Top 5 storylines, race information, key trends for Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300

TRACK: Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)

Coverage: 5 p.m. ET

Green Flag: 5:14 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Radio: MRN

Distance: 120 Laps/300 Miles

Stage Lengths: 30/30/60

Starting Lineup


Storylines:

Daytona International Speedway sets the stage for Xfinity’s 2020 season opener
The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is upon us and Daytona International Speedway is all set to host this weekend’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Daytona International Speedway has hosted 58 NASCAR Xfinity Series races (1982-2020) producing 43 different pole winners and 33 different race winners.
Richard Childress Racing’s Myatt Snider won the pole for the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona last season and JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson won the race.


Close Xfinity Series finishes are the norm at Daytona
Ever since the inception of electronic scoring in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 1996, close finishes of less than a second have been the norm at Daytona International Speedway.
Since 1996, the Xfinity Series has competed at Daytona 44 times. 32 of the races ended under green and all 32 finished with a margin of victory of less than a second; including the closest finish in NASCAR national series history (0.0004 second) in the 2018 Xfinity season opener.
Below are the last six margins of victory in the season-opening race at Daytona:
Margin of Victory
Race Winner
Runner-Up
Date
Under Caution
0.1160
Noah Gragson
Michael Annett
Harrison Burton
Justin Allgaier
February 15, 2020
February 16, 2019
0.0004
Tyler Reddick
Elliott Sadler
February 17, 2018
0.2180
Ryan Reed
Kasey Kahne
February 25, 2017
0.0430
Chase Elliott
Joey Logano
February 20, 2016
0.0890
Ryan Reed
Chris Buescher
February 21, 2015
Stealing Wins: Late race passes happen at Daytona
Unpredictability. That’s what comes to mind when you think of the finishes at Daytona International Speedway, especially as of late in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Last-lap passes for the win have happened in the closing laps of the last seven season-opening races at Daytona; including two on the last lap:
2014: Regan Smith passed Brad Keselowski on the last lap to win by just 0.013 second.
2015: Ryan Reed passed Brad Keselowski on the last lap to win by just 0.089 second.
2016: Chase Elliott passed Joey Logano and led the last 14 laps to win by a scant 0.043 second.
2017: Ryan Reed passed Brad Keselowski with two laps to go to take the checkered flag and the victory by a mere 0.218 second.
2018: Tyler Reddick took the lead with what turned out to be 11 laps to go in NASCAR Overtime and then held off the field for two more overtime restarts (for five total overtime restarts in the race) to win the closest race in NASCAR history (0.0004 second).
2019: Michael Annett took the lead on the final restart with 45 laps to go and held off several hard chargers to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career race by 0.116 seconds over Justin Allgaier.
2020: Noah Gragson passed Chase Briscoe on Lap 118 of the 120 Lap event to win his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race. There was a big crash on the backstretch of the final lap which froze the field and didn’t allow for a race to the checkered.

JR Motorsports The Favorite For The Win, RCR The Favorite For The Pole
There’s some common themes showing up for the Xfinity Series season opener on the high banks of Daytona. Richard Childress Racing will likely win the pole and a JR Motorsports driver will later win the race.
It all starts on Saturday morning as Myatt Snider has to be the favorite to land on the pole for the race later on in the day. Snider, won the pole a year ago and is on the only RCR driver in the field. RCR has an astounding streak going with six straight poles in the NXS season openers at Daytona. It all started back in 2015 with Austin Dillon, while his brother Ty Dillon kept it going a year later. Brandon Jones (2017), Daniel Hemric (2018), Tyler Reddick (2019) and Snider (2020) have all kept the streak intact. Can it happen again this weekend?
In terms of the race itself, JRM has a strong streak themselves. They’ve won this race for three straight years now and four of the last six overall. Chase Elliott (2016), Tyler Reddick (2018), Michael Annett (2019) and Noah Gragson (2020) have all been victorious. What’s remarkable is, all these streaks have been with different drivers.
JRM will show up with Annett, Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry this Saturday.


Put Up Or Shut Up Time For Some Drivers

This year, you have Myatt Snider who’s going to be 26 and taking over the full time ride at RCR again. That car won the 2019 championship with Tyler Reddick on the heels of six wins, 24 top fives and 27 top 10’s. That got Reddick a promotion. Matt Tifft a year prior, didn’t reach victory lane at all and only had six top five’s and 19 top 10’s. He wasn’t around a second year. Snider, who had two top fives and six top 10’s in 2020 needs to be somewhere between those two drivers’ years in the No. 2 Chevrolet this season.

