Austin Cindric claims season-opener at Daytona
Road course ace Austin Cindric finally got a superspeedway win at Daytona International Speedway in the season-opener on Saturday.
After rain canceled qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Cindric started in the first position with JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier joining him on the front row. Cindric led 26 laps en route to the victory in a race that saw 16 lead changes and had nine cautions for 42 laps. Cindric beat second-place finisher Brett Moffitt by .104 seconds.
Cindric had made it known he really wanted to add a superspeedway win to his resume. Not only did he accomplish the feat, but he also participated in the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 for Team Penske where he started 39th and finished 15th.
Cindric’s win has him back atop the points standings as well, with a 15 points lead on second place Ty Dillon.
Team Penske’s Cindric can set more records this weekend
With his big win to kick off the season at Daytona, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric became just the second driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to win the championship and the season-opener the following year; joining Randy LaJoie who accomplished the feat in 1997. Now, Cindric has the opportunity to become the only driver in series history to win a championship and then the first two races of a NASCAR Xfinity Series season the following year.
And, lucky for Cindric, the series heads back to Daytona this weekend, but this time will race on the 3.61-mile, 14-turn road course. Last season was the first time in history that the NASCAR Xfinity Series raced on the Daytona Road Course and Cindric made history by winning the event from the pole by a massive 7.108-seconds over second place Brandon Jones. It was one of Cindric’s six victories en route to the title last season.
Cindric led 21 of 52 laps in a race that saw seven lead changes and seven cautions for eight laps. This weekend, Cindric will look to stay undefeated at the Daytona Road Course in The Super Start Batteries 188 At Daytona Presented by O’Reilly (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The race will be broken up into three stages: Stage 1 will end on Lap 15 and Stage 2 will end on Lap 30. The race will be 52 laps total for 187.72 miles.
Brett Moffitt will start on the pole this weekend with Cindric joining him on the front row. Jeb Burton, Harrison Burton and Daniel Hemric will round out the top-five starting positions.
First road course of the season on deck at Daytona
In 2020, the NASCAR Xfinity Series ran on four road courses. They started the season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and then went to Road America, the Daytona Road Course and closed out at the Charlotte ROVAL.
This weekend, the Super Start Batteries 188 At Daytona Presented by O’Reilly will kick off a season with seven road courses on the schedule – Daytona Road Course, Circuit of The Americas (COTA), Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course, Road America, Watkins Glen International, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (ROVAL).
Austin Cindric, last week’s winner, also won this race last season. He went on a two-race road course winning streak, winning at Road America and then at the Daytona Road Course the following week. Of Cindric’s nine total wins in the Xfinity Series, four of them were at road courses. He will try to make that five this weekend.
Xfinity Road Course Ringers Aplenty
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings leader Austin Cindric is known for running well on road courses, but he’s not alone in that. The Xfinity Series has a lot of talented drivers on road courses and this weekend will be no different.
AJ Allmendinger, who won at the Charlotte ROVAL last season, finished fourth last season at the Daytona Road Course and will be back behind the wheel of the No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing this weekend. Of Allmendinger’s five Xfinity Series victories, four of them were at road courses.
Andy Lally is joining Our Motorsports this weekend, chasing a victory on the road course. Lally finished fifth in this race last season.
Miguel Paludo will be behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports on Saturday. This will be his third start in the Xfinity Series. The last time he ran a race in the series was 2012 at Road America and Watkins Glen.
Preston Pardus will also be back behind the wheel this weekend for DGM Racing. Pardus has six starts in the Xfinity Series, all coming from road courses in 2019 and 2020. He has a best finish of eighth at Road America last season.
Jade Buford will make his fifth start in the Xfinity Series this weekend. All four of his previous starts were in 2020 on road courses. He had a best finish of eighth at the Charlotte ROVAL.
Jones had a great race at the Daytona Road Course last season and led two laps en route to his second-place finish. Noah Gragson is also strong on road courses and tends to run up front. He finished third last season with Allmendinger and Lally rounding out the top five.
Recapping Xfinity’s Top 10 in points
NXS Top 10 In Point Standings
We may only be one race into the season but taking a look at some of the drivers that started out the season on a high note, there are some new faces in the points standings top 10.
Ty Dillon, who hadn’t made a Xfinity Series start since 2018, is running a part-time schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing in the series. He kicked things off for the team at Daytona and currently has the No. 54 in second in the points standings.
Brandon Brown is sitting in third, the highest he’s ever been ranked in the points standings. He finished sixth in the opening race of the season and had a great points day for his No. 68 family-owned team – Brandonbilt Motorsports. Brown didn’t get to finish the race at the Daytona Road Course last season after an axle issue but will look to have a better finish coming off some great momentum from the season-opener.
