NASCAR Cup Series

Taylor Gray, Bubba Pollard capitalize during Xfinity debuts at Richmond

Taylor Gray, Bubba Pollard capitalize during Xfinity debuts at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. — Late Model racer Bubba Pollard and Truck Series driver Taylor Gray were rookies in the Xfinity series Saturday afternoon at Richmond, but they looked like grizzled veterans as they raced their way to top-10 finishes.

Gray was third in stage 1 and fifth in stage 2 before crossing the line third in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. This was the best Xfinity debut since Ty Gibbs won at the Daytona Road Course in 2021.

Pollard started on the last row in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet after an issue in qualifying. He finished stage 1 in 14th and stage 2 in 15th. Pollard ended the day sixth after working his way through the field on the final green flag run.

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Saturday’s Xfinity race featured Toyota drivers at the front of the pack.

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"It was a lot of fun," Pollard said on pit road after the race. "I had to be patient. Man, you can drive those Supers (Late Model) cars I'm so used to, you can drive them so hard each and every lap.

"But you've really got to be disciplined to drive these (Xfinity cars). I've got a lot of respect for these guys that drive it each and every week."

Starting from the rear of the field is not ideal for most drivers. Pollard is the exception. He said he was down on himself after qualifying, yet he embraced the work ahead of him when the green flag flew for Saturday's race.

"I think it was good for me to start in the rear today," Pollard said after the race. "Give me that sense of where I need to be on the race track, braking points, things like that."

Pollard didn't have the smoothest journey through the field. He made a mistake in one corner and hit AJ Allmendinger, a move that Pollard said probably "ticked off" the Kaulig driver.

Pollard also spent a considerable amount of time racing Parker Kligerman hard but clean, which led to friendly banter between the two drivers on pit road.

Gray's experience was different than Pollard's, as expected. He went from a Toyota Tundra to a Toyota GR Supra at a track where he already had two national series stars.

Yet the meaning of the third-place finish was not lost on Gray.

"It was huge, right," Gray said after the race. "From never sitting in the car until last week and being able to come out and capitalize with my guys and get such a strong run going for the next couple weeks was really important."

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"I wish we had as much falloff in Truck that we do in the Xfinity car," Gray said. "It makes it the racing fun.

"And the races are longer. You have so much more time to play out a run, right? We were not good on firing off. I was too tight. But you have time to let your car come to you."

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