Friday night lights takes on a completely different meaning in Richmond April 24 when an all-day Xfinity Series session resumes at the Virginia track.
Let’s look at seven things to know heading into Friday’s race:
When: Friday April 24, 2015, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Richmond International Speedway, Richmond, VA
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Motor Racing Network
2. Erik Jones’ Wild Ride
At the start of the season, Erik Jones was just happy to be racing full-time in the Camping World Trucks Series. Now he’s all of a sudden Wally Pipp’d Denny Hamlin and driven at all three NASCAR levels, finding himself in the winner’s circle on the Xfinity circuit.
Hamlin will be returning on Saturday after neck spasms, sending Jones back to the Xfinity level. The new-found fame won’t go to his head however.
“If I ever make it to Cup and at some point everybody knows my name and wants an autograph, I don’t want to forget how much I wanted people to say, ‘Hey Erik, will you sign this?’” Jones said, via Jeff Gluck of USA Today. “People don’t always remember how important the fans are. At one time, I was that fan. And I’d hate when I’d go to a driver and he’d act like he wasn’t going to give me the time of day. That was just the worst thing in the world for me. So I definitely don’t want to forget that.”
3. Buschwackers Rule the Roost
Since Ryan Reed won at Daytona, no full-time Xfinity driver has captured the checkered flag. Either it’s been full-bore NASCAR guys winning or the real exception in a guy like Jones.
The best bet from the full-time Xfinity guys are Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher. While the trio makes up the top three in the points standings, they still have aspirations of that first win.
4. Chasing Chase
Chase Elliott’s still searching for an elusive first victory this season, but he’s slowly working his way up in the standings. Richmond is a track he favors, just like the man he’ll be replacing in 2016.
J. Gordon finished 2nd in both NSCS races at Richmond last year. C. Elliott earned 2nd in both Richmond XFINITY Series races. Coincidence?
— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) April 22, 2015
Yes. That is a coincidence. But still a cool one!
The sleeper potential for Elliott is real here though: he has six straight top-10 results and three top-five finishes after a slow start to the season. Plus a pair of second-place finishes at Richmond last year.
5. Johanna Returns
Seventeen months was long enough for Johanna Long. The 22-year-old female driver will finally make her return to the Xfinity level in Richmond with Mike Affarano Motorsports.
She hasn’t raced since 2013, but Long had an average qualifying position of 19th at Richmond that season. Driving a hot pink Camaro for Affarano, Long will be stand out under the lights on Friday night.
6. The Favorite
Joey Logano is an obvious choice just a week after led every single lap en route to a win at Bristol. Skunking the field will do that for you. The Team Penske driver trudged his way through the field last April to win the Richmond race at the Sprint Cup level. Likely bringing a similar package to Richmond, Logano might be lined up for a second straight short track win.
7. Dark Horse
He won’t be rolling out in the new Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale machine just yet, but Regan Smith is still a driver worth watching on Friday.
Smith’s 2015 is a down year compared to last season, but don’t forget his success in Richmond, including two top-10 finishes in 2014. A big race Friday could do wonders for his season standings.
Follow Chicken Bone Alley on Twitter.