|Most recent champion||Daniel Suárez|
The NASCAR Xfinity Series is a stock car racing series owned and operated by NASCAR. It is NASCAR's second division and is a proving ground for drivers who wish to step up to the organization's top level, the Cup Series.
The series emerged from NASCAR's old Sportsman division, which was formed in 1950 as NASCAR's short track race division. It became the Late Model Sportsman series in 1968, and soon featured races on larger tracks, such as Daytona International Speedway.
The modern-day Xfinity Series was formed in 1982, when Anheuser-Busch sponsored a newly reformed late-model sportsman series with its Budweiser brand. It switched sponsorship to the Busch brand in 1984, and in 1986, was renamed from the Sportsman series to the Busch Grand National Series. Grand National was dropped from the series' title in 2003.
Xfinity Series cars are slightly smaller versions of their Sprint Cup counterparts. In the past, the Nationwide Series used makes of cars not used in the Cup series, as well as V-6 engines instead of Cup's V-8s, but now the cars used in the series are more similar.
The series has become a minor league series in recent years, but is frequently populated with Cup regulars, especially on the weekends where a Nationwide race is run on a Saturday prior to a Sprint Cup race being run at the same track on a Sunday, which is common. Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt was the first winner of a Nationwide Series race, and the winning-most driver in series history is Mark Martin, who won most of his races while driving in Winston Cup at the same time. Cup regulars that race in the Nationwide Series (often referred to as "Busch-whackers") are sometimes criticized for racing against inferior competition, but many NASCAR experts contend that without Cup drivers in Nationwide, and the large amount of fan interest that they attract, the series would cease to exist. However to counter the "Nationwide-whackers" there are a few constant drivers in the series including David Green, Mark Green, Jason Keller, Stacy Compton, Kenny Wallace, and Ashton Lewis.
On August 5, 2004, NASCAR announced that the Busch Series would hold a points-paying race in Mexico City at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on March 6, 2005. This track has hosted both Formula One and Champ Car races in the past. Martin Truex Jr. was the winner of the race. For more information see 2005 in NASCAR Busch Series.
Some sponsors criticized the new television deal, noting a maximum of four races will appear on broadcast network television, and most likely none in prime-time; in previous years, as many as nine races in the Nationwide Series have aired on network television, with two 2005 races ending up in prime-time television.
In April 2005, the Busch Series made its first appearance in prime-time network television; the Aaron's 312 at Talladega, because of a rain delay and excessive length caused by a crash, ended in near-darkness (7 PM CT) in prime-time, on Fox. In September 2005, the AmeriQuest 300 at California became the first Busch Series race to air in its entirety in prime-time network television, on NBC.
In 2007, NASCAR announced the Busch sponsorship would not return to the series. A number of companies, including Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken were in the running but in mid-October Nationwide took over the series. NASCAR also announced the series would run a new style car by 2009.
Nationwide would continue to sponsor the series through 2014. In September 2013 however, Nationwide announced that they would no longer sponsor the series and instead, would be forming a race team. In 2015, Nationwide was replaced by Xfinity, Comcast's cable division, as the new title sponsor for the series.