Amid early adversity by dropping to the rear of the field and serving a pass-through penalty for multiple pre-qualifying technical failures to his No. 7 JR Motorsports entry, Justin Allgaier rallied in thrilling fashion by surviving two overtime attempts and late on-track chaos to edge Sheldon Creed in a photo finish and win the Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, August 25.
The 37-year-old Allgaier from Riverton, Illinois, led twice for 14 of 110 over-scheduled laps, including the final 12, in an event where he was one of five competitors who served a pass-through penalty through pit road following the opening lap and due to his entry failing pre-qualifying inspection three times. Being mired towards the rear of the field, Allgaier managed to methodically carve his way to the front amid the draft and tight-packed racing before he led for the first time with 15 laps remaining.
Following a caution period due to a multi-car wreck with eight laps remaining, Allgaier, who was then running on fumes to have enough fuel to the finish, reclaimed the lead at the start of a two-lap shootout when another multi-car wreck sent the event into an overtime attempt. Amid another multi-car wreck that sent the field into a second overtime attempt, where he managed to retain the lead, Allgaier then fended off late challenges from Parker Kligerman and Daniel Hemric before Sheldon Creed launched a final side-by-side duel on the final lap. With both drag-racing to the finish, Allgaier managed to edge Creed by 0.005 seconds to claim his second checkered flag of the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and his first at Daytona.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, Austin Hill started on pole position after posting a pole-winning lap at 182.719 mph in 49.256 seconds. Joining him on the front row was his Richard Childress Racing teammate Sheldon Creed, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 181.620 mph in 49.554 seconds.
Prior to the event, the following names that included Justin Allgaier, Jordan Anderson, Jeb Burton, rookie Parker Retzlaff and Ryan Sieg dropped to the rear of the field and were assessed pass-through penalties through pit road as a result of their respective entries failing pre-race technical inspection multiple times. Connor Mosack and Natalie Decker were also sent to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments to their respective entries, but not assessed pass-through penalties.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, teammates Hill and Creed dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Hill muscled ahead from the outside lane. Hill then transitioned from the outside to the inside lane and back to the outside lane to defend his line and the lead while rookie Chandler Smith dueled and challenged rookie Sammy Smith for the lead. With the field running two by two and just as Allgaier, Anderson, Jeb Burton, Retzlaff and Ryan Sieg served their pass-through penalties, Hill proceeded to lead the first lap while Chandler Smith and Sammy Smith continued to duel for the runner-up spot.
Just past the third lap mark, Hill maintained the lead as he was running on the outside lane while Sammy Smith tried to challenge Hill for the lead on the inside lane as he had Creed following him while Chandler Smith and Daniel Hemric remained on the outside lane to assist Hill amid the draft.
Through the first five scheduled laps and with the field still running in two stacked lanes amid the draft, Hill was leading ahead of Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, Hemric and Trevor Bayne while Creed, Sam Mayer, Parker Kligerman, Riley Herbst and Justin Haley were in the top 10. By then, Kaz Grala was in 11th ahead of Cole Custer, Anthony Alfredo, Josh Berry and John Hunter Nemechek while Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt, Joe Graf Jr., Jeremy Clements and JJ Yeley occupied the top 20. In addition, the top 32 competitors were separated by three seconds.
A lap later, Sammy Smith gained a run beneath Hill entering the frontstretch and started to inch ahead, but Hill managed to regain his momentum and retain the top spot by a hair towards the start/finish line mark. Hill and Smith continued to duel for the top spot during the proceeding laps until Smith managed to lead a lap for himself on the eighth lap.
At the Lap 10 mark, Sammy Smith, who continued to duel against Hill for the lead, was leading by 0.003 seconds over Hill as the top-32 competitors were separated by five seconds amid the draft.
