In his first event as a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor, Austin Hill overtook AJ Allmendinger at the moment of caution due to a harrowing multi-car wreck to win the season-opening Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 19, and claim his first Xfinity Series career victory in his 16th series start.
The 27-year-old Hill from Winston, Georgia, led four times for a total of 23 of the 120-scheduled laps as he made a bold move beneath Allmendinger to emerge out in front and claim the victory in his first event driving the No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing.
The starting lineup was determined through a qualifying session earlier in the day. Daniel Hemric, the reigning Xfinity Series champion, started on pole position after posting a pole-winning lap at 182.849 mph. Joining him on the front row was Austin Hill, an Xfinity rookie candidate who qualified with a lap at 182.423 mph.
Ronnie Bassett Jr., Natalie Decker, Gray Gaulding, Alex Labbe, Mason Massey, Stefan Parsons, Harrison Rhodes, David Starr and Tim Viens failed to qualify into the 38-car field.
Prior to the event, Shane Lee, Sam Mayer and Ryan Truex started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective machines.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Hemric jumped with an early lead through the first two turns and through the backstraightaway. With the field fanning out to double lanes in the early stages of the event, Hemric led the first lap before he moved to the outside lane to block Sheldon Creed. At the same time, Jade Buford challenged Hemric for the lead, but was unable to clear Hemric as he retained the lead through the following lap.
Then in Turn 1, Hill pulled his No. 21 United Rentals Chevrolet Camaro beneath Hemric’s No. 11 Athletic Greens Chevrolet as he challenged for the lead. While Hill had teammate Creed behind him, Hemric received drafting support from his new teammate Landon Cassill.
Through the first five laps of the event, Hemric and Hill continued to duel for the lead followed by Sheldon Creed, Cassill, Buford, Riley Herbst, Brett Moffitt, Josh Berry, Drew Dollar, Brandon Jones and the field. By then, Anthony Alfredo was black-flagged and was forced to pit to replace a right-side window that fell out of his car.
Five laps later, Hill was out in front ahead of Hemric, Cassill, Herbst and Gragson. By then, Creed was back in 12th ahead of Brandon Jones. In addition, Ty Gibbs was in 16th and AJ Allmendinger was in 20th.
On Lap 13, the first caution of the event flew when Drew Dollar got loose in front of Jade Buford entering the backstraightaway and shot his No. 18 Lynx Capital Toyota Supra back across the track into the path of Jeremy Clements as both competitors made hard contact against the outside wall. Behind, Sam Mayer spun, but continued. Under caution, some like Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Allmendinger pitted while the rest led by Hemric remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Gragson was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 19, Hemric, who restarted with the lead, retained the top spot for a full lap as the field jostled behind for positions.
By Lap 25 and with the field fanning out to three lanes through close-quarters racing, Hemric continued to lead ahead of Hill, Herbst, Ty Gibbs and Berry while Allmendinger, Cassill, Allgaier, Brandon Brown and Myatt Snider were in the top 10. By then, Gragson was in 12th behind Brandon Jones, Buford and Mayer were in 14th and 15th and Creed was in 19th in between Brett Moffitt and Kyle Weatherman.
Then on the final lap of the first stage 1, Hill mounted a challenge on Kaulig Racing’s Hemric and Allmendinger for the first stage victory. Entering Turn 3, Hill briefly got by Allmendinger, but the latter fought back entering the frontstretch. Allmendinger, however, was unable to formulate a charge for the stage victory over his new Kaulig Racing teammate as Hemric claimed the first stage victory on Lap 30. Allmendinger settled in second followed by Herbst, Hill, Gragson, Gibbs, Allgaier, Ryan Sieg, Brandon Brown and Mayer.
Under the stage break, nearly the entire field led by Hemric pitted and Brown exited first after electing to not have his tires changed. Mayer and Jeb Burton also pitted for only fuel, some like Hill and Gragson pitted for two fresh tires and others like Hemric pitted for four fresh tires. Back on the track, few like Joe Graf Jr. and Ryan Vargas remained on the track. Prior to the restart, Vargas pitted while Graf remained on the track.
The second stage started on Lap 36 as Graf and Brown occupied the front row. At the start, both competitors dueled for the lead before Brown pulled ahead entering the backstraightaway while Graf slipped out of the top five.
By Lap 40, Brown was out in front of a long line of competitors running towards the outside wall while Gragson, Hill, Gibbs and Ryan Sieg were in the top five. Allgaier, Josh Berry, Buford, Herbst and Creed were in the top 10 while Snider, Hemric, Brandon Jones, Allmendinger and Landon Cassill were in the top 15. Graf was back in 16th ahead of Brett Moffitt, rookie Jesse Iwuji, Shane Lee, Josh Bilicki and Jeb Burton while Mayer was in 23rd.
