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Bubba Pollard, Taylor Gray, and Logan Bearden Impress in Xfinity Series Debuts

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, TobyChristie.com

From short-track aces to stock car’s rising stars, the NASCAR Xfinity Series saw three drivers shine in their debuts in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway.

Bubba Pollard, Taylor Gray, and Logan Bearden were the new kids on the block this weekend at the three-quarter-mile short track in Richmond, Virginia.

Taylor Gray, making his debut in the No. 19 Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing, impressed in his first career Xfinity Series race. Not only did the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular finish the race in third, but he was part of Toyota’s first top-four sweep since 2012.

“I would say it was a pretty smooth experience,” Gray stated. “My guys got me up to speed really quickly. I obviously struggled in qualifying quite a bit. But, you know, I can’t thank all these guys enough.”

Though the end result was positive, Gray noted that there was a pretty steep learning curve from the NASCAR Truck Series to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“The biggest thing was the power difference and the torque difference,” Gray explained. “I mean, you don’t have that much fall off in the truck over a run as these cars do, and it’s so much fun. Honestly, I wish we had that much fall off from the trucks we do in the Xfinity car, and it makes it the racing fun.”

Although all three debutants had a blast on Saturday, Logan Bearden, driving the No. 14 Chevrolet for SS-GreenLight Racing, likely flew under the radar to many, but his experience in NASCAR had helped him prepare for a debut on a larger stage.

Before Saturday, Bearden had only made a few starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Outside the car, the Texas-native works as a mechanic at AM Racing. However, his impressive result is likely going to make an impression. Starting towards the back of the pack, the driver spent Stage 1 climbing his way to 16th at the end of that run. Unfortunately, the No. 14 spun on track, bringing out the first caution of Stage 2.

Bearden brought his Chevrolet back to the pits for a fresh set of Goodyear tires, and yet again, was able to drive through the pack and into the top-10, ending the race’s second stage by earning a singular stage point. This runs through the pack – although a result of having fresher tires – got the driver critical TV time, a bonus to a solid 22nd-place result.

“Parker Electric, I called him and we talked about 10 pm Monday night and got this deal put together while I was driving back from Texas. So about midnight, the whole deal came together and it’s been kind of a mad dash from there,” said Bearden. “So I can’t thank him enough, and of course, Bearden Automotive. My parents they support me through and through. And you know, I called them late at night to see if we could make this opportunity possible. And they said we’ll make it work. So I can’t thank him. thank them enough. So put them on TV. I don’t know how much it will do. But then being both Austin, Texas teams, but I’m sure they’ll love it.”

One of the star-studded drivers getting plenty of media time this weekend was Bubba Pollard. Known for his incredible success in the short track scene, Pollard was quickest in practice in the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro with a lap time of 22.855 seconds. Unfortunately, that speed did not carry over to qualifying.

Though he started from 37th, Pollard wasted no time charging through the pack. By the end of Stage 1, he found himself in the top-15 with a car that could compete for the win. For the majority of the race, he kept his vehicle solidly inside the top-15 and eventually, the top-10.

Though he made his debut look like a breeze, this is a much different style of racing than he is used to.

“I had to be patient,” Pollard shared. “You can drive those those supercars I’m so used to, you drive them so hard each and every lap but you got to really be disciplined to drive these things. I got a lot of respect for these guys that drive it each and every week. This is a pretty technical place, you gotta be smart.”

Through discipline and positive reinforcement from his team, Pollard was able to finish his first Xfinity Series race in sixth.

“Man I had a good spotter up there that just kept me kept me, kept ‘Hey, dig the yellow line, yellow line, yellow line, yellow line,” Pollard said. “So man, I needed guys like that in my ear to keep me pumped up. I was down after qualifying, but kind of put us behind nice neat track position. I didn’t do well in the pits. Just all those things that makes a difference in run the top three, I feel like so had good speed. Andrew (Overstreet) did a great job. I enjoyed working with those guys and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully, we get to do it again.”

Reviewing each driver in their debuts, they couldn’t be any different. Pollard, a 37-year-old short track star, Gray, an up-and-coming talent, and Bearden, a scrappy talent from Texas. Regardless, each share a similar thought, the opportunity was a blast and they hope to do it again soon.

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