NASCAR Xfinity Series: 5 takeaways from Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 18: Austin Hill, driver of the #21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Beef. It's What's For Dinner. 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Austin Hill overcomes radio trouble and makes it a double at Daytona after winning the ‘Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.’ 300 in NASCAR Overtime on Saturday evening.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener came down to video review, but the fastest driver won on the evening. Austin Hill blew through the field en route to his second consecutive spring Daytona victory.

1. Austin Hill: still very good at superspeedways

While some team lineups may change, some drivers and teams may switch manufacturers, results remain the same. Austin Hill once again proves he’s the class of the Xfinity Series field around the superspeedway with his win on Saturday.

Before the race, Hill had trouble with the radio, complaining about static. Hill brought his car down pit road to fix the issue, thinking he’d be allowed to go back to his pole position. NASCAR didn’t allow that, and Hill was given his orders to start the race at the rear of the field.

Austin Hill and his #21 Richard Childress Racing Chevy didn’t spend long in the back of the pack. He caught the front with ample time remaining in the first stage of the race and won that stage en route to his NASCAR Overtime win.

2. JR Motorsports: running at the front, a nose short

Nearly all race, at least two of the four JR Motorsports Chevrolets were in the top five, waiting to pounce. Justin Allgaier held the lead for a number of laps, flanked by teammates in the first pack. Allgaier won stage two of the race.

With two laps remaining, Brandon Jones went for a block on JRM teammate Josh Berry, and arrived at the scene a moment late. Jones went for a ride, NASCAR Race Control called the caution, and off we went to NASCAR Overtime. One problem: JRM cars had pit a lap earlier than the JGR and other cars around them in the front pack. Josh Berry ran out of fuel entirely during caution laps prior to overtime.

Allgaier looked destined for the same fate, even complaining on the radio about low fuel pressure. Allgaier ended up surviving in the draft and came up just short of Austin Hill in NASCAR Overtime.

3. NASCAR shouldn’t be coming down to video review

The Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 came down to a photo finish in NASCAR Overtime. However, it’s not the photo finish race fans would like, with drivers racing all the way to the line. This photo finish came from a video review from NASCAR Race Control.

On the final lap of NASCAR Overtime, a wreck saw Sam Mayer flip upside down on the backstretch before rolling right-side-up. The wreck brought out a caution flag that ended the race and “froze the field” for the finish. All this is well and good, that’s the system we’ve got here.

What added unnecessary confusion was the timing of the caution not being a visible entity, rather, by NASCAR’s rule, it’s when Race Control “pushes the button” to trigger a caution, not when the lights on the track flash yellow, alerting drivers and fans alike of the flag.

So a race where three drivers, Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier, and John Hunter Nemechek were all within a few feet of each other for a race win comes down to timing that only NASCAR’s officials truly see. This just creates unnecessary gray areas and sours a great finish.

4. A big Xfinity return for John Hunter Nemechek

Anyone who’s watched him before knows that John Hunter Nemechek is a legit racing talent, regardless of the series he’s racing in. In his NASCAR Xfinity Series return, Nemechek looked right at home in his Joe Gibbs Racing #20.

Nemechek was the nose of Austin Hill’s Chevy away from winning on Saturday night, timing his run to the front just right before the aforementioned final lap caution. Had the last lap wreck not happened, Nemechek looked to have the push on the bottom line to win the race at the tri-oval. Instead, he loses a photo finish on the backstretch.

While disappointing to finish second at Daytona, it’s a result to build on for the returning Nemechek. It’s a bit too early to think about points, but it’s clear John Hunter has a quick JGR Supra.

5. A quieter Xfinity return for Cole Custer

Cole Custer‘s return to the Stewart-Haas Racing #00 Ford was a subdued one, Custer didn’t make the broadcast often after the first lap, but did rally for a top-ten finish. Some drivers would say a quiet day at Daytona is a positive.

When Austin Hill’s radio troubles sent him to the back of the field, Cole Custer was given the front row for the first lap and led the first lap of the race. He eventually was passed by a swarm of JR Motorsports Chevys and found himself falling back in the pack.

Expectations are high for the former NASCAR Xfinity Series runner-up, with many predicting Custer to recreate that championship-contending form again. If he keeps his nose clean at superspeedways and regains his Xfinity form at mile-long tracks and intermediates, Custer should be at the sharp end of the series when it matters most.

Featured Image Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images