Five laps later, Hill, who reassumed the lead on Lap 11, retained the lead ahead of teammate Creed followed by Chandler Smith, Hemric and Alfredo while Mayer, Moffitt, Clements, Custer and Kligerman were in the top 10, with a majority of the field migrating to the outside lane behind Hill. Meanwhile, Herbst, who was running 31st, reported a steering issue to his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang, though he continued to run at full pace.
At Lap 20 and with nearly the entire field running in a long single file line on the outside lane, Hill, who had debris on his front grille, continued to lead ahead of Creed followed by Chandler Smith, Hemric and Alfredo while Moffitt, Clements, Mayer, Custer and Kligerman retained the top-10 spots in the running order. Shortly after, Mayer, who was running eighth, attempted to make a move to the front amid the draft as he transitioned from the outside to the inside lane, but he had no assistance from anyone as he dropped towards the top 15 on the track. With Kligerman also meeting the same fate as his move to the bottom lane did not prevail, Hill would retain the lead ahead of teammate Creed and Chandler Smith through the Lap 25 mark.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 30, Hill, who fended off a late surge from Chandler Smith through the backstretch as he maintained control of both lanes through Turns 3 and 4, claimed his fourth stage victory of the 2023 season. Creed edged Chandler Smith to settle in second while Moffitt, Alfredo, Brandon Jones, Hemric, Clements, Custer and Bayne were scored in the top 10. By then, Herbst blew a left-front tire and damaged his fender amid his steering issue as he limped his Ford back to pit road. The issue would place Herbst three laps behind the leaders despite continuing under full pace while his Playoff hopes were taking another hit amid on-track issues.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Hill pitted. Following the pit stops and amid mixed strategies, Hill exited first ahead of Nemechek, Creed, Sammy Smith and Kligerman, all of whom took two tires, while sixth-place Chandler Smith was the first competitor to opt for four fresh tires ahead of teammate Hemric and Brandon Jones.
The second stage started on Lap 36 as teammates Hill and Creed occupied the front row. At the start, Nemechek gave Hill a push to muscle ahead of Creed which enabled Hill to maintain the lead. Hill then continued to run the outside lane in front of Nemechek, Sammy Smith and Chandler Smith while Creed was trying to fight back on the inside lane with drafting help from Kligerman. As the field fanned out to three lanes entering the frontstretch, Hill retained the lead.
By Lap 40, Creed gained a run on the inside lane with drafting help from Kligerman as he muscled ahead of Hill and led a lap for himself. A lap later and with the field fanned out to three lanes, the caution flew when Anthony Alfredo moved up the track and made contact with Brandon Jones who got loose and clipped Moffitt before both veered and collided against the outside wall towards the frontstretch. The incident triggered a multi-car wreck that involved Connor Mosack, Kyle Weatherman, Allgaier, Haley, Connor Mosack, Moffitt, Grala, Joe Graf Jr., Ryan Sieg, Natalie Decker and Alex Guenette. During the extensive caution period, some led by Berry pitted while the rest led by Creed remained on the track.
When the race restarted on Lap 50, which marked the halfway mark of this event, Creed received a shove from teammate Hill to muscle ahead from the outside lane ahead of Kligerman. Despite Kligerman drawing even with Creed through the backstretch, Creed fired back on top through Turns 3 and 4 and back to the frontstretch before Kligerman fought back during the following lap in Turn 1. Kligerman then received a huge push from Nemechek and Bayne through the backstretch to rocket ahead with the lead as he led the Lap 52 mark.
By Lap 53, however, Bayne, who was making his first of three Xfinity starts of the season while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, powered past Kligerman and emerged as the new leader while Kligerman and Chandler Smith battled for second in front of Nemechek, Creed, Hill and Hemric. Bayne would proceed to lead through and past the Lap 55 mark as the field settled in a long single-file line behind Bayne and towards the outside wall amid the draft.
