By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway did not start well for Brennan Poole. In the only practice session before the race, Poole was 22nd fastest in his No. 48 DC Solar Chervolet Camaro.
Qualifying was not any better for Poole.
Poole was unable to advance out of the first round, and managed to only place his Chip Ganassi Racing car 31st on the starting grid.
The race started off fast as Poole quickly began to work his way up through the field. As Poole picked off competitors one-by-one, he soon reached the No. 44 Zachry Toyota Camry of JJ Yeley.
When Poole moved to the inside of Yeley in turn three, he slid up the racetrack. Poole made contact with Yeley, sending both drivers sliding. As Yeley drifted up into the outside wall, Poole’s car went into a four-wheel slide down the track. Poole somehow recovered and continued on without any damage.
Despite Poole’s close call, he continued to move up through the field. At one point, Poole was running some of the fastest laps in the field. Poole slowly and methodically worked his way around traffic, breaking into the top five around the halfway point.
The long green flag run eventually brought about a round of green flag pit stops. As Poole pitted, Brandon Brown was pitting just ahead of him.
When Poole went to leave pit road, a tire from Brown’s No. 86 Coastal Carolina University Chervolet rolled out of the pit box. Poole slowed and swerved to avoid the tire. The maneuver proved costly as the extra time on pit road cost Poole six positions on track. Poole rode in the 11th position, slowly working his way back up as the pit cycle continued. One the pit cycle ended, a caution waved for the loose tire on pit road.
The caution waved with 85 laps to go, leaving teams with a choice, to pit, or not to pit. Several cars, including Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, and Alex Bowman elected to pit. Meanwhile, Poole, Daniel Suarez, and the leaders stayed on track.
The difference between old and new tires soon became apparent. Poole fought hard to hold off the JR Motorsports trio as they hounded him for position. The advantage of fresh tires proved to be too much, and Poole fell back. Suarez, and others on old tires soon followed suit.
When the checkered flag waved, Poole crossed the line in the 10th position. Meanwhile, Sadler crossed the line in the fourth position. This was the 14th top 10 for Poole this season.
With the speed Poole had prior to the last caution, Poole, his crew chief Chad Norris, and the fest of his Chip Ganassi team are left with the question, ‘What if?’ Could Poole have driven further up through the field and possibly challenged eventual race winner Kyle Busch? No one can truly answer this question difinitively.
Now Poole will simply move forward to next Saturday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway, and the final race of the regular season in the Xfinity Series. Fortunately for Poole, he is locked into the first ever NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase by virtue of points.