Austin Hillís Xfinity Series Three-Peat Win Closes Daytona Speedweeks

(DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEB 19, 2024 – RIS) “Never say die” may now be the official motto of the Richard Childress Racing Xfinity No. 21 team. After getting involved in a crash early in the race and dropping to the rear of the field at least three times, Austin Hill captured his third Daytona February race in a row, beating out his old teammate Sheldon Creed by a margin of 0.591 second after 120 laps of NASCAR Xfinity Series racing.

Rookie pole-sitter Jesse Love led the outside row to a lead over the inner lane, tailed by Austin Hill and Parker Kligerman but John Hunter Nemechek, then Anthony Alfredo moved to second briefly before Hill retook the position in the opening laps of the race. Unlike Friday’s Craftsman Truck Series race and the earlier Cup Series race, the Xfinity pack lined up in one row after the first handful of laps, stringing out in single file. The queue stabilized with Love, Hill, Kligerman, Justin Allgaier and Anthony Alfredo in the top five positions, trainedl by Sammy Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Sheldon Creed , Jeb Burton and Daniel Suarez rounding out the top ten. 

Sam Mayer and Daniel Suarez tangled to bring out the first caution with Mayer slamming hard in the outside wall. Kyle Weatherman and Hailie Deegan were also taken out in the Turn One melee.

The restart came to start the final lap in the first stage with Love and Hill in front and Love taking the stage by only a few inches one lap later. Parker Kligerman, Anthony Alfredo, Jeb Burton, Sheldon Creed, John Hunter Nemechek, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Truex were the points winners after the first 30 laps of the race.

After the leaders pitted for fuel and tires, the restart was headed by AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Riley Herbst, Shane Van Gisbergen and Cole Custer. Just three laps into the stage, a multi-car spin in mid-pack brought out the caution when Jesse Love got turned by a push from Nemechek, turning him right and into Allmendinger, setting off a crash involving at least seven cars.

Allgaier and Custer headed the restart with Allgaier pulling out to the leadbriefly with Riley Herbst and then Blaine Perkins swapping out the lead before Custer pulled away slightly, all this only in a couple of turns on the track. Custer led a three-wide pack then Allgaier moved up the track and tapped Custer, who reported that he had avoided a piece of debris in the outside lane and might have been lower on the track than anticipated. Allgaier pitted for tires and restarted in fifteenth place. Video replays showed the debris which appeared to be a swaybar or something similar.

John Hunter Nemechek, Dawson Cram and Josh Bilicki spun on the front straight when Nemechek’s left rear tire burst, sending him out of control and Bilicki got tapped in the reaction to the spin. 

Jeb Burton and Austin Hill led the restart with a shove from Ryan Sieg moving Burton to the lead before Hill moved into the lead ahead of Sheldon Creed and Sammy Smith in Creed’s first drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hill went on to take the second stage in spite of the earlier spin and some slight damage to the No. 21 Chevy. Sammy Smith, Sheldon Creed, Cole Custer and Ryan Sieg were the top five at the end of the second stage and midpoint of the race.

Sammy Smith and Sheldon Creed led the field, with Jesse Love and Allmendinger swapping third place several times over the first laps under the green before Allmendinger moved into second just behind Smith. 

Green flag pit stops allowed Natalie Decker to lead a few laps before stopping for fuel. A half lap back and gaining, the fast crowd ran three-wide, swapping the lead with Sieg, Herbst, Hill, Burton, Allgaier, Smith and more all in contention for the eventual lead, eventually somewhat settling into a single file for the top eight or ten cars.

With 24 laps to run, eighth place Jeb Burton got spun into the wet grass on the front straight. Contact from Sage Van Gisbergen send Burton into his spin and then SVG spun across the front straight as well. Both cars continued.

In the caution, Austin Hill pitted for tires, reporting that his car didn’t feel right, a feeling confirmed by the team who found the left rear tire flat.

A new caution flew almost immediately as a crash involving Leland Honeyman, Jeb Burton, Van Gisbergen and Garrett Smithley on the back straight tangled the field. Austin Hill, running right behind the start of the spin, avoided becoming involved.