Two laps later, Creed made his move beneath the inside lane and overtook Bayne to reassume the lead followed by teammate Hill and Kligerman. Hill then bailed on Creed as he assumed the lead. In the process, Bayne and Kligerman moved to second and third while Creed fell back to fourth in front of Sammy Smith and Hemric.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 60, Creed, who threw a big block on Custer through the backstretch before drawing even against teammate Hill through Turns 3 and 4, edged Hill by a fender to claim the stage victory, which marked his fourth of the 2023 season. Hill settled in second ahead of Custer, Sammy Smith and Hemric while Nemechek, Bayne, Kligerman, Mayer and Chandler Smith were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Creed pitted. Following the pit stops and another cycle of mixed strategies, Mayer, who nearly spun his car upon exiting his pit stall, exited first after opting for no fresh tires followed by Creed, who pitted for two fresh tires, as Allgaier, Hill, Sammy Smith, Custer and Berry followed suit. By then, Bayne, who exited pit road in 10th, was the first competitor who opted for four fresh tires.
With 34 laps remaining, the final stage started as Mayer and Creed occupied the front row. At the start, Mayer and Creed dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Creed muscled ahead from the inside lane with drafting help from teammate Hill while Mayer was trying to connect with teammate Allgaier from the outside lane. Creed and Hill, however, would prevail on the inside lane as they rocketed away from the field that fanned out to three stacked lanes through the frontstretch and during the proceeding lap.
With 30 laps remaining, Creed and Sammy Smith dueled for the lead in front of two stacked lanes as Creed had teammate Hill assisting him amid the draft while Smith had teammates Bayne and Nemechek along with Kligerman assisting him on the inside lane. Smith would prevail through the backstretch as he led the following lap before Creed returned the favor and reassumed the lead. By then, Smith, who nearly got turned by Hill through the backstretch, was deadlocked against Bayne for the runner-up spot until Bayne muscled ahead and started to challenge Creed for the lead with drafting help from Nemechek.
Five laps later, Bayne, who had been dueling against Creed during the previous few laps for the lead, had the top spot and both lanes to his control as he was ahead of teammates Nemechek and Sammy Smith amid two tight-packed lanes. Shortly after, Kligerman made a bold three-wide move on the backstretch to assume the runner-up spot as he settled behind Bayne while Creed dueled Sammy Smith for third in front of Nemechek and Hill. Teammates Sammy Smith and Nemechek would reclaim second and third during the following lap as they both settled behind Bayne amid the draft. Nemechek and Smith, however, would both get shuffled out of the draft with 22 laps remaining as Kligerman reclaimed second while Creed, Mayer, Hill and Allgaier were in the top six.
With 20 laps remaining, Bayne, trying to block both lanes, was still leading ahead of Creed and Kligerman while Hill, Mayer and Allgaier joined the battle toward the front. Two laps later, Mayer muscled ahead beneath Bayne to lead a lap for himself before Bayne fought back on the outside lane. With Bayne having Creed pushing him from the outside lane, Mayer had teammate Allgaier assisting him on the inside lane as Jeb Burton charged his way into the top five along with Creed, Kligerman and Nemechek.
Five laps later, Allgaier, who received a huge push from Bayne through the backstretch, managed to duel and overtake teammate Mayer to lead and muscle ahead of the pack that fanned out to three tight lanes. With Allgaier leading, he then blocked teammate Mayer to defend the spot and maintain control of both lanes as Bayne also tried to fight back with drafting help from Creed. Bayne would then draw even against Allgaier through Turns 3 and 4 before sliding in front of Allgaier and reassuming the lead with 13 laps remaining. With Bayne back out in front ahead of Allgaier and Creed, Hill pushed Kligerman to fourth while Mayer was getting shuffled out of the top five. With Hill cracking back in the top three, he gave teammate Creed the assistance needed to reassume a brief lead from Bayne with 12 laps remaining before Bayne fought back and dueled with Creed for the lead.
Dow to the final 10 laps of the event, Bayne was leading by 0.027 seconds ahead of Creed with Allgaier, Hill and Kligerman running in the top five while Chandler Smith, Hemric, Mayer, Alfredo and Jeb Burton were battling in the top 10. By then, Sammy Smith and Nemechek were back in the top 12 while Custer and Berry were mired outside the top 15.
