Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 34th season in NASCAR's second- tier series starts on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, and with it a new title sponsor for the series.
Comcast's Xfinity brand becomes just the third title sponsor of the series, following Anheuser-Busch (1982-2007) and Nationwide Insurance (2008-14).
Last September, NASCAR and Comcast announced a 10-year title sponsorship agreement. It's the longest entitlement sponsorship agreement in the series' history.
Chase Elliott also begins his campaign for a second straight championship in the series. Elliott, the 19-year-old son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, became the youngest driver to win a title in any one of NASCAR's three national touring series. He scored three wins, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s and finished the season 42 points ahead of second-place and JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith.
If Elliott wins the championship this year, he would become the seventh driver in series history to claim back-to-back titles, joining Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy LaJoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99), Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-12).
Elliott has a new crew chief on his No.9 JRM Chevrolet team this season. Ernie Cope took over the role when Greg Ives moved over to the Sprint Cup Series to serve as crew chief for Earnhardt at Hendrick Motorsports following last season.
"It's always an exciting time of the year to get back in the groove of racing after an offseason," Elliott said. "I had a great time the past few months with friends and family, but the thought of racing at Daytona this Saturday afternoon is a great feeling to have. One thing is for sure, the fans will see a great show.
"Ernie has a lot of experience. He's seen a lot and knows a lot, so I am looking forward to learning from him this season. The No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts (sponsor) team has a new look to it, as we are mostly a new but an experienced group. It will be exciting to work with everyone on the team this year, especially seeing what we bring to the table in Daytona Saturday afternoon."
Smith won last year's season-opener at Daytona but has not been to victory lane in Xfinity since then. He also has a new crew chief on his No.7 team this season.
"I'm looking forward to getting back out there and racing," Smith said. "With the changes we made to our team, I'm looking forward to working with Jason Burdett as the crew chief and seeing him grow in that position. Our relationship was good before he came to work there, and it's gotten better since he's come to JR Motorsports.
"The more I've been around him, and the more I've seen how he acts with the guys, how the guys act around him, it's done nothing but get me more excited about getting everything started. We know we can win here (at Daytona) because we did it last year. We know we have great equipment, and the guys at JRM do a great job making sure it's the best out there. We feel like we have a great shot at victory lane this weekend."
JR Motorsports swept Daytona during the 2014 Xfinity season, with Smith winning the February race and Kasey Kahne taking the July event.
Elliott Sadler, the third-place finisher in last year's Xfinity point standings, is driving the No. 1 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing this season after spending the previous two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing.
"It's an indescribable feeling we have as drivers when we travel each year to Daytona and start a fresh season with new hopes and dreams," Sadler said. "Daytona gives us the feeling that this year is our year. I know personally that I can't wait to jump into my new ride with Roush Fenway Racing in my No. 1 OneMain Financial (sponsor) Ford Mustang."
Darrell Wallace Jr. is a new member at Roush Fenway as well, driving the No. 6 Ford in Xfinity. Wallace has spent the past two years competing full-time in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He won four truck races last year, including the season-finale at Homestead.
Wallace competed in four Xfinity races during the 2012 season and two events last year, driving an entry for Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished seventh in the July race at Daytona.
"This is a big year for me coming up," Wallace said. "I am ready for the challenges. I have to survive and be smart and be there at the end."
Forty-seven teams are on the entry list for the Alert Today Florida 300. Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are those Sprint Cup regulars entered in this 300-mile race.
Series: NASCAR Xfinity. Date: Saturday, Feb. 21. Race: Alert Today Florida 300. Site: Daytona International Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile oval. Start time: 3:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 120. Miles: 300. 2014 Winner: Regan Smith. Television: Fox Sports 1. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.