DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — A race record 10 cautions that resulted in a triple overtime finish to where 32 of the 38 cars were collected in some sort of crash during the 118 lap Wawa 250. The rain delayed NASCAR Xfinity Series race started on Friday night but ended in the week hours of Saturday morning to which the top 2 cars were 2 of the 8 cars being loaded back on the haulers clean.
The winner scored his 2nd career win. The 2nd place finisher earned his 2nd career top 5.
That’s how wild of a race that featured a survival of the fittest.
The race went green just before 11 p.m. ET (10:51 p.m. green flag) and didn’t end until well after 1 a.m. ET.
In saying that, the usual suspects were still found restarting up up front on the second to last restart. However, AJ Allmendinger was pushing Noah Gragson too hard which sent Gragson’s No. 9 Chevrolet hard into the outside SAFER barrier in the backstretch.
It set up two damaged cars on the front row for the final restart in Austin Hill and Allmendinger. Each had issues coming to the green flag. Allmendinger ran out of fuel while Hill’s electrical system failed him.
As a result, Sage Karam pushed Jeremy Clements to the lead and while it looked like each were too far ahead, Clements was able to fight off a fierce battle with Allmendinger and Brandon Brown.
He took the white flag ahead of them before a crash occurred behind ending the race early. Clements was scored as the winner as he took his No. 51 Chevrolet to victory lane for just the 2nd time of his NASCAR Xfinity Series career. The other occurred at Road America back on Aug. 27, 2017.
Tonight’s win is exactly 5 years to the date as the race started on Aug. 26 but ended on Aug. 27 to give Clements both wins coming on the same date. 164 starts occurred between them.
However, this win stamps his name into the postseason now.
“I’m speechless, man,” Clements said. “I don’t even know what to say. That’s incredible, man. I just can’t. I’m sorry. I’m a little speechless.
“We survived that big wreck back there – it was like a ‘Days of Thunder’ wreck and I thought if we can just keep up with these guys, it’ll be a good day. A top-five and car in one piece – that’s a good day.
“Wow – this is incredible. Thank you to everyone for sticking around. I know it’s late as hell. It’s time to drink a beer!”
Clements had 0 top 5’s and 2 top 10’s in 24 career Xfinity Series starts at Daytona prior to tonight. Now he has a win. He was 1 of the 8 cars unscathed.
So was Timmy Hill who did a great job of keeping his No. 13 Chevrolet clean to finish second for just his 7th career top 10 finish but only 2 of which being in the top 5. Hill came from the last row in the 37th starting spot. From 2nd to last to 2nd..
Allmendinger rebounded to finish 3rd after a wild day in his No. 16 Chevrolet while Brown and Sage Karam rounded out the top five.
Rough Ending For JR Motorsports
With 20 to go, 3 of the 4 JR Motorsports cars were found in the top 4. By 9 to go, it all changed. Justin Allgaier was running third but got into 2nd placed AJ Allmendinger exiting the tri-oval. That sparked a 6 car crash with 9 laps left in regulation that collected 3 of the 4 JRM cars.
Sam Mayer got into Josh Berry in the middle of the incident taking each out of contention. On the ensuring restart, Allgaier was collected in the next “Big One” on Lap 97.
During the 2nd overtime restart, Gragson was then collected taking all 4 JRM cars out of Daytona on the wrecker.
For Gragson, it was a frustrating ending in the a sense that he became the 4th most laps led driver in the history of this race. The Las Vegas native led a race-high 52 laps which brings him to a total of 96 for his career in this summer race. Unfortunately, he didn’t lead the lap that mattered.
He had 3 top 4 finishes in the previous 4 superspeedway starts in 2022 including 3rd here in February.
Creed Falls Further Back
Sheldon Creed entered the night 39 points behind the final playoff spot. He made up a ton of ground by the midway mark as he finished 3rd in the first stage and was running 2nd on the final lap of the 2nd stage. At that time, he was 15 points out. However, that’s where it all changed because he’d not only spin there, but was collected in the Lap 82 caution to which relegated him to a disappointing 36th place result. With Clements winning that took another spot away dropping Creed now to 55 points arrears.