The green flag came back out with eleven laps to run and 25 cars on the lead lap, Ryan Sieg and Riley Herbst on the front row in Ford, followed by the Sage Karam and Cole Custer’s Toyota. Fifth-place Sammy Smith had the top Chevy at the restart but he pulled out of the draft and fell back on the restart, with Allmendinger taking fifth. Herbst was called for a penalty for dropping back to get an advantage on the restart a crash by Sage Karam and Cole Custer getting together set off another caution. This allowed Herbst to restart at the back of the pack with many of the leaders eliminated from contention. The caution and restart penalty moved Jordan Anderson and Chandler Smith to the lead, with last year’s winner Austin Hill, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones the balance of the top five for the restart. Indicative of the amount of rain on the Speedway, one of the tow trucks dispatched to the scene had to be towed out of the infield mud as well as some of the cars that spun.

The green flag flew with three laps to run, Chandler Smith taking the lead over Austin Hill, then Hill and Smith drafted into the lead with two laps to run. Hill went on to win his third Daytona opener in a row, followed by Sheldon Creed and Jordan Anderson, Parker Retzlaff and Chandler Smith.

“It topss it off – three-peat. Three in a row at Daytona!” exulted Hill before taking the winner’s checkered flag to a lucky youngster in the grandstands.

Unofficial Results: United Rentals 300 - Monday, February 19, 2024, Daytona International Speedway

Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 2, Austin Hill, No. 21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet, 120, 2, 1, 3, 9, 6, 59, Running
2) 14, Sheldon Creed, No. 18 Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Toyota, 120, 6, 3, 2, 2, , 48, Running
3) 9, Parker Retzlaff, No. 31 FUNKAWAY Chevrolet, 120, , , , , , 34, Running
4) 29, Jordan Anderson, No. 32 Capital City Towing/Bommarito Chevrolet, 120, , , 1, 6, , 33, Running
5) 19, Chandler Smith, No. 81 Mobil 1 Toyota, 120, , , 1, 1, , 32, Running
6) 11, Riley Herbst, No. 98 Monster Energy Ford, 120, , 7, 2, 8, , 35, Running
7) 8, John Hunter Nemechek(i), No. 20 Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota, 120, 7, , , , , 0, Running
8) 6, Justin Allgaier, No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet, 120, 9, 8, 1, 7, , 34, Running
9) 22, Brandon Jones, No. 9 Menards/Swiffer Chevrolet, 120, , 10, , , , 29, Running
10) 3, AJ Allmendinger, No. 16 Celsius Chevrolet, 120, 8, 9, 1, 3, , 32, Running
11) 36, Ryan Ellis, No. 43 Heartbeat Hot Sauce Co Chevrolet, 120, , , 1, 11, , 26, Running
12) 5, Shane Van Gisbergen #, No. 97 WeatherTech Chevrolet, 120, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 17, Cole Custer, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford, 120, , 4, 1, 6, , 31, Running
14) 34, Blaine Perkins, No. 29 AutoParkit.com Ford, 120, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 38, BJ McLeod, No. 78 Kales Truck Heavy Equipment Chevrolet, 120, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 23, Garrett Smithley, No. 6 Z&M Harley Davidson Chevrolet, 120, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 13, Patrick Emerling, No. 07 Phillips Hunt Walker Chevrolet, 120, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 30, Natalie Decker, No. 36 Amped Fitness Chevrolet, 120, , , 1, 7, , 19, Running
19) 33, Brennan Poole, No. 44 Finance Pro Plus Chevrolet, 120, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 1, Jesse Love #, No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet, 120, 1, , 2, 34, 1, 27, Running
21) 20, Ryan Truex, No. 19 Toyota SmartPath Toyota, 120, 10, 6, , , , 22, Running
22) 31, Ryan Sieg, No. 39 Sci Aps/Scrap University Ford, 120, , 5, 1, 12, , 21, Running
23) 12, Sammy Smith, No. 8 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet, 119, , 2, 2, 6, , 23, Running
24) 10, Anthony Alfredo, No. 5 Dude Wipes Chevrolet, 118, 4, , , , , 20, Running
25) 4, Parker Kligerman, No. 48 Spiked Lite Coolers Chevrolet, 118, 3, , , , , 20, Running
26) 16, Jeb Burton, No. 27 Golden Corral Chevrolet, 118, 5, , 1, 8, , 17, Running
27) 26, Daniel Dye(i), No. 10 Champion Containers Chevrolet, 117, , , , , , 0, Running
28) 32, Sage Karam, No. 26 CRC Brakleen Toyota, 111, , , , , , 9, Accident
29) 7, Jeremy Clements, No. 51 One Stop/All South Electric Chevrolet, 109, , , , , , 8, DVP
30) 24, Leland Honeyman #, No. 42 Ohio Logistics Chevrolet, 102, , , , , , 7, Accident
31) 35, Dawson Cram #, No. 4 FIRMAN Power Equipment Chevrolet, 51, , , , , , 6, Accident
32) 27, Josh Bilicki, No. 92 Zeigler Auto Group Chevrolet, 51, , , , , , 5, Accident
33) 37, Frankie Muniz, No. 35 Ford Performance Ford, 37, , , , , , 4, DVP
34) 21, Josh Williams, No. 11 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, 37, , , , , , 3, DVP
35) 18, Daniel Suarez(i), No. 14 Wendy's Chevrolet, 23, , , , , , 0, Accident
36) 15, Sam Mayer, No. 1 Carolina Carports Chevrolet, 22, , , , , , 1, Accident
37) 28, Hailie Deegan #, No. 15 Klutch Vodka Ford, 22, , , , , , 1, Accident
38) 25, Kyle Weatherman, No. 91 DriveSmartWarranty.com Chevrolet, 22, , , , , , 1, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie

