Polesitter Austin Hill scored a victory in the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300 in a thrilling finish that left questions on who had won. Three drivers all had the lead in the final seconds. It was determined after the race that Hill had in fact won by leading at the moment of caution for a wreck involving Sam Mayer.
Chevrolet dominated much of the race and got the win, but late race events caused only four Chevrolets to finish in the top 10. Hill and JRM took turns leading the race. The victory was the second in a row in the season opener for Hill.
Hill’s race got off to a shaky start. Despite winning the pole, he started the race from the rear of the field after a radio issue forced a pit stop during the pace laps. This caused him to surrender his track position, but he did not stay in the back for long. By lap 12, Hill had brought the 21 car up to third place. By lap 27, Hill had taken the race lead with a pass on Justin Haley.
The running order at the end of stage one, won by Hill, showed a theme that would continue throughout the race. Eight of the top 10 finishers of stage one were Chevrolets. On lap 41 four of the stronger Chevrolets were involved in an incident. Parker Kligerman spun Sheldon Creed into the wall, causing major damage to Creed. The ensuing evasive maneuvers caused Haley and Justin Allgaier to spin, but only minimal damage resulted.
At the end of stage two, won by Allgaier, the first six in the running order were Chevrolets.
Stage three brought a long green flag run, causing a sequence of green flag pit stops. The leading Chevrolets came in together, but Kligerman spun coming to pit road and lost the draft as a result. Josh Berry took the lead from Allgaier during this sequence by out-braking Allgaier into the pits and taking less fuel.
As the pit sequence played out, the pack came back together and formed into a 21-car single-file chess match. With just three laps to go it remained single-file, as Hill held the lead followed by a foursome of JRM cars. Berry was in second followed by Allgaier, Mayer and Brandon Jones. It seemed inevitable that the JRM cars would team up on Hill, likely by hanging back and generating a big run and potentially splitting up so that Hill could not block them all.
Allgaier saw an opportunity to get ahead of Berry with two to go setting off a disastrous chain of events for the JRM squad. Allgaier pulled down below Berry and Jones went with Allgaier. The hole left by Allgaier hung Berry and Mayer out to dry momentarily and then created a huge run that resulted in Berry turning Jones. This sent the race into overtime.
While under caution, Berry ran out of gas. Remember, he had taken the lead earlier during the pit sequence partially due to less time spent taking fuel, and this proved costly here in overtime.
The final restart featured Hill on the outside and Allgaier on the inside. Allgaier had stronger cars in his line including Mayer, John Hunter Nemechek and Myatt Snider in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 car. Meanwhile Hill had Anthony Alfredo, Parker Retzlaff and Ryan Sieg behind him. The inside line got the better jump, and soon the outside line was badly broken apart, causing Allgaier to get a huge lead.
Mayer seemingly laid back and generated a massive run and passed Allgaier on the outside. As Mayer and Allgaier moved down the track to block the runs coming from behind, Mayer lost control as Hill hit his rear bumper. Mayer went upside down until the grass caught his roof and flipped him back onto his wheels, where he came to rest.
Allgaier, Nemechek, and Hill all spent nano-seconds as the leader between the time of the spin and the moment of caution. Allgaier initially had the lead, but Nemechek and Hill had momentum on their side and Allgaier sunk to third. Nemechek then had the lead but was also below the yellow line. Just before the caution lights came on, Hill took the lead and was determined to be the winner.
After attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 but failing to make the show, this win will help Hill to look back on this weekend as a huge success.
Retzlaff’s fourth-place finish was a great start to his rookie season. Retzlaff is driving for Jordan Anderson Racing and projects to be a big underdog for Rookie of the Year against Sammy Smith. This was a very impressive run for the 19-year-old Retzlaff, who only has one NASCAR superspeedway start under his belt, a single NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The rookie from Wisconsin turned heads in his limited starts last year driving for RSS Racing, and he comes out of Daytona sixth in points.
Graf tied his top 10 total from all of last season by finishing seventh. It was a great start with his new team, RSS Racing. After an average finish of about 27th last season, this is a huge result for him.
Stefan Parsons was involved in a spin early in the race, but he rebounded to finish 13th, driving for Alpha Prime Racing. Parsons was not even planning to be in the race until it was announced earlier Saturday that he would replace Caesar Bacarella, who was battling an illness.
Kligerman had big (machine) expectations coming into this season for Big Machine Racing, but was involved in three incidents of his own doing, causing two wrecks and spinning coming into pit line. He came home 23rd.
JR Motorsports led a lot of laps (67 altogether) and had all four cars in the top five with three laps to go. Yet they ultimately finished third (Allgaier), 14th (Jones), 26th (Berry) and 27th (Mayer).
Where to Next?
Last Call! The Xfinity Series heads to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. This will be the final race on the current configuration. Custer won this race last season driving for SS-Green Light Racing. This season he will try to defend his victory, now driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. The action gets started on Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. ET, and the race will air on FOX Sports 1 along with the Motor Racing Network.
About the author
Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.
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