Then two laps later, the caution flew when Jeb Burton, who was running in the top 10, veered sideways entering Turns 3 and 4 and despite trying to keep his car straight, he ended up spinning before making contact with the outside wall. Amid Burton’s wreck, more issues ensued behind the lead pack as Haley got hit by Caesar Bacarella as he spun while Ryan Ellis also spun and pounded the inside wall towards the pit road entrance head-on while Bacarella plowed his damaged car through the frontstretch grass. At the moment of caution, Bayne retained the lead after executing a bold block on Hill through Turns 3 and 4 as Allgaier, Hill, Kligerman and Chandler Smith were scored in the top five.
During the caution period, some like Custer, Berry, Moffitt, Clements, Ryan Sieg, Garrett Smithley and Blaine Perkins pitted while the rest led by Bayne remained on the track.
With the event restarting with two laps remaining, where Bayne and Allgaier occupied the front row front of Kligerman and Hill, Allgaier and Bayne dueled for the lead exiting the backstretch until Hill tried to make a move to the outside of Bayne. As Bayne tried to block Hill, his late move ended up being costly as Bayne got turned into the outside wall and ignited a chain reaction multi-car wreck with Chandler Smith getting bumped by teammate Hemric and turned into Nemechek and Mayer, who spun and clipped Bayne’s No. 19 He Gets Us Toyota Supra as Bayne then clipped teammate Nemechek in the process and destroyed his rear deck lid, as Sammy Smith, JJ Yeley and Jeffrey Earnhardt sustained damage to their respective entries. Amid the wreck that eliminated most of the front-runners, Allgaier escaped with the race lead followed by Kligerman, Retzlaff, Hemric and Creed. The wreck also sent the event into overtime.
During the first overtime attempt, where Allgaier and Kligerman occupied the front row, Allgaier muscled ahead in his No. 7 Hellmann’s Chevrolet Camaro with a narrow lead over Kligerman’s No. 48 Spiked Coolers Chevrolet Camaro as the field started to fan out exiting the frontstretch and entering the first turn. Allgaier and Kligerman dueled for the top spot through Turns 1 and 2 before Allgaier started to inch ahead with drafting help from Creed on the inside lane. Then through the backstretch, the caution returned and the event was sent into a second overtime attempt when Blaine Perkins got loose and turned into Josh Williams, who spun and clipped Berry into a spin before he hit the outside wall head-on as his car briefly got airborne after then getting hit by Nemechek’s No. 20 Yahoo! Toyota Supra, whose event came to a fiery end. Bayne, Clements and Moffitt were also involved in the wreck as their runs came to a late end.
For the second overtime attempt, Allgaier surged ahead on the inside lane while Hemric and Kligerman battled for the runner-up spot. As the field fanned out through the first two turns and the backstretch, Hemric and Kligerman appeared to have formed a two-car tandem behind Allgaier before Kligerman made a move to Hemric’s outside. This allowed Allgaier to maintain the lead as Creed drafted Kligerman away from Hemric with more momentum coming to the outside lane.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Allgaier remained as the leader over Kligerman, Creed and the field through the frontstretch. With the event remaining under green flag conditions as Kaz Grala spun towards the frontstretch, Creed made his move into the runner-up spot amid a tight battle with Kligerman while Allgaier was left to fend off both lanes by himself as he was pulling away from the field.
Then through the backstretch, Creed gained a draft from Hemric to make his move to Allgaier’s outside as both dueled for the top spot through Turns 3 and 4. With the field approaching the frontstretch while Jordan Anderson and Berry wrecked behind, Allgaier managed to surge ahead and edge Creed’s No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro by 0.005 seconds to claim his first victory at Daytona.