Race Length: 120 Laps, 300 Miles
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 29 Secs.
Average Speed: 108.119 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.591 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 2, 21, 48, 5, 27, 18, 20, 16, 7, 19
Stage 2 Top 10: 21, 8, 18, 00, 39, 19, 98, 7, 16, 9

Comments: Austin Hill has won the United Rentals 300 at Daytona International Speedway, his seventh career victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Prior to the start, the following vehicle(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reason(s) indicated: Nos. 4, 78 (Unapproved Adjustments), No. 26 (Engine Change).

Failed to Qualify: (6) 53 Joey Gase, 45 Caesar Bacarella, 38 CJ McLaughlin, 28 Kyle Sieg, 74 Stanton Barrett, 66 David Starr.

Cautions: 9 for 44 laps;
Laps: 24-29 (No. 1, 14, 15, 91 Incident Turn 1 [None]);
32-35 (Stage 1 Conclusion [None]);
38-42 (No. 21, 16, 97, 48, 2, 20, 10, 5, 11, 35, 51 Incident Backstretch [None]);
46-48 (No. 00, 7 Incident Backstretch [20]);
52-56 (No. 20 Spin Frontstretch [97]);
62-66 (Stage 2 Conclusion [20]);
98-102 (No. 27 Spin Frontstretch [07]);
104-109 (No. 6, 27, 42, 51 Incident Backstretch [None]);
113-117 (No. 7, 00, 44, 10, 26 Incident Backstretch [97]).

Lead Changes: 19 among 14 drivers;
J. Love # 1-32;
A. Allmendinger 33-35;
J. Allgaier 36-42;
C. Custer 43-48;
J. Burton 49-56;
A. Hill 57-58;
S. Creed 59;
A. Hill 60-63;
J. Love # 64-65;
S. Smith 66-70;
R. Herbst 71-73;
S. Smith 74;
R. Herbst 75-79;
S. Creed 80;
N. Decker 81-87;
R. Ellis 88-98;
R. Sieg 99-110;
C. Smith 111;
J. Anderson 112-117;
A. Hill 118-120.

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2024, Issue 2, Posted 12:53 AM, 02.20.2024