race, but it might be his last season where he has to worry about racing in the series. After a sensational finish in Talladega, Blaney is raising eyebrows and making a name for himself at the highest level of competition.

Now, Roger Penske wants him to run a full-time season at the Sprint Cup level in 2016 with the Wood Brothers. If that happens, Blaney would have a chance to compete with Chase Elliott for Rookie of the Year next season.

Already securing two top-five finishes this season in just two races at the Xfinity level, the 21-year-old driver has a chance to repeat that success in Charlotte. He has 900 miles to go over the weekend, so look for another opportunity to prove why he belongs at the Sprint Cup level.

6. Favorite

Image courtesy of @FormulaOneWorld.

Image courtesy of @FormulaOneWorld.

Kevin Harvick has been driving at a blistering pace on intermediate tracks this season at the Cup level. With two Sprint Cup wins on the 1.5-mile courses already this season and has two checkered flags at the Xfinity level in just five races.

If—and when—Harvick gets up to the front in the clean air, the JR Motorsports driver can’t be caught. While his JRM teammates in Elliott and Regan Smith aren’t consistent at CMS, Harvick’s No. 88 machine will nail down another trip to Victory Lane for the thriving team.

7. Underdog

After a disappointing start to the season, Brian Scott has quickly turned things around over the seven races. During that stretch, Scott has all top-10 finishes at a variety of different tracks. Whether it’s a superspeedway like Talladega or a short track like Bristol, the Richard Childress Racing driver has thrived.

Don’t look for him to slow down anytime soon. Last season at Charlotte, Scott tallied two top 10s with a fifth-place finish in the May race. Taking into account his momentum and recent success at CMS, he’ll finish at the top of the RCR stable again.

 

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