Austin Hill rallies to notch third consecutive Xfinity opener victory at Daytona

Austin Hill rallied from three different circumstances that sent him to the rear of the field to commence a new season of NASCAR Xfinity Series competition on a victorious note three years in a row by winning the rain-postponed United Rentals 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Monday, February 19.

The 29-year-old Hill from Winston, Georgia, led nine of 120 scheduled laps in an event where he shared the front row with new teammate and series newcomer Jesse Love. After being edged by Love at the conclusion of the first stage period, Hill was involved in a multi-car wreck at the start of the second stage period that sent him to the rear of the field. He would rally with cosmetic damage to his No. 21 Richard Childress Racing entry by winning the second stage but would hit another obstacle by being nabbed with a speeding penalty on pit road during the stage’s break period that sent him to the rear of the field for a second time. After rallying from that, he would hit a third obstacle by pitting during a late caution period with approximately 20 laps remaining to address a flat tire to his entry.

Amid the three issues that sent him to the rear of the field, Hill capitalized on two late-race caution periods and late-race carnages to draft Jordan Anderson to the lead during the final restart with three laps remaining before he assumed the lead. He would then fend off late challenges from Sheldon Creed, Chandler Smith and Brandon Jones to muscle away from the field and notch his third consecutive victory in the Xfinity Series’ opener at Daytona.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, February 17, newcomer Jesse Love secured his first Xfinity career pole position after posting a pole-winning lap at 181.079 mph in 49.702 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate Austin Hill, who clocked in the second-best qualifying lap at 181.068 mph in 49.705 seconds.

Prior to the event, Dawson Cram and BJ McLeod were sent to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries. In addition, Sage Karam would start at the rear of the field due to an engine change to his No. 26 Sam Hunt Racing entry.

When the green flag waved and the 2024 Xfinity Series commenced, Love muscled his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro ahead with the lead from the outside lane and ahead of teammate Hill entering the first two turns. With the field stacked amid two tight-packed lanes through the backstretch, Love, who transitioned from the inside to the outside lane to keep Hill behind him, proceeded to lead the first lap. He would proceed to lead the ensuing laps while keeping teammate Hill behind him amid the draft. By then, a majority of the field migrated to a long single-file line towards the outside wall while some led by AJ Allmendinger raced on the inside lane.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Love was leading a bevy of competitors running in a long single-file line towards the outside wall while teammate Hill, Parker Kligerman, Justin Allgaier, Anthony Alfredo, Sammy Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Sheldon Creed, Jeb Burton and Daniel Suarez were scored in the top 10. Behind, Ryan Truex was in 11th followed by Riley Herbst, Cole Custer, Brandon Jones and AJ Allmendinger while Sam Mayer, Daniel Dye, Parker Retzlaff, Shane van Gisbergen and Hailie Deegan rounded out the top 20.

Just past the Lap 20 mark and with the majority of the field still running in a long single-file line on the outside lane, Love also continued to lead ahead of teammate Hill, Kligerman, Allgaier and Alfredo. By then, Sammy Smith, Nemechek, Creed, Burton and Truex were running in the top 10 ahead of Custer, Brandon Jones, Allmendinger, Dye and Retzlaff while van Gisbergen moved up to 16th as Herbst fell back to 17th.

Then on Lap 22, the event’s first caution flew when Suarez, who stepped off the gas to avoid running into the rear of van Gisbergen, got bumped and turned into the outside wall entering Turn 1, where he then spun back across the track and clipped Sam Mayer as Mayer hit the outside wall head-on. Hailie Deegan and Kyle Weatherman would also be involved, with all four competitors being eliminated early from contention.

During the event’s first caution period, some led by Love remained on the track while others led by Allgaier pitted for service.

With the event restarting for a one-lap dash to the conclusion of the first stage period on Lap 29, teammates Love and Hill dueled for the lead in front of the field that was fanning out to three tight-packed lanes through the first two turns and the backstretch. When the field returned to the frontstretch to complete the first stage period on Lap 30, Love was able to edge Hill by a hair to claim the first stage victory. Hill ended up second followed by Kligerman, Alfredo and Burton while Creed, Nemechek, Allmendinger, Allgaier and Ryan Truex were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, some led by Love pitted while the rest led by Allmendinger remained on the track. During the pit stops, Alfredo was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.

The second stage period started on Lap 35 as Allmendinger and Allgaier occupied the front row. At the start, Allmendinger received an early push from Herbst to muscle his No. 16 Celsius Chevrolet Camaro ahead with the lead through the backstretch until Allgaier muscled ahead from the inside lane entering Turns 3 and 4. He would be followed by Cole Custer and Blaine Perkins as the field behind fanned out to three lanes.

Then during the following lap, where Allgaier was pinned in a tight three-wide battle for the lead against Custer and Perkins, the caution returned after Love, who was running in the top 10 but mired in the middle lane amid a stacked field, got loose in front of Nemechek, where he spun, clipped Allmendinger and triggered a multi-car wreck that collected van Gisbergen, Kligerman, Daniel Dye, Alfredo, Josh Williams, Frankie Muniz, Jeremy Clements and Hill, who spun towards the backstretch’s infield, but managed to keep his No. 21 Bennett Chevrolet Camaro away from the inside wall as he proceeded with cosmetic damage.

