42 cars enter for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at the Daytona International Speedway. In a series that boasts itself for where “Names are Made Here,” there’s a new opening for new names to be made in NASCAR’s version of AAA for 2023.
3 of the top 5 drivers in the final standings a year ago are each competing up in the Cup Series now. The only two drivers back are in the JRM camp with Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry.
Austin Hill also returns to RCR as does his teammate Sheldon Creed. 7th and 8th in last year’s points, Sam Mayer and Brandon Jones, are each back with Jones moving from JGR over to JRM. That’s 4 of the top 5 drivers left from last year that are returning belonging to the JRM camp. This organization has won 3 of the last 5 Speedweeks races in the Xfinity Series by 3 different drivers (Tyler Reddick, Michael Annett, Noah Gragson).
Can Kaulig Pick Up February win?
What we’re witnessing out of Kaulig Racing hasn’t been seen since DEI’s plate success in the early 2000s. The 2021 summer race win for Kaulig was their sixth in the last eight speedway races including 2-for-3 during that season. In fact, that was their fourth win in the last five races at either Daytona or Talladega.
They went 1-2-3 in both stages in that August race and nearly went 1-2-3 in the end with being 1-2-4 instead. Also, they led 43 of the 100 laps run as well.
Kaulig Racing enters this year’s February race with 3 cars in the field. They’re 0 for their last 6 after being 5-for-7 prior. However, none of those 5 were Speedweeks wins.
Daytona in July – Ross Chastain (Kaulig)
Daytona – Noah Gragson (JRM)
Talladega- Justin Haley (Kaulig)
Daytona – Justin Haley (Kaulig)
Daytona – Austin Cindric (Penske)
Talladega – Jeb Burton (Kaulig)
Daytona – Justin Haley (Daytona)
Talladega – Brandon Brown (Brandonbuilt)
Daytona – Austin Hill (RCR)
Atlanta – Ty Gibbs (JGR)
Talladega – Noah Gragson (JRM)
Atlanta – Austin Hill (RCR)
Daytona – Jeremy Clements (JCR)
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 eight season-opening races at Daytona; including three 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.
2022: Hill passes Allmendinger just before we went caution to signify the end.
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 when they crossed the finish line under green flag conditions. Last year’s was under caution.
|Margin of Victory||Race Winner||Runner-Up||Date|
|February 13, 2021|
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|
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 62 NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
- 36 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 10 different winners in the last 11 years of this event. Only Ryan Reed (2015, 2017) has reached Gatorade Victory Lane multiple times in that span.
- Also since 2012, five of the 10 years we’ve seen a first time winner in the series. James Buescher (2012), Reed (2015), Annett (2019), Gragson (2020) and Hill (2022) have each earned their first career NXS wins in this Daytona event. As you can see, it’s happened four of the last eight years including three of the last four in general.
- Only four 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).
- Each of the last 12 races were won by a starter in the top 6 rows including 6 of which from a top 4 starting position.
- 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)
- Justin Allgaier – Was 3rd in the 2021 summer race, 5th last February and has 5 top 7 finishes in his last 7 starts including 3 top 3’s in his last 6. He’s 0-for-24 here in the Xfinity Series but he’s been closer than ever to ending that stretch. He’s also 0-for-4 in the Cup Series here as well.
- Justin Haley – 2 top 6’s in 5 Cup starts here as well as 4 top 6’s in 8 Xfinity Series starts including 3 top 2’s in his last 6. Was also runner-up in the 2018 Truck Series season opener. That equates out to 5 top 2’s and 6 top 6’s in 14 Daytona starts.
- Austin Hill – Hill had 2 wins and a runner-up in 5 superspeedway starts last season including 1st and 14th respectively here.
- Jeb Burton – He was 4th in both races in 2021 to go along with a Talladega win in 2020.
- Anthony Alfredo – Was 7th last February.
- Sheldon Creed – 9th and 6th in 2 of his 3 Truck Series starts as well as 6th last February.
- Myatt Snider – He has 2 top 8’s in his last 4 Xfinity Series starts here as well as a 10th place run in 1 of his 3 Truck Series tries too.
- Brandon Jones – 2 top 5’s in 14 Daytona tries including his last 5 finishes being 13th, 38th, 40th, 17th and 20th respectively. Now though, he has a JRM car, one that’s won 2 of the last 5 season openers.
- Riley Herbst – 4th last year here to give him 3 top 10’s in his last 5 Daytona tries.
- Jeremy Clements – Entering last August’s race: 0 top 5’s and 2 top 10’s in 24 Xfinity Series starts at Daytona. He went out and won, which puts him on this list now.
- Gray Gaulding – 2 top 10’s in his last 3 Daytona tries including a runner-up in 2020.
- Timmy Hill – 2 top 3’s in his last 4 Daytona starts.
- Josh Berry – 27th, 16th and 18th are his 3 Daytona starts.
- Sam Mayer – 12th, 30th and 34th are his 3 Daytona finishes too.
- Cole Custer – 0 top 10’s in 6 NXS starts at Daytona.
- Daniel Hemric – 1 top 5 in 9 NXS starts at Daytona including being 28th and 19th respectively last year. He was 9th and 5th in 2021 however and has a Kaulig car…
- John Hunter Nemechek – He finished 17th or worse in 3 of his 5 Truck Series starts here. In three NXS starts, he also finished 8th, 22nd and 35th respectively.