After a multi-year career competing in other series across motorsports, Brennan Poole will make his NASCAR debut this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He’ll pilot the No. 42 in the XFINITY Series that Kyle Larson has driven up to this point, with sponsorship from DC Solar.
And it’s about time.
At least two other times on Frontstretch in the past two years (the exact details are foggy), I’ve advocated for Poole’s ascendance to some sort of national NASCAR circuit, whether it be the Camping World Truck Series or otherwise. The 23-year-old (24 next month) Texas native has won often and run up front whenever else, and though that’s often been in good equipment, it’s been shown time and time again that the best cars and technology doesn’t necessarily always equal success.
Now he’ll get a shot in solid equipment, with over a dozen other races planned for the 2015 season.
Here’s why 2015 wasn’t too late per se, but still too long in the making.
1. His ARCA win to loss ratio
As of now, Poole has 35 career starts in the ARCA Racing Series, all of which have come via part-time schedules. That number would have increased in 2015 if it weren’t for his XFINITY ride, which shuttered a possible gig with GMS Racing. In those 35 events, he’s won six times. Now, 35 races is certainly comparable to that of a full Sprint Cup or even XFINITY series season, give or take one or two races depending on the circuit. If a driver in one of those series won six times in a season, wouldn’t you be considering them a frontrunner, one of the drivers to beat or at least worthy of a shot in a higher series if one existed? Poole’s won all his races with the same team in Venturini Motorsports, too – and that familiarity, plus those cars tending to be pretty well-managed, has been a major boost.
2. He’s almost 24
Maybe a slightly trivial reason, but bear in mind that most drivers these days that rise through the ranks to the Cup Series – think, in recent memory, Larson, the Dillons, Joey Logano – often get their start as teens, sometimes even racing in the Truck Series at the tracks where drivers under 18 years old are allowed to cut their teeth. Meanwhile, Poole waltzes in much older than his compadres, and it’s no secret that in today’s NASCAR, the future of the sport often become hot commodities at a younger age than that. That’s not to say Poole can’t wiggle his way in with some good showings, but I’m often reminded of David Mayhew, a guy who had some phenomenal showings for Kevin Harvick, Inc. back when it existed but never caught on after its shuttering, and age had to have already been a slight factor. As a sponsor, do you want the unproven but seasoned veteran or the rookie with a lot to prove and a possible high ceiling of potential? It’s good that Poole’s getting his shot now – he may never have otherwise, at least not in solid equipment.
3. He won in his first ARCA start
And sure, ARCA’s not necessarily a breeding ground for the hottest of talent some years, but it’s also not simple to win in right from the start. And yet that’s what Poole did as a 20-year-old at Salem Speedway back in May 2011. He did so by beating multi-time series champion Frank Kimmel, future NASCAR star Ty Dillon plus current regular NASCAR competitors in Chris Buescher, Dakoda Armstrong and Bryan Silas. Sponsorship’s important, sure, but how exactly has it taken four years again?
4. Young talent like Poole is what the XFINITY Series needs
Not only that – it’s something the series has needed for years, even back when Poole was really tearing it up in ARCA. Lately, it seems like at long last the XFINITY Series is gaining more of an identity, with drivers like Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Dillon, Brandon Jones, Ben Rhodes gaining full- or part-time rides while the number of Cup drivers running every week slowly lessens – or at least becomes less noticeable, in the case of Elliott’s stellar 2014 season. The Cup guys may still win over half the races, but getting these guys in there more and more – Poole’s No. 42 ride was piloted by Kyle Larson in most races last year, so a smaller Larson schedule is a start – makes it feel truly like a feeder series like it once seemed to be, and that’s important.
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