DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It may as well be billed as an "awesome" weekend. NASCAR's Xfinity Series race Saturday on the famed Road America road course will include a current NASCAR Hall of Famer on its grid for the first time ever, popular driver Bill Elliott, who was nicknamed "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" during his championship time competing in NASCAR during the 1980s, 90s and 2000s.
The 1988 Cup champion will steer the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet in Saturday's Johnsonville 180 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), making his first start in one of NASCAR's national series in six years and first start in the Xfinity Series since 2005. His only Xfinity Series win came on a road course - at Watkins Glen, N.Y. in 1993.
Ironically, the Hall of Famer will be considered a "rookie" at the beautiful 4-mile Wisconsin road course since he has never competed there before.
"When this opportunity came up from Mike, I had to jump on it," Elliott said in announcing the news earlier this month. "Chase (Elliott) has ran a handful of races for the team so I figured I would give it a shot at Road America. Beam and I have worked together in the past so it will be exciting to get back behind the wheel and bring back some old memories."
Elliott's 22-year old son Chase, who won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this month on the Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course, will serve as spotter for his father during this off-week from Cup competition.
The field for the Johnsonville 180 includes a bevy of big names, from Elliott to IMSA road racing stars Andy Lally and Katherine Legge, to IndyCar standouts like James Davison, who led the opening laps of last year's race at Elkhart Lake to Connor Daly, who is making his NASCAR competition debut. And longtime NASCAR fan favorite Brendan Gaughan is entered too.
There have been eight different winners in as many races on the course. Jeremy Clements picked up his first career win last year.
This is also a significant stop in firming up the Playoff picture. With four races remaining to establish championship-eligibility, Ross Chastain holds the final Playoff position with a 42-point edge over Michael Annett, who was a career best runner-up in this race last season.
AND THE PLAYOFFS BEGIN
After a thrilling regular season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins its Playoffs this weekend at the always action-packed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario (Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Defending series champion Johnny Sauter won the regular season championship and starts his quest for a third title in the last four years as the top-ranked driver. He and 26-year old Brett Moffitt each have four wins this season.
Neither driver has won a NASCAR race on a road course, however. Sauter's best showing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is sixth-place - a finish he's scored twice, including last year. He has four top-10s in five starts there.
Moffitt has only one road course start in the truck series, finishing 16th at Bowmanville in 2016.
Austin Cindric is the defending race winner, but is not entered this weekend. Former Indianapolis 500 polesitter and native Canadian Alex Tagliani will race the No. 12 Chevrolet this weekend. And Jesse Iwuji will make his NASCAR national series debut in the No. 34 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Johnsonville 180
The Place: Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisc.)
The Date: Saturday, Aug. 25
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 182 miles (45 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 10),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 20), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 45)
What to Watch For: One of the most venerable road course facilities in the country, Elkhart Lake is bringing out some of racing's best to compete alongside NASCAR's stars including IMSA regulars Andy Lally and Katherine Legge, IndyCar standouts James Davison and Conor Daly. ...Davison led a race best 11 laps in 2017 before crashing out. ...Jeremy Clements collected his first career NASCAR victory at Road America last year. ... There have been eight different winners in the track's eight races. There are 29 drivers entered this weekend who have never won a series race. .... Five times Elkhart Lake has crowned a first time NASCAR winner, including Clements (2017), Michael McDowell (2016), Brendan Gaughan (2014), A.J. Allmendinger (2013) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012). ... Clements' 24th place starting position is the farthest back a winner as ever started. ...Ross Chastain, who is ranked 12th in the championship standings, holds the final Playoff transfer position with four races remaining to set the series Playoff field. He holds a 42-point advantage over Annett. ... Justin Allgaier, who won the series last road course race at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago, has a best finish of runner-up (2013) at Elkhart Lake. ... Current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup stars Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney are working as spotters this weekend for drivers, Bill Elliott and Austin Cindric, respectively. ....There has been one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (in 1956) at the historic road course. Tim Flock was the winner.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Chevrolet Silverado 250
The Place: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Bowmanville, Ontario)
The Date: Sunday, Aug. 26
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 156 miles (64 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 40), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 64)
What to Watch For: This week marks the Playoff opener for the trucks. Championship leader Johnny Sauter is looking to earn his third title in the last four years. ... Sauter and Brett Moffitt lead the series with four wins each. Neither has won this race, however, and neither has won on a road course previously. ... Austin Cindric is the defending winner of this race. Although he led a race best 32 laps, he took the lead from then-rookie Kaz Grala with one lap remaining to secure his first major NASCAR race victory. ... Ford won the race in 2017. All three manufacturers have won at the track and none have won back-to-back races. ...There are 13 drivers entered this week making their first NASCAR start at the track, including Playoff contender Stewart Friesen, who is Canadian. ....Another Canadian, former Indy 500 pole winner Alex Tagliani will be competing, driving the No. 12 Chevrolet. And Jesse Iwuji, a United States Naval Academy graduate, will be making his NASCAR national series debut in the No. 34 Chevrolet. ...Three current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are former winners at the Canadian road course - Chase Elliott (2013), Ryan Blaney (2014) and Erik Jones (2015). Elliott and Blaney are working as spotters this weekend in the Xfinity Series race at Elkhart Lake for drivers, Bill Elliott and Austin Cindric, respectively.
--- NASCAR Wire Service ---