Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 (5 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) race preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is just around the corner and the stage has been set for Daytona International Speedway 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.

Last year’s action-packed season opener saw NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric hold off Brett Moffitt and Harrison Burton in a two-lap overtime to take the checkered flag. This victory marked his first on the 2.5-mile Daytona track.

The inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona was on February 13, 1982 and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt. He went on to win six more Xfinity Series races in Daytona (1986,1990,1991,1992,1993,1994)

TRACK: Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)

Coverage: 5 p.m. ET

Green Flag: 5:19 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Radio: MRN

Distance: 120 Laps/300 Miles

Stage Lengths: 30/30/60

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – AUGUST 28: Jeb Burton, driver of the #10 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, Christopher Bell, driver of the #54 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota, Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, and Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway on August 28, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Can JRM Get Back To Winning Ways? RCR The Pole Favorites?

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. RCR has an astounding streak going with six straight poles in the NXS season openers at Daytona in which they qualified. It was rained out last year.

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 Myatt Snider (2020) have all kept the streak intact. Can it happen again this weekend?

Rookies Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed are hoping so.

In terms of the race itself, JRM has a strong streak themselves. JR Motorsports has been the top team in Xfinity Series action here in Daytona as of late. JRM entered the 2021 Speedweeks of winners in each of the last three years in this February race. They’ve also won 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.

In last year’s race, they had good race cars and had a legitimate shot of putting one of their four drivers back in victory lane for the fourth consecutive season. But, the two big ones hurt those chances.

It all started on Lap 74.

Some of the Chevy leaders up front were going to hit pit lane to short pit the final stint. Unfortunately, some drivers behind didn’t get the memo. Chad Finchum plowed into the back of Michael Annett sparking a nine car melee in the tri-oval.

2019 winner Annett was done for the night then. So was 2020 winner Noah Gragson. That left only Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry for the final 40+ laps as half of their fleet were taken out in that one incident.

The other two were taken out in the Lap 104 “big one” when Ty Dillon and Daniel Hemric sparked a huge melee in Turn 3. Both Allgaier and Berry were collected to end JRM’s day with four crashed race cars.

Can they pick up the pieces and get back to victory lane on Saturday afternoon?

Allgaier, has never won at Daytona before but was third last August and runner-up in this race in 2019. Between those races though, he was 17th, 30th, 29th and 28th respectively.

Gragson, has one top five in eight Daytona starts, including two Truck Series races. Berry, was 27th in his Daytona debut last February while Sam Mayer is a rookie.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – AUGUST 28: Justin Haley, driver of the #11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway on August 28, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Can Kaulig Pick Up February Daytona Win?

Kaulig has won four of the last eight superspeedway races including going 1-2-4 the last time out at Daytona in August. The thing is, they’ve never won at Daytona during Speedweeks. Does that happen this year?

2019:

Daytona in July – Ross Chastain (Kaulig)

2020:

Daytona – Noah Gragson (JRM)

Talladega- Justin Haley (Kaulig)

Daytona – Justin Haley (Kaulig)

2021:

Daytona – Austin Cindric (Penske)

Talladega – Jeb Burton (Kaulig)

Daytona – Justin Haley (Daytona)

Talladega – Brandon Brown (Brandonbuilt)

They’ll show up with AJ Allmendinger (5th and 2nd last year), Landon Cassill (1 top 20 in 9 Daytona NXS starts) and Daniel Hemric (9th and 5th last year) at their disposal.

Xfinity Series Champ Daniel Hemric is coming back for more

Speaking of Kaulig and Hemric, the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, will be competing in his No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in hopes that his momentum from last season will carry over into this weekend. Last year, Hemric finished ninth in the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300.

Hemric’s 2021 victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway marked the first of his career. That season, he posted 15 top fives, 21 top 10s and led a career-high 663 laps.

He will also be doubling up his seat time this season and competing part-time in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series where he won Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2019.

If Hemric goes back-to-back in Xfinity Series championships, he’ll be the eighth driver in series history to do so. Other drivers to achieve back-to-back Xfinity Series championships are Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Tyler Reddick.

Xfinity Series: New Faces in New Places

This offseason, we saw some shuffling of drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage so don’t be surprised to see some new faces in new places.

Kaulig Racing picked up picked up a couple drivers that are sure to run well this season, including last year’s 2021 Xfinity Series Champ Daniel Hemric and Landon Cassill.

Hemric makes the jump to Kaulig Racing after driving with Joe Gibbs Racing last season where he made 33 starts. He has qualified for the Xfinity Series Playoffs three times and plans to come back to try for a fourth.

