NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega Preview: Seven things to know

Image courtesy of @BMSupdates.

The Xfinity Series will make one more stop on Saturday afternoon before a break for Mother’s Day weekend. One week off might be a necessity for drivers after going 300 miles on NASCAR’s biggest track in Talladega.

Leading up to the Winn Dixie 300 in Alabama, let’s take a look at seven things NASCAR fans need to know.

1. Watch/Hear/Stream

When: Saturday, May 2, 2015, 3:00 p.m. ET

Where: Talladega Superspeedway

TV: FOX

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Radio: Motor Racing Network

2. JR Motorsports Returning to 2014 Form

Early in the season, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith stumbled out of the gate. Since Daytona, both have slowly climbed their way back into championship contention.

Following top-five finishes for both at Richmond, the JR Motorsports teammates head to Talladega looking to repeat that success. The tandem finished first and second last year with Elliott coming out on top. If they keep up performances like Richmond, expect a similar finish this season.

3. Ty Dillon Showing Championship Potential

Two years ago, Ty Dillon came up just short of winning a Trucks title as Matt Crafton won his first of a back-to-back. This season, he’s already setting himself apart again as a contender for a potential Xfinity championship. However, his eight-point lead over Elliott isn’t exactly comfortable heading into Talladega.

Similar to Elliott, Dillon will get another chance at a Sprint Cup ride, as he noted earlier this week.

Ironically enough, Dillon’s only other ride at the Sprint Cup level was the Daytona 500. With experience in both series at superspeedways, look for Dillon to improve on his 15th-place finish from last spring at Talladega.

4. Sadler Searching for ‘Dega Repeat

Elliott Sadler was expected to be the experienced veteran in the stable for Roush Fenway in 2015. Thus far, he’s only pulled off two top-10 finishes and hasn’t competed for a victory.

That should all change this Saturday.

Sadler won at Talladega last season and finished just outside the top 10 in 2013 at the Xfinity level. If he can keep a clean car by avoiding the “Big One,” Sadler will join his RFR teammates in the top five in the standings after ‘Dega.

5. Erik Jones Movin’ On Up

It’s been nearly impossible to keep up with the incredible journey for Erik Jones thus far. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver went from his first full-time ride at the Camping World Truck Series to driving Kyle Busch’s car at the Xfinity level.

Then he won a race in Xfinity. Then he drove in relief for Denny Hamlin. That’s helped propel him up to the Sprint Cup Series to help in relief for Busch again in the No. 18 machine.

“This is a really good opportunity for me,” Jones said in a news release. “We are going to try to manage our expectations, and if we can go out and get a top-15 run and gain some experience, that would be a great day for us.”

Big things are coming from this 18-year-old driver. Then again, there’s clearly a lot of young talent that makes NASCAR’s future look promising.

6. Favorite

Over the last 12 years, a current or former Sprint Cup regular has won the Talladega Xfinity event. That will continue again on Saturday when Smith, who has 176 Sprint Cup starts, drives to Victory Lane on Saturday afternoon.

The JR Motorsports driver won the Xfinity race in 2013 and finished third last season behind Sadler and Chris Buescher. With at least one win at a superspeedway in the last two seasons, Smith will continue the streak in Talladega.

7. Underdog

Image courtesy of @NASCARonNBC.

Image courtesy of @NASCARonNBC.

It may not have been evident last season, but Dakoda Armstrong knows how to drive at ‘Dega. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has a win during his career at the track, despite never accomplishing that feat at the Xfinity level.

“I can’t wait to get to Talladega,” Armstrong said in a RPM release. “I won my first stock car race at the track and have ran well every time I’ve raced there. We had a great car there last year; our 18th place finish doesn’t tell the whole story. … We have good cars, a great team, and an amazing pit crew. We really need that to get the momentum back in our favor.”

That victory came in 2010 in the ARCA Racing Series, so Armstrong can clearly navigate through traffic at superspeedways. Given his 11th-place result at Daytona, Armstrong will be putting pressure on the top-10 cars all day.

 

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