Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 (5 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) race preview

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill does it again at Daytona

Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Hill posted his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory this past weekend at Daytona but he’s no stranger to winning at the iconic superspeedway. He also posted a win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener in 2019, and now Hill is one of four drivers to win both the Xfinity and Truck Series races at Daytona; joining Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick and Mike Wallace.

Hill led four times for 23 laps, second only to the 38 of last year’s Xfinity Series Champ, Daniel Hemric. Hemric finished the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 in 28th-place after falling victim to an incident on Lap 91.

It appears joining a new team brings Austin Hill some luck. Back in 2019, when he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona, he had just joined Hattori Racing Enterprises. That season, he went on to post four wins, seven top fives and 13 top 10s in the Truck Series.

Now Hill has the opportunity to become the fourth different driver to win the first two races of the year to start a Xfinity season; joining Tony Stewart (2008: Daytona, Auto Club), Chad Little (1995: Daytona, Rockingham) and Dale Earnhardt (1986: Daytona, Rockingham).

Coming in a close second was AJ Allmendinger, who finished runner-up in the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 for the second year in a row.

“We got single file and I saw Austin (Hill) kind of move up to the top there,” Allmendinger said. “I’m still learning and trying to be better at not getting too far out in the lead there, but he just timed it perfectly. He backed up, and for the last 20 laps or so I’d been pacing myself off the top and saying ‘okay, how big of a run can he get?’ He just timed to where that thing got a big push.”

Not far behind was Noah Gragson, Riley Herbst and Justin Allgaier to close out the top five.

Now Austin Hill finds himself second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings just four points back from Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger heading to Auto Club Speedway this weekend. Both drivers have only made one series start at ACS. Allmendinger made his series debut at Auto Club Speedway in 2007 for Chip Ganassi Racing; he started 18th and finished 36th due to an incident. Hill, a Winston, Georgia native, made his series track debut at Auto Club Speedway in 2020 driving for Hattori Racing Enterprises; he started 15th and finished 16th.  

Xfinity Series Next Stop: Production Alliance Group 300

This weekend, the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Auto Club Speedway for the Production Alliance Group 300 after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions.

This weekend’s race will be the 32nd running of a NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway. The previous 31 Xfinity races have produced 20 different poles winners and 18 different race winners.

Joey Logano leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series in poles at Auto Club Speedway with four (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). Only one former Xfinity Series pole winner at Auto Club Speedway is entered this weekend – Brandon Jones (2020 pole winner).

Kyle Busch leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with six victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2011, 2013). Cole Custer (2019) is the only Xfinity Series former Auto Club Speedway winner entered this weekend. Harrison Burton is the most recent winner in the Xfinity Series taking the win in 2020. 

Practice will be on Saturday, February 26 at 9 a.m. followed by qualifying at 9:30 a.m. The race begins at 5 p.m. ET on February 26, 2022 on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Make sure to check the schedule for any changes or updated times.

All about the history at Auto Club Speedway

Auto Club Speedway held its inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 1997 where fans saw Todd Bodine take the win.

This two-mile D-shaped track has held a total of 31 Xfinity Series races with 18 different winners. Kyle Busch leads with six wins, followed by Matt Kenseth with four wins and both Joey Logano and Greg Biffle tied with three.

Harrison Burton with Joe Gibbs Racing is the most recent winner, leading a total of 40 laps. Riley Herbst finished second  in 2020 followed by Austin Cindric, Ryan Sieg and Justin Haley to complete the top five.

2022 Sunoco Rookies: How’d they do?

After the incredible win this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway to open the season, Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill is leading the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 47 points.

Not far behind is Hill’s RCR teammate, Sheldon Creed, in second in the rookie standings (-16 points), who finished in sixth-place at Daytona and racked up 31 points to start the season.

In the third-place spot is Jesse Iwuji who tallied 10 points and finished the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 in 27th-place.

The three drivers will be back for the Production Alliance 300 where Creed and Iwuji will be making their series track debuts at Auto Club Speedway. Hill made his series track debut back in 2020 with Hattori Racing Enterprises where he started 15th and finished 16th.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Former Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne returns to Xfinity Series – Trevor Bayne is set to make his NASCAR Xfinity Series return, signing with Joe Gibbs Racing for select races in 2022. Bayne, 30, will be behind the wheel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for seven starts.

The former Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford driver will make his first start Feb. 26 at Auto Club Speedway. He’s also scheduled to pilot the 2021 title-winning No. 18 at Phoenix Raceway (March 12), Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 28), Nashville Superspeedway (June 25), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 16), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 15), and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 22).

Jason Ratcliff will serve as crew chief for Bayne and No. 18 team.

ARCA is proving ground for top finishers at Daytona – The NASCAR Xfinity Series winner at Daytona, Austin Hill, is another driver who worked his way up to the biggest stage by virtue of success on the ARCA Menards Series platform.  Hill has five career East series wins and finished a career-best third in the series standings in 2015. Four of the top five, Hill, third-place Noah Gragson, fourth-place Riley Herbst, and fifth-place Justin Allgaier, all have wins within the ARCA platform.

Custer and Grala to make Xfinity starts at Auto Club Speedway – Two NASCAR Cup Series drivers, Cole Custer and Kaz Grala, will be moonlighting in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Custer will be piloting the No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Ford and Grala will be in the No. 45 Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet.

Custer is the only previous Auto Club Speedway winner (2019) entered this weekend. Grala has made one Xfinity career start at ACS in 2018; he started 12th and finished 14th

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