NASCAR’s top developmental series has always been about opportunity for young stock car drivers. But 2015 is a year of opportunity for the rebranded Xfinity Series itself.
The arrival of communication giant Comcast’s Xfinity brand as title sponsor (replacing Nationwide Insurance, which had branding rights since 2008) gives NASCAR the opportunity to project more of a modern, high-tech image for a series that has sometimes struggled to find its niche.
Xfinity caught a huge break to kick off its 10-year sponsorship of the series because it has a genuine star to promote in the form of defending series championChase Elliott. The 19-year-old son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott already has been anointed as Jeff Gordon‘s replacement in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 Sprint Cup Series for 2016, but for the time being, he’s back to defend his Xfinity title in a JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
“The biggest thing is trying to just stay focused on this year, knowing that there’s a lot of racing left,” Chase Elliott said. “Everybody is talking about 2016, but I need to stay focused on 2015. There’s a lot of Xfinity races this year, I have a lot of goals and as a team we have a lot of things we want to try to get better at.
“I’m just trying to keep all that in mind and just learn as much as we can,” he added. “I hope we can compete for a championship this year and get some more wins.”
The biggest recent change in the philosophy of the Xfinity Series came in 2011, when NASCAR decreed that every driver had to declare championship eligibility for one of three championships — Sprint Cup, Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series. The intention was to prevent Cup drivers from “cherry picking” the title from Xfinity Series regulars.
Cup drivers may no longer be eligible for the Xfinity championship, but since the rule change in 2011, they have still won 76 percent of Xfinity Series races, the majority split between Busch and Brad Keselowski.
Busch is the all-time leader with 70 race wins at the Xfinity Series level, including a record 12 in 2013 when Cup drivers won 29 of 33 Xfinity races.
While those drivers are most likely to be Elliott’s main competition for race wins, his championship challengers are likely to be a mix of young up-and-comers like himself mixed in with a few former Cup veterans including Elliott Sadler.
Read full story at ESPN.com.