Ten laps later on Lap 50, Gragson was out in front of the field after he muscled his No. 9 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro into the lead during the previous lap. By then, Ryan Sieg was in second ahead of Hill and Kaulig Racing’s Hemric and Allmendinger.
Soon after and as the field began to fan out to multiple lanes towards the front, Hemric and Allmendinger moved up to second and third as Gragson retained the lead. By then, Gibbs emerged in the top five as he formed a second line of competitors running on the inside lane ahead of Hill.
Through the closing laps of the second stage, the field settled in a long single file line towards the outside wall as Gragson led Hemric, Allmendinger, Brown, Sieg and the field. By then, Gibbs had drifted out of the top 15.
Then on the final lap of the second stage, Hemric and Gragson made contact while battling for the lead entering Turns 1 and 2, which sent Gragson nearly sideways before he slipped up the track and out of the draft as the former returned to the lead ahead of Sieg and Mayer. With the field unable to gain a draft for a final mount, Hemric was able to claim the second stage victory on Lap 60, which marked the halfway mark of the event. Sieg settled in second ahead of Mayer, Allmendinger, Allgaier, Brown, Gibbs, Berry, Jones and Herbst while Gragson, who managed to preserve his car from wrecking, fell back to 14th.
Under the stage break, the field returned to pit road and Hemric retained the lead ahead of teammate Allmendinger following a two-tire pit service. Jones, Gibbs and Gragson exited pit road in the top five. During the pit stops, Jesse Iwuji dropped to the rear of the field due to an uncontrolled tire violation along with Jeb Burton, who had a crew member jump over his pit stall too early. In addition, Allgaier pitted for a second time to address missing lug nuts on his No, 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro.
With 54 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Hemric jumped ahead and pulled in front of teammate Allmendinger to retain the lead while Gibbs mounted a challenge for the lead on the outside lane with drafting help from Sheldon Creed.
By the next scheduled lap, Gibbs led a lap for himself before Hemric fought back on the inside lane.
With 50 laps remaining, Hemric was laeding ahead of teammate Allmendinger, Gibbs, Creed and Cassill.
Four laps later, Kaulig Racing’s Hemric, Allmendinger and Cassill pitted under green. During the following lap, a next wave of competitors, including Mayer, Buford, Creed, Gragson and Hill pitted, but Mayer spun prior to reaching the pit road entrance. Despite the spin, Mayer was able to straighten his car into his pit stall as the race proceeded under green, but he returned not long after for a new bumper cover.
Down to the final 40 laps of the event and with most of the field having made a pit stop, Josh Bilicki was leading ahead of Matt Mills, Ryan Vargas, Bayley Currey and Josh Williams, all of whom needed to pit, while Shane Lee, CJ McLaughlin, Hill, Gragson and Allmendinger were in the top 10. Cassill, Hemric and Gibbs were in 11th, 12th and 13th ahead of Creed and Brandon Jones.
Four laps later, the caution returned due to Mayer’s bumper replacement coming off of his car in Turn 4. Under caution, some led by Bilicki pitted while the rest led by Austin Hill remained on the track. Among those who pitted included Hemric, who had all four tires on his car changed due to concerns of flat-spotting his tires.
With 29 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Hill and Gragson dueled for the lead before Hill received a push from Allmendinger on the inside lane to retain the lead for a full lap.
Shortly after, the caution flew when the No. 38 Ford Mustang piloted by CJ McLaughlin got loose entering the frontstretch and came back across the middle of the track, which triggered a multi-car wreck that collected Moffitt, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Iwuji, Lee, Tommy Joe Martins, Joey Gase, Josh Williams, Kyle Weatherman and Hemric.
With 23 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Hill muscled with an early advantage before he moved up the track entering Turns 1 and 2. This allowed Allmendinger to storm to the lead with drafting help from new teammate Landon Cassill.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Allmendinger continued to lead ahead of teammate Cassill and Hill while Gibbs, Gragson, Jones, Herbst, Allgaier, Buford and Jeb Burton were in the top 10.
Three laps later, Hill cleared Allmendinger to control both lanes with the lead as he had drafting help from Gragson and Riley Herbst.
With less than 15 laps remaining, Allmendinger returned to the lead as Allgaier charged his way to the front ahead of Hill. Allgaier, however, slipped back into the top 10 as Hill led a parade of competitors running towards the outside lane behind Allmendinger’s No. 16 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet Camaro.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Allmendinger remained as the leader followed by Hill, Gragson, Herbst and Creed, who was back in the top five. Snider, Buford, Bilicki, Brown and Allgaier were in the top 10 ahead of Cassill, Jeb Burton, Anthony Alfredo, Gibbs and Sieg.