Harrison Burton came off a strong rookie season, winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in 2020, and started this season off just as strong. He finished third in the season-opener last weekend and finished eighth at the Daytona Road Course in 2020. He’s currently sitting in fourth in the points standings.
Harrison’s cousin Jeb, who is running his first fulltime season in the Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing, has already made a statement. He’s currently sitting in fifth in the points standings and finished fourth in the season opener. This weekend will be his first start on the Daytona Road Course.
Myatt Snider is sitting in sixth in the points standings. This is his first fulltime season with Richard Childress Racing. He finished seventh last weekend and in 2020, he finished 10th at the road course for RSS Racing.
Daniel Hemric got a new ride for 2021 in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He finished ninth last weekend. Unfortunately, Hemric finished 37th last season at the Daytona Road Course after being involved in a wreck but he still has more experience on the track than those making their debuts. He is sitting in seventh in the points standings.
AJ Allmendinger, one of the road course kings in the Xfinity Series, is sitting in eighth in the points standings. He finished fourth in this race last season and with all of his road course experience, you can expect he’ll be up front this Saturday, too.
Brandon Gdovic and Jason White are two names that we don’t see in the top 10 in points standings very often. But that’s Daytona. Gdovic finished eighth last weekend while White finished 10th. Gdovic finished 28th last season at the Daytona Road Course. Last weekend was Jason White’s first Xfinity Series start since 2014. It also marked his second top 10.
Vargas partnering with Saint’s running back Alvin Kamara for Daytona RC
Ryan Vargas was without a sponsor for this weekend’s race at the Daytona Road Course for his No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet but as we’ve seen in the past, Vargas has a way of making things happen through social media.
Last year, Vargas got Tik Tok onboard his No. 6 to finish the season and it all started on Twitter.
Vargas took to social media again after the season-opener at Daytona, looking for sponsorship for the Daytona Road Course this weekend. Alvin Kamara, NFL running back for the New Orleans Saints, ended up reaching out to Vargas about a partnership and putting The Big Squeezy on his car. The Big Squeezy is Kamara’s chain of juice bars based in Louisiana. The deal was quickly finalized, and Vargas will sport a colorful car on Saturday with the help of Kamara.
“Having the opportunity to work with Alvin Kamara and The Big Squeezy is such a huge honor. As one of the best Running Backs in the game, I know Alvin puts 110% effort into everything he does and that can easily be said for myself and our No. 6 JD Motorsports Team. I’m excited to be a part of Alvin’s first step into the NASCAR Industry and I believe this is just the start of a long, successful partnership,” Vargas said in an interview with NASCAR.com.
Kamara became a NASCAR fan last season and attended multiple races as a VIP fan. This weekend will be the first that he is involved as a sponsor.
“When this opportunity presented itself, I knew I couldn’t let it slip by,” Kamara said in a team release. “I did a bit of research on Ryan as an individual and JD Motorsports and was impressed with what I read. I’m excited to play a small role in what they already have going on.”
Kamara serves as co-owner of The Big Squeezy chain, which has nine locations throughout Louisiana. Find out more at http://www.bigsqueezyexpress.com.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Starr is back: David Starr is returning to the NASCAR Xfinity Series beginning this weekend at the Daytona Road Course. Starr will take over the No. 13 for MBM Motorsports with Whataburger as the primary sponsor of the car for 19 events. Starr announced that he will run the remainder of the schedule for MBM.
Antonio Williams invests in Joe Graf Jr.: Another NFL player is getting involved in NASCAR. This time it’s Antonio Williams who just completed his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills. Williams committed to helping Graf expand his current relationship in the sport, bringing new interest and even sponsorships to Graf and the No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet. Williams is going to be actively involved in the business side of things and will attend races as a supporter of Graf.
Natalie Decker making NXS debut: Natalie Decker will make her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend for RSS Racing in partnership with Reaume Brothers Racing in the No. 23 Ford. Jason White was the driver of the No. 23 in the season opener and finished 10th. Decker will take over on Saturday and will be sponsored by Christian music label Red Street Records, which was formed by Jay DeMarcus of country music group Rascal Flatts. Decker made 13 Truck Series starts in 2020 for Niece Motorsports.
For those that love numerology, Decker will be driving the No. 23 Ford this weekend as she attempts to become the 23rd different female to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series all-time. Decker will be the first female since Angela Ruch in 2018 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to make a start in the series.
The record for the best finish by a female in NASCAR national series history is fourth by Danica Patrick at Las Vegas in 2011. Decker holds the record for best finish by a female competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with her fifth-place finish in the season-opener last year at Daytona. The best finish by a female making her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut is 15th by Shawna Robinson at Rougemont in 1991.