Fresh off his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, Austin Cindric is already steak-ing his claim for a repeat. Starting from the pole, he held off Brett Moffitt in overtime to win the season-opening Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
Cindric was placed on the pole after qualifying was cancelled due to rain, and the use of 2020’s owner points meant championship runner-up Justin Allgaier started second. While Cindric and Riley Herbst would see early success by spending time in the lead, the same could not be said for DGM Racing as their drivers brought out the first three cautions: Alex Labbé spun on lap five after being clipped by Ty Dillon, followed by Josh Williams‘ car stopping on the backstretch on lap 11 for a flat left-rear tyre and a spin eight laps later.
Although Herbst, new to Stewart-Haas Racing, led for much of the opening stage, he would lose the segment win to former Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Brandon Jones by just .004 of a second. Dillon, the fastest driver in Friday’s practice, finished third in the stage ahead of Cindric, Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Ryan Sieg, and Brandon Brown.
Sieg, who switched to Ford beginning in 2021, led for much of Stage #2 before being passed by Camping World Truck Series full-timer Moffitt. On lap 62, as Moffitt crossed the line for the stage win, the first major wreck of the day took place when Jones came down in the tri-oval and clipped by Myatt Snider, sending him through the grass and into the outside wall; as his car slid down the track, Cody Ware was unable to avoid him. Labbé also collided with Jones.
Dillon finished second in the stage, followed by Cindric, Haley, Brown, Sieg, Jeremy Clements, Snider, Gragson, and Josh Berry.
Cindric led the field to the start of Stage #3. After ten laps, as much of the field prepared to pit under green, Michael Annett spun up the course, triggering a multi-car crash that collected Sieg, Robby Lyons, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gray Gaulding, Colby Howard, and Bayley Currey. Lyons collided with a safety truck after a miscommunication with his spotter, who was subsequently ordered to the NASCAR hauler.
“Thankful that everyone on the AMR safety crew are safe after last night. I wasn’t made aware that the apron in T3 was impassable. Tower had communicated multiple instructions to the spotter but I was told nothing. LF tire came apart as my car enters T3,” Lyons began in a Twitter thread. “I knew that if I had locked up the brakes, I was going to be pointed toward the back of the ambulance. I let off the brakes to turn the car right and get away from it and slow the car on the the banking, and there was nothing I could do to keep it from sliding down.
“I personally requested to meet with the head of the AMR safety crew following the incident to express my sincere apologies and cover the incident in detail as I had earlier with series Director Wayne Auton. I’m thankful that when we all left the race track last night, we were all able to put the incident behind us and that everyone was safe in what was a scary yet preventable situation. I know myself and my team will make the necessary changes moving forward.”
Burton would enjoy the longest stretch in the front as the race hit the triple-digit mark, leading twenty-eight laps. Yet another Big One took place on lap 106, this time featuring the leaders, when Dillon got loose while receiving a push from Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Hemric in turn three. Allgaier, Herbst, Brown, Justin Haley, Timmy Hill, Jeb Burton, Josh Berry, Danny Bohn, among others were also victims of the wreck.
Cindric took the lead as the race resumed on lap 113, but what would be the final wreck occurred two laps later when Landon Cassill was hooked by Burton and Tommy Joe Martins by Jeremy Clements in the tri-oval, sending Cassill and Martins spinning and the latter through the infield; Martins’ splitter dug into the wet grass, destroying his front end. Cassill and Martins, both racing for small teams, had been fighting for top-ten positions.
“Hated that for Landon and his team,” Burton tweeted. “I don’t just wreck people. I believe he wasn’t aware I was outside of him.”
In overtime, a strong restart kept Cindric in front while Moffitt and both Burtons were unable to catch up as he pulled away for his ninth career victory. Besides being Team Penske‘s first Xfinity win at Daytona, Cindric also became the second driver to win an Xfinity title followed by the Daytona opener the following year, joining Randy LaJoie who won the 1996 championship and 1997 opener. LaJoie, father of current Cup Series driver Corey, would also go on to win the 1997 title.
The win continues what has been an eventful Speedweeks for Cindric, who will make his Cup début in Sunday’s Daytona 500 for Penske.
“What an awesome race,” Cindric stated. “What a really fast Verizon 5G Ford Mustang. Unbelievable effort by everyone at Team Penske. Obviously, coming off a lot of momentum winning that championship last year, but nothing is guaranteed and keep working hard.”
With Daytona’s reputation for underdog success, other notable finishes included Brandon Gdovic and Sam Hunt Racing scoring their maiden top ten in eighth and Jason White finishing tenth in his first NASCAR race since since 2014. Joe Graf Jr. came up short of a top ten but recorded his career best finish of eleventh, a feat also accomplished by Caesar Bacarella in twelfth. Brown’s sixth-place finish ties his best on a superspeedway, coincidentally also at Daytona, in 2019.
|1||1||22||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||122||Running|
|2||15||02||Brett Moffitt*||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|3||8||20||Harrison Burton||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||122||Running|
|4||7||10||Jeb Burton||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|5||31||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|6||14||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|7||11||2||Myatt Snider||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|8||39||26||Brandon Gdovic||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota||122||Running|
|9||12||18||Daniel Hemric||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||122||Running|
|10||40||23||Jason White||RSS Racing||Ford||122||Running|
|11||18||07||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|12||38||90||Caesar Bacarella||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|13||36||99||Stefan Parsons||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|14||32||54||Ty Dillon||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||122||Running|
|15||34||47||Kyle Weatherman||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|16||27||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|17||24||78||Jesse Little||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|18||21||6||Ryan Vargas||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|19||28||48||Danny Bohn*||Big Machine Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|20||37||66||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Ford||121||Running|
|21||17||92||Josh Williams||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||120||Running|
|22||16||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet||120||Running|
|23||33||4||Landon Cassill||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||114||Accident|
|24||22||44||Tommy Joe Martins||Martins Motorsports||Chevrolet||114||Accident|
|25||23||61||Robby Lyons||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||105||Accident|
|26||4||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||105||Accident|
|27||9||8||Josh Berry||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||104||Accident|
|28||2||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||104||Accident|
|29||3||11||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||104||Accident|
|30||26||13||Chad Finchum||MBM Motorsports||Ford||104||Accident|
|31||13||39||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||81||DVP|
|32||5||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||76||Accident|
|33||30||74||Bayley Currey*||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||75||Accident|
|34||35||52||Gray Gaulding||Jimmy Means Racing||Chevrolet||75||Accident|
|35||20||15||Colby Howard||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||75||Accident|
|36||10||1||Michael Annett||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||74||Accident|
|37||25||0||Jeffrey Earnhardt||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||74||Accident|
|38||6||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||60||Accident|
|39||29||17||Cody Ware*||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||60||Accident|
|40||19||36||Alex Labbé||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||60||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points