Posted by Matt Lovisa (follow on Twitter)
February 10, 2016
2016 XFINITY Series Preview: Roush Fenway Racing and JR Motorsports
How does NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase and heat races sound? If you did not already hear, there are new formats for both the XFINITY Series Championship and Dash 4 Cash race day structure. Add that to the fact that three of the drivers who finished inside the top-five of the 2015 championship standings will not be running full-time in the XFINITY Series, and the 2016 season for NASCAR’s version of the minor leagues has a whole new look.
Retooling at Roush Fenway Racing
Scaling back from four full-time teams to two, Roush Fenway Racing this year has a retooled team with two young, up and coming drivers. Chris Buescher, the 2015 Champion, has moved on to a full-time ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Elliott Sadler has moved to JR Motorsports. So where does that leave Roush Fenway Racing to defend its driver’s title? In the hands of Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed.
Driver: Darrell Wallace Jr.
Crew Chief: Seth Barbour
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: No. 6 Ford
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finished seventh in last year’s final standings, with three top-fives and 14 top-tens and finished inside the top-15 in 12 of the final 13 races. Wallace’s most notable competition a year ago came within his own garage, Chris Buescher. The two traded paint on several occasions, most notably during the first Dover race in which Buescher moved Wallace Jr. out of the way and on to victory. Wallace will continue to drive the #6 Ford but will still be looking for sponsorship as the season progresses.
Driver: Ryan Reed
Crew Chief: Phil Gould
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: No. 16 American Diabetes Association Ford
Ryan Reed is the defending Daytona Speedweeks winner but unfortunately, that was the only highlight from the 2015 season. Reed’s only finish inside the top ten for the entire season came at Daytona and came close four other times by finishing just one position outside the top-ten, but it is no secret that the way the season progressed was not what this team had hoped for. In 2015, Reed’s average finish was 16.8 compared to his average starting spot of 16.2. For 2016 to be a breakout year, those numbers need to be flipped and the average finish needs to creep closer to the 10-12 range.
There is no question that Wallace and Reed will most likely make the new XFINITY Chase by way of points. The question lies in whether or not they can both score consistent finishes inside the top ten in an effort to give RFR their second straight title.
JR Motorsports in transition
The new-look JR Motorsports will pair Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series veteran Elliott Sadler with XFINITY Series winner and previous Sprint Cup driver, Justin Allgaier. Sadler is taking over the car vacated by Chase Elliott and Allgaier will make the jump back down to the XFINITY Series to take over the reigns of the car vacated by Regan Smith.
Driver: Elliott Sadler
Crew Chief: Kevin Meendering
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet
A year ago, JR Motorsports finished second and fourth in the final standings with Elliott and Smith, respectively. Sadler finished last season with Roush Fenway Racing in sixth place and totaled four top fives and 17 top-tens. This will be Sadler’s fourth different team in the past five seasons and the idea of vast improvement from previous seasons might be an afterthought as he has progressively finished worse in the season ending standings since his return to full-time action in 2011.
Driver: Justin Allgaier
Crew Chief: Jason Burdett
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet
Allgaier’s return to the feeder series might provide the spark JR Motorsports needs to return to their 2014 form. Allgaier found success in the XFINITY Series from 2010-2012 where he won a race in each season and scored his season best in top-five and top-ten finishes. Immediate success is not out of the equation for Allgaier and the JR Motorsports bunch, especially since Allgaier has proved he can win on different types of tracks throughout the circuit. The expectation is there that Allgaier will contend for Dash 4 Cash victories, much like Smith did, and ultimately contend for the 2016 Championship.