Following a solid season in the XFINITY Series, Brennan Poole will be back once again in 2017, with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“Looking back on the year, it was a good year,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “We accomplished a lot of the goals we wanted to and had a solid season. I feel we had a plan, goals, and executed them. Now this year, we’ve got goals we’re set to accomplish – but they’re a little steeper.”
In his first full season of competition last year, Poole finished seventh in points with four top-fives and 17 top-10s. With only 17 previous series starts this year, Poole says there was a lot of learning over the course of the season, with one of the biggest lessons surrounding restarts.
“Restarts are so important at this level, more than any other series that I’ve raced in,” he said. “Track position is huge, and you just cannot make any mistakes on the restarts. I’ve learned a few things the hard way and had some things not go my way, but done decently. It’s just about being smart and the positioning in the right spot, and it’s tough because you have to see who’s around you and the fact each person does different things. It’s about learning about who’s around you, doing the right thing and hopefully gaining some positions.”
While he wasn’t able to reach victory lane, he undoubtedly came close – holding down the win for about three minutes at Talladega Superspeedway. However, upon further review of the tape and timing of the late race caution, Poole was placed third with Elliott Sadler getting the win.
“Having won Talladega for those few minutes was such a high,” he said. “We’ve got one now so hopefully the rest will come easier cause you have that relief. But you know, it just didn’t happen; it just wasn’t our day. But you know, we’ve contended for other wins. We were really strong at Richmond, we were strong and had cars capable of winning. Of course, we finished third at Road America; we were strong at the end of that race. Across the board, our cars have been really good. We just haven’t been able to close it out all the way.”
Poole is confident the win will come, noting the solid consistency built towards the end of last year and the fact he’s won in everything else he’s driven to this point. He said to be able to win this year would mean a lot – from the joy, feeling of accomplishment that it’d bring the team and sponsors, to being a way to thank everything who’s supported him from when he started in quarter midgets.
“Being able to win in the XFINITY Series would be payback to them,” he said. “Also, to be able to win for yourself to give you the confidence to be set to move up to the next level – Cup – as that’s where you want to get to eventually. That’ll be the first step to getting there. You’re racing against some of the best in the entire world to try and get to the Cup Series, so certainly winning a race at this level puts your name in the hat to move forward.”
As noted, the win appears to be just around the corner, but he also believes their poised to have a better season in 2017 than in 2016, based on the chemistry built with Chad Norris over the course of this past year.
“At the end of the year, we were became a consistent team,” he said. “We could contend for wins and now enter the off-season knowing we’ll race for a championship, again. It puts everybody motivation in the right places as we know we can realistically contend for a championship all the way to Homestead. We just need to continue to work hard, build our relationships as a team, and build in the areas that we know we need to work in. If we can do that, then I’m certain we’ll have a strong season.”
If everything comes together as he envisions, he believes they can be a top-five team on a weekly basis but knows the work needs to happen. One of the main things to start? Focusing on qualifying a little better, with his average starting position last year being 13.1.
“There’s so many things that go into making that better, and they’re working really hard to improve in those areas and help me out as much as they can – and I’m doing as much as I can, as well,” he said. “We’re so close – one of these weekends everything will come together, and it’ll be our weekend. I feel once it happens, it’ll be on from there. It’s just about finding those areas, working on them and improving. Like I sad, we have our goals, and now it’s all about executing.”
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