With the victory, Allgaier scored his 21st career victory in the Xfinity Series, his first since winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and his first at Daytona in his 26th series start as he became the fifth series regular to achieve multiple victories this season. The victory was the fourth of the season for JR Motorsports, the team’s eighth at Daytona and the 13th of the season for the Chevrolet nameplate.
“I’ve been coming to this place for a long time,” Allgaier, who celebrated on the frontstretch with his team, said on USA Network. “I’ve wanted to win here so bad and we’ve been so close. This team, I just can’t say enough. [Crew chief] Jim Pohlman, everybody on this No. 7 team, everybody at JR Motorsports. Our Hellmann’s Camaro was awesome tonight. To come through the adversity we had to come through and to not really be sure what we were going to have there at the end. We did all the things we needed to do. The team never quit, never gave up and we rallied. Obviously, we put ourselves in good position. Man, it’s special. This is Daytona. This is one of the iconic places in the world and I’m just so thankful to be here.”
Despite finishing in the runner-up spot for the fifth time in his Xfinity career and second in recent weeks after falling short a week ago at Watkins Glen International, Creed remained optimistic over his strong run throughout the night as he is 60 points above the top-12 cutline to make the 2023 Xfinity Series Playoffs with two regular-season events remaining on the schedule.
“We have some momentum, finally,” Creed said. “Back-to-back second places. I’m cleaning it up and doing better myself. Just putting races together. I thought we killed it tonight. [Finished] second [in] Stage 1, won Stage 2…Just an amazing night for us. Good points night for us, so we’re gonna make the Playoffs this year and we’re gonna keep fighting for these good finishes. It’s a good time to be heating up.”
Hemric came home in third place for his fifth top-five finish of the season followed by Kligerman, who nabbed his sixth top-five result of the season and coming off the announcement that he will be remaining at Big Machine Racing for the 2024 season. Hemric’s run currently places him 57 points above the top-12 cutline to make the 2023 Xfinity Playoffs while Kligerman was able to crack the top-12 cutline and be 20 points within the cutline amid Herbst’s issues as Herbst ended up 24th, two laps down.
Cole Custer finished fifth while Ryan Sieg, Parker Retzlaff, Alfredo, Gray Gaulding and Haley completed the top 10 on the track.
There were 20 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 32 laps. In addition, 19 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
With two Xfinity regular-season events remaining on the schedule, Austin Hill continues to lead the regular-season standings by 27 points over Justin Allgaier and 28 over John Hunter Nemechek.
1. Justin Allgaier, 14 laps led
2. Sheldon Creed, 21 laps led, Stage 2 winner
3. Daniel Hemric
4. Parker Kligerman, one lap led
5. Cole Custer, one lap led
6. Ryan Sieg
7. Parker Retzlaff
8. Anthony Alfredo
9. Gray Gaulding
10. Justin Haley
11. Jeffrey Earnhardt
12. Jeb Burton
13. Kyle Sieg
14. Joey Gase
15. Jordan Anderson
16. Garrett Smithley
17. Josh Berry
18. Brett Moffitt
19. Sam Mayer, six laps led
20. Kaz Grala, one lap down
21. Sammy Smith, one lap down, four laps led
22. Chandler Smith, one lap down, one lap led
23. Austin Hill, one lap down, 36 laps led, Stage 1 winner
24. Riley Herbst, two laps down
25. Blaine Perkins, two laps down
26. Jeremy Clements – OUT, Accident
27. Josh Williams – OUT, Accident
28. John Hunter Nemechek – OUT, Accident
29. Trevor Bayne – OUT, Accident, 26 laps led
30. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident
31. Caesar Bacarella – OUT, Accident
32. Ryan Ellis – OUT, Accident
33. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Dvp
34. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Dvp
35. Natalie Decker – OUT, Accident
36. Brandon Jones – OUT, Accident
37. Connor Mosack – OUT, Accident
38. Alex Guenette – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ second and final visit of this season to Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, September 2, during Labor Day weekend at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.