Carnage Helps New Names Up Front
The Xfinity Series is tabbed as “Names are made here.” Well in a wild Wawa 250, new names were found upfront. The win was just the 2nd ever for Jeremy Clements. The 2nd place finish by Timmy Hill was his 2nd ever. Brandon Brown was 4th for just his 6th career top 5. Sage Karam was 5th in scoring his 1st ever top 5.
6th place was Ryan Vargas. That’s his 2nd career top 10. They were joined in the top 11 by names like Alex Labbe, JJ Yeley and Jesse Iwuji.
Friday night’s race set a record for most cautions (10). We also saw 32 of the 38 cars collected in some sort of crash damage.
Allmendinger Somehow Rebounds For a Top 5
The box score shows AJ Allmendinger started on the pole and finished 3rd. But it wasn’t that simple for the Kaulig Racing driver. Allmendinger did finish 4th in Stage 1 but was 16th in Stage 2. Still there he was back up front in the closing laps and found himself in 2nd with 10 to go. That’s where his race went from crazy to wild.
Allmendinger was spun by Justin Allgaier exiting the tri-oval on Lap 91. He collected some damage and would have to pit a couple of times under caution for repairs. He’d restart in 31st. Once we went back green with 4 laps left in regulation, we’d see a quick caution for another crash. Allmendinger made it through there unscathed in going from 31st to 24th. Under this yellow, 2 cars in front of him pit which bumped him up to 22nd on the first overtime restart.
That’s where we’d see another melee on the backstretch which saw Allmendinger go from 22nd to 3rd. Now he had his track position back.
On the next restart, he was being pushed from behind by teammate Landon Cassill which as a result forced Allmendinger to push Noah Gragson too hard which sent Gragson’s car hard into the outside SAFER barrier. Allmendinger’s car was fine and he now was in 2nd and would be restarting on the front row.
Unfortunately, his car was running out of gas and he had to stop for fuel. He’d drop from 2nd to restarting 6th.
Race leader Austin Hill’s car wouldn’t go on the final restart. Allmendinger hooked up with Brandon Brown to push him forward. Jeremy Clements and Sage Karam were already way ahead but on a superspeedway, that’s a detriment.
Here came Brown and Allmendinger. They caught the duo up front by Turn 3 and Allmendinger made a maneuver to the inside for 2nd. Timmy Hill responded to get to 2nd and Allmendinger in 3rd before a crash occurred behind them ending the race early.
Allmendinger was scored in 3rd for his 5th straight top 7 on the season including 4 of the 5 in the top 4 at that. It was also his 4th straight Daytona top 5 including his last 3 being 2nd, 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Trends Picked This Winner
The cars lining up on the front row for this restart had trends going against them. Austin Hill was 1st. Despite having 2 wins and 3 top 2 finishes in 4 superspeedway starts this season, just one other time has someone swept the year at Daytona in this series as that came from Dale Earnhardt Jr. back in 2003. In fact, only three other drivers have ever won at least two straight starts for them in Xfinity Series competition on the high banked 2.5-mile track with two of them being named Earnhardt. They were Darrell Waltrip (1983-1984), Dale Earnhardt (1990-1994, all in February) and Earnhardt Jr. (2003-2004, 3 straight). Could Hill really join that list?
He rallied back from finishing 2nd in the opening stage but suffering from right front damage to his No. 21 Chevrolet after accidentally getting into Caesar Bacarella who was entering his pit as Hill was exiting his. He’d finish 17th in Stage 2 but rebounded in the final stage to put himself in a position to win in the end.
AJ Allmendinger was supposed to restart in 2nd. Only five races in NXS history at Daytona has the pole sitter won (2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2021). His fuel was low and he had to pit elevating Jeremy Clements to the front row.
Trends decided it wasn’t their turn on Saturday morning.
We’ve also had 13 different winners in the last 14 Daytona Xfinity Series races. Chevrolet has won 9 times in the last 10 races at Daytona including 2 straight. The last 2 summer race winners all started 9th.
Hill’s car wouldn’t go on the restart as he was suffering from electrical problems. Clements’ did. Clements is a Chevy driver who hasn’t ever won at Daytona before and started tonight’s race…9th.