Cassill’s NASCAR career began in 2007 and since then, has polished his resume with impressive accomplishments such as being named the 2008 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year and competing and posting top-five finishes in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

Another team to add some new names to the fulltime roster is JR Motorsports. This season, you can expect to see Sam Mayer and Josh Berry competing in bigger capacities.

Mayer made his Xfinity Series debut with JR Motorsports in the 2021 season but is coming back this season full-time. He tallied one top-five and six top-10 finishes and posted a best finish of fourth at Martinsville Speedway. In 2020, he won his first race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in just his seventh start.

Berry rejoins JR Motorsports fulltime after running part-time (22 starts) last season. He posted two wins at Martinsville and Las Vegas. He managed six top fives and 12 top 10s and was runner-up for the 2021 Sunoco Rookie of the Year award.

2022 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Class: Who will bring it home this year?

Last year, five drivers competed for NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, but it was Ty Gibbs who won the title. He hit the ground running by winning his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in Daytona and tallied four wins on the season to earn the award. 

Now, we’re seeing some new, yet familiar faces vying for the title in 2022 – Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill and Jesse Iwuji.

Sheldon Creed: Creed has a diverse history of racing but his first stint with stock car racing began in 2016 after competing in the ARCA Menards Series, Trans-Am Series, ARCA Menards Series West and ultimately in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series events. In 2020, he was named the NASCAR Camping World Series champion, having won five races with GMS Racing. This season, he will be behind the wheel of the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. In total, prior to this season he has made four starts in the Xfinity Series posting one top-10 finish.

Austin Hill: Hill is no stranger to NASCAR as he was a part of the NASCAR Next program in 2014 and 2015. During this time, he ran part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and eventually made a name for himself. In 2019, he qualified for the Truck Series Playoffs for the first time in his career, posting four wins, seven top fives and 13 top 10s. (He has made the NCWTS Playoffs in both years following 2019).  That same year, he made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished inside the top-10. This season, he will pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Jesse Iwuji: Iwuji made his NASCAR national series debut in 2018 in the NASCAR Cup Series but cut his teeth in the ARCA Menards Series West in 2015 and has since worked his way to the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Before making his debut in the Xfinity Series in 2020 with MBM Motorsports, he was competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Reaume Brothers Racing where he made four starts in 2020 and 2021, and five starts in 2019. Last year, Iwuji made one Xfinity Series start for Mike Harmon Racing.

Iwuji has partnered with National Football League Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith to form Jesse Iwuji Motorsports. He will be driving the No. 34 Chevrolet.

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.

2021: Team Penske had zero NASCAR Xfinity Series wins on the Daytona International Speedway oval before last February. In fact, six times had they been passed on the last lap here. Not last year. Austin Cindric had a great restart in overtime and bested Brett Moffitt by just .104-seconds in his No. 22 Ford. 

Close Finishes

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 45 times. 33 of the races ended under green and all 33 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 seven margins of victory in the season-opening race at Daytona:

Margin of VictoryRace WinnerRunner-UpDate
0.104
Under Caution
0.1160
Austin Cindric
Noah Gragson
Michael Annett
Brett Moffitt
Harrison Burton
Justin Allgaier
February 13, 2021
February 15, 2020
February 16, 2019
0.0004Tyler ReddickElliott SadlerFebruary 17, 2018
0.2180Ryan ReedKasey KahneFebruary 25, 2017
0.0430Chase ElliottJoey LoganoFebruary 20, 2016
0.0890Ryan ReedChris BuescherFebruary 21, 2015

Daytona International Speedway: Quick Stats

Below are quick stats for the NASCAR Xfinity Series heading into the Beef. Its What’s for Dinner. 300 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

  • Daytona International Speedway has hosted 60 NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
  • 34 different drivers have won at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, led by Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart with seven wins each.
  • Since 2012, we’ve had nine different winners in the last 10 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 seven years including two of the last three in general.
  • Only three drivers have ever won their first career Daytona start.
  • Only five races in history have been won from the pole or first starting position (2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2021).
  • 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 and 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.
  • Geoff Bodine still holds onto the race record from 1985 at 157.137 mph.
  • Qualifying Record – Tommy Houston (194.389 mph, 2/14/1987)
  • All-time Lap Leader – Dale Earnhardt Jr., 560 Laps Led
  • Single Race Laps Led Record – Joe Nemechek, 105 Laps Led (2/14/1998)

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