The NASCAR XFINITY Series opened their season on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300. The race featured a 38-driver field and was won by JR Motorsports driver Michael Annett. The event had nine different leaders throughout the 300-mile event.
“This is amazing,” Annett said after the win. “My first words were ‘Eight years,’ my eighth year in the series. My guys have stuck with me through the hard times, when everybody has counted us out and wondered why I get to drive this car.”
Annett, driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, led the field for 45 of the 120 laps to earn his first career NASCAR National Series victory. The driver from Iowa has 230 starts in the series along with nine top five and 45 top 10 finishes.
The Iowa native, who qualified third but started second after pole sitter Tyler Reddick made unapproved adjustments after qualifying, finished the day running 13th in stage one and ninth in stage two.
Sitting second behind Annett was teammate Justin Allgaier in the No. 7 Chevrolet. Allgaier, starting 15th on the leaderboard at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, ran runner-up for majority of the final stage.
“First of all, hats off the everybody back at JR Motorsports. To see a car that was that strong… all four of our Camaro SS’s were strong today,” said Allgaier. “To see Michael get his first win… he’s tried so hard, and to see the time and the effort he’s put in, especially this offseason, it’s really, really cool. I was disappointed I couldn’t make a run, but a great way to start the season.”
Allgaier, earning five wins last season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, finished 12th in stage one and seventh in stage two.
Brandon Jones rounded out the top three finishers at the 2.5-mile oval. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing collected his fourth career top five. Jones spoke about the issues with passing and racing in the high line all race long:
“I mean, you could just tell everybody was so scared to get out of line there and then lose the pack. Me and Justin (Allgaier) just talked after the race and we thought that that 1 (Michael Annett), whenever he tried to swing that block, that was going to be the ticket to get by him,” said Jones after the race. “Just not enough momentum. Just very hard to get going there, but the Supra looked great on the race track for the debut of it. Juniper was back on the car for us this weekend, so I can’t complain. We had a great day. It was a great start to the year.”
Ryan Seig earned his fourth career top five finish by placing fourth. Austin Cindric, piloting the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, rounded out the top five.
Rest of the top 10 included Christopher Bell, Jeff Green, John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott.
There were four yellow flags in Saturday’s season opener at Daytona. The first two were for the end of stage one and two while the third stoppage involved the No. 12 Ford of Brad Keselowski on lap 70. Keselowski had issues with the roof hatch coming apart – putting debris on the track. The No. 12 Ford went to the garage and finished 48 laps down in 37th.
“I felt like I was back in the ‘50’s running a convertible here on the beach. That was interesting,” said Keselowski on the incident. “The roof, escape hatch, whatever it is called looks like there was a defect from the factory on the body and just nothing we could do. The guys tried to fix it but it is in a spot where you can’t get to it and work on it. It is made the way it is made. We are stuck. It is one of those things outside your control and sometimes that is just how things go. It has to be right from the factory and isn’t something we control. Just part of it I guess.”
Nine laps later, on lap 79, a two-car incident brought out the fourth and final yellow of the day on the backstretch. The incident involved the No. 07 of Ray Black Jr. and the No. 18 of Jeffrey Earnhardt. Both drivers were able to continue racing after the accident.
The next event for the NASCAR XFINITY Series will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23. The Rinnai 250 will air live on FS1 and PRN Radio at 2:00 p.m. ET.