Then you have someone like Riley Herbst. He didn’t win as a rookie at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020 but did have 21 top 10’s. He’s taking over a car that Chase Briscoe had won nine times to go with 16 top fives and 22 top 10’s this past season. He also had a win, 13 top fives and 26 top 10’s in 2019 in it. Cole Custer had nine wins, 38 top fives and 69 top fives in three years in the No. 00 Ford at SHR. He was fifth, second and second in the three years in the final standings. Herbst, has the luxury of having both of those equipment all to himself as a single car team and has to win next year in that equipment or if not, he’s going to never really get a top Cup ride. If you can’t win with JGR or SHR on the NXS level, then who can you win with.

“I have to win races,” Herbst said when announced as the driver at SHR. “I have to be competitive. This car was the best car, week in and week out last year. That had a lot to do with Chase Briscoe. He’s in the Cup Series now, and a heck of a wheelman himself.

“But I know (crew chief) Richard Boswell and all the guys on the No. 98 team are really smart and know what they’re doing. They’re going to be bring me just-as-fast race cars as they did last year with Chase.

“It’s on me.”

Same for the guy replacing him with JGR. Daniel Hermic is 0-for-175 in his NASCAR career. He was solid in two full time seasons in NXS with RCR which earned him a promotion to Cup in 2019. Despite being the rookie of the year that season, he was let go for Reddick who won the 2019 NXS championship. That forced Hemric down to a part time role with JR Motorsports in 2020. Now, he’s full time with an organization that has produced 173 wins in NXS. If he can’t finally get over the hump and get to victory lane in 2021, when will he ever?

It’s also a similar situation for Jeb Burton with Kaulig. He’s taking over the No. 10 Chevrolet that had 15 top five finishes and 27 top 10’s with Ross Chastain last year. Burton, has six career top five finishes and six top 10’s in each of the last two years in NXS. He too has to prove to be a contender in that ride in 2021.

These guys are trying to prove they belong in top rides. What about drivers trying to get a chance to move up?

Noah Gragson is in his third year now at JRM. Not many guys get four years and still move up to a top Cup ride. Gragson went from no wins to two from 2019 to 2020. He also went from nine top fives to 17 and 22 top 10’s to 25. He led 72 laps in 2019 to 622 in 2020. He ended 2020 strong. What if his stats dip in 2021? He’s ascending and won’t be 23 until July. But, will some say he hit his ceiling if his stats do decline?

Same with Harrison Burton. After a tough season in Trucks in 2019, he got to still move up to NXS with JGR in 2020. Burton, won four times and had 27 top 10’s. He has to have a similar year in 2021. He’s going to want to move up soon as Christopher Bell and Erik Jones only spent two years in NXS before moving up to Cup rides. This is year No. 2 for Burton. Does he move up to a Cup seat in 2022? Depends on how he does in NXS. Bell and Jones both thrived in their second years.

That leaves Justin Haley. He’s trying to show everyone not to forget about him. He won three times in 2020 to go along with 10 top fives and 21 top 10’s. Haley, was third in the final standings.

But, with only a select few rides open in Cup each year now and those guys all above trying to show their worth, Haley can’t afford to have a quiet season or he may get overlooked.


Key Trends

Other than the RCR (pole streak) and JRM (win streak), here are some other key trends to watch for Saturday’s race.

  • Toyota hasn’t won the season opening race since 2008 (Tony Stewart). They also haven’t won an NXS race at Daytona since Matt Kenseth (2013). Combined, Toyota has won just four times overall in NXS competition at Daytona.
  • Only 10 drivers have ever won this NXS season opener at the Daytona 500. Bobby Allison, Geoff Bodine, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Tiny Lund, Marvin Panch, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and LeeRoy Yarbrough is the list.
  • Since 2012, we’ve had eight different winners in the last nine years of this event. Only Ryan Reed (2015, 2017) has reached Gatorade Victory Lane multiple times in that span.
  • Also since 2012, four of the nine years we’ve seen a first time winner in the series. James Buescher (2012), Reed (2015), Annett (2019) and Gragson (2020) have each earned their first career NXS wins in this Daytona event. As you can see, it’s happened three of the last six years including two straight.

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