With five laps remaining and the top-25 competitors separated by five seconds, Allmendinger led ahead of Hill, Gragson, Herbst and Creed.
Then with two laps remaining, Gragson made his move to the front on the inside lane and drew himself alongside Allmendinger as the field fanned out to two lanes and close quarters racing.
When the white flag waved and the final lap commenced, Allmendinger continued to lead ahead of Hill, Gragson and the field. Then on the backstraightaway, Hill, who had drafting help from Herbst, made a crossover move beneath Allmendinger to challenge him for the lead. Behind, a multi-car wreck ensued that started when Myatt Snider got bumped and turned off the front bumper of Anthony Alfredo, which he was then hit by a pack of oncoming cars as his car was sent airborne and caught the catchfence while upside down before landing back on the track right-side up and in a shower of sparks with the front and rear ends of the car shredded off. Among those involved in the wreck included Matt Mills, Buford, Martins, Jeb Burton, Cassill and Gibbs.
The wreck forced NASCAR to declare the event official and conclude under caution. At the moment of caution, Austin Hill was ruled the winner after emerging out in front of Allmendinger.
The victory made Hill the 171st overall competitor to achieve a win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the 18th to do so while driving for Richard Childress Racing as RCR achieved their first Xfinity victory at Daytona International Speedway since July 2015. This also marked the first time since RCR’s No. 21 car won an Xfinity event since Kevin Harvick made the last accomplishment at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2007.
In addition, Hill achieved his second NASCAR national touring series victory at Daytona, the track where he achieved his first Camping World Truck Series in 2019, and he became the first Xfinity Series competitor to score a first career victory at Daytona since Noah Gragson made the last accomplishment in 2020.
“Me and [spotter] Derek Kneeland worked really well tonight,” Hill said on FS1. “I was learning all night. I kept telling him, ‘Hey, I’m putting that in the bank, I’m putting that in the bank. I’m just putting that in the memory bank to remember for late in the race.’ We timed [the pass] perfectly. Obviously, that caution came out, but we had a heck of a run, so who knows what would’ve happened there. I was able to drag back, [Herbst] gave me a heck of a push, we were able to get by [Allmendinger]. This is so crazy. [I] Won [Daytona] back in 2019 with a new team. Now we’re with RCR, first race with them, we were able to get the job done. Our United Rentals Chevrolet was just as fast as Xfinity Internet. Man, I’m speechless. [Crew chief] Andy Street, [team owner] Richard Childress, just all these guys back at RCR for believing in me. It’s been a fun off-season and now we get to go race for a championship.”
Despite enduring a wild ride on the final lap, Snider emerged uninjured from his battered No. 31 TaxSlayer Chevrolet Camaro and made the mandatory trip to the infield car center, where he was evaluated and released.
Allmendinger settled in second place while Gragson, Herbst and Allgaier completed the top five on the track. Creed, Alfredo, Ryan Sieg, Josh Bilicki and Brandon Brown finished in the top 10.
There were 18 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 28 laps.
Following the first event of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Allmendinger leads the regular season standings by four points over Hill, nine over Herbst and Allgaier, 10 over Sieg and 11 over Gragson.
1. Austin Hill, 23 laps led
2. AJ Allmendinger, 18 laps led
3. Noah Gragson, 12 laps led
4. Riley Herbst
5. Justin Allgaier
6. Sheldon Creed
7. Anthony Alfredo
8. Ryan Sieg
9. Josh Bilicki, 10 laps led
10. Brandon Brown, 12 laps led
11. Ty Gibbs, three laps led
12. Ryan Truex
13. JJ Yeley
14. Landon Cassill
15. Jeffrey Earnhardt
16. Josh Berry, one lap led
17. Brandon Jones
18. Ryan Vargas
19. Jeb Burton
20. Bayley Currey
21. Kyle Sieg
22. Myatt Snider – OUT, Accident
23. Jade Buford – OUT, Accident
24. Tommy Joe Martins – OUT, Accident
25. Matt Mills – OUT, Accident
26. Joey Gase, one lap down
27. Jesse Iwuji, two laps down
28. Daniel Hemric, four laps down, 38 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
29. Joe Graf Jr., 10 laps down, three laps led
30. Sam Mayer, 15 laps down
31. Josh Williams – OUT, Accident
32. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Accident
33. Shane Lee – OUT, Accident
34. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Accident
35. CJ McLaughlin – OUT, Accident
36. Drew Dollar – OUT, Accident
37. Jeremy Clements – OUT, Accident
38. Caesar Bacarella – OUT, Engine
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ return to Auto Club Speedway, which also commences a three-week West Coast swing for the series. The event is scheduled to occur on Saturday, March 26, at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.