Following the second carnage of the night, the event proceeded under green on Lap 42, where Allgaier muscled ahead on the outside lane from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer and Riley Herbst. Not long after, Custer and Herbst pinned Allgaier in a three-wide battle for the lead as Custer muscled ahead in his No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang from the inside lane. Custer would proceed to lead the next lap, Lap 44, as the field fanned out to three tight-packed lanes while Allgaier was trying to regain ground from the inside lane.

On Lap 44, however, Allgaier, who attempted to draw even with Custer for the lead entering the backstretch, went up the track and bumped against Custer sending Allgaier’s No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro spinning towards the backstretch’s infield as Garrett Smithley also spun.

When the race restarted on Lap 48, teammates Parker Retzlaff and Jeb Burton zipped by Custer from the inside lane through the first two turns as Clements tried to follow suit. Burton would then move his No. 27 Golden Corral Chevrolet Camaro in front of Clements to be drafted into the lead from Retzlaff during the next lap, with Retzlaff and Clements getting shuffled out of the lead draft while Hill muscled his way back to the front with a bandaged race car.

Following another caution period on Lap 50, where Nemechek spun his No. 20 Pye Barker Toyota Supra across the frontstretch after losing a left-rear tire as Josh Bilicki also got bumped and spun, the event restarted under green on Lap 56, where Burton maintained a brief lead over Ryan Sieg and Hill before he would be pinned in a three-wide battle with Hill and Sheldon Creed for the lead. Following the battle, Hill was back atop the leaderboard during the following lap.

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 60, Hill fended off Sammy Smith and Creed to capture the stage victory. Sammy Smith edged Creed for the runner-up spot while Custer, Sieg, Ryan Truex, Herbst, Allgaier, Allmendinger and Brandon Jones were scored in the top 10.

During the stage break, a bevy of names led by Hill pitted while the rest led by teammate Love remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Hill, who slid through his pit box, was penalized and sent to the rear of the field for speeding while entering pit road.

With 54 laps remaining, the final stage commenced under green as Love and Sammy Smith occupied the front row. At the start, Sammy Smith muscled his No. 8 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet Camaro into the lead from the inside lane while Love was left to battle Creed for the runner-up spot in front of two stacked lanes. Smith would proceed to lead the next four laps until Herbst moved his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang into the lead from the outside lane, where he would lead the next four laps.

With 45 laps remaining, select names led by Hill and including teammate Love, Leland Honeyman and Kligerman peeled off the racetrack to pit under green before more names led by Allmendinger and including Sammy Smith, Clements, Daniel Dye, van Gisbergen and Jordan Anderson pitted. Over the next several laps, more names pitted while three names led by Natalie Decker and including Ryan Ellis and Garrett Smithley remained on the track to inherit the top three spots with less than 40 laps remaining.

With 33 laps remaining, Ellis assumed the lead followed by Smithley as Decker dropped to third, though all have yet to pit. Meanwhile, Herbst, the first competitor who pitted, was in fourth and leading a bevy of competitors that fanned out to three lanes.

Then with 24 laps remaining, the caution flew after contact from van Gisbergen sent Jeb Burton spinning entering the frontstretch. By then, Ellis, Smithley and Decker remained on the track as the top-three leaders while Ryan Sieg was the lead competitor of those who pitted followed by Herbst, Custer, Chandler Smith, Hill and Truex. During the caution period, some led by Ellis, Smithley and Decker pitted while the rest, led by Sieg, remained on the track. Not long after, Hill would pit under caution due to a flat tire on his entry.

During the next restart with 18 laps remaining, Sieg received a draft from Herbst to muscle away from Chandler Smith and retain the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch. The caution, however, quickly returned after Retzlaff made contact with Clements exiting the backstretch and ignited another multi-car wreck that included Honeyman, Smithley, van Gisbergen and Burton.

The start of the next restart with 11 laps remaining featured Herbst and Sieg dueling for the lead through the first two turns and through the backstretch as the field slowly started to fan out to three lanes by the time the front-runners returned to the frontstretch. Not long after, however, Herbst was penalized for a restart violation, where he was laying back prior to the restart zone.

Two laps later and a three-wide battle between Herbst, Anderson and Chandler Smith ignited, the caution returned after Karam, who was being drafted at full speed by Allmendinger, bumped and sent Custer into the backstretch’s outside wall, where he then veered back to the left and clipped Karam into the wall as another multi-car wreck ensued that collected Poole, Daniel Dye, Allgaier and Custer, where all four were sent sliding and slamming into one another towards the infield’s grass before the former two slid back across the track. By then and with Herbst out of contention by falling back to the tail of the field, Anderson was scored the leader followed by Chandler Smith, Hill, Sieg and Retzlaff.

As the event restarted with three laps remaining, Chandler Smith muscled into the lead on the inside lane followed by Sieg and Truex. Not long after, Anderson was drafted by Hill into the lead through the backstretch. Hill, however, seized an opportunity to veer to the right and overtake Anderson entering Turns 3 and 4 while Chandler Smith, Retzlaff and Truex followed suit amid the draft. Hill would maintain the lead over Chandler Smith, Truex and a hard-charging Brandon Jones during the next lap followed by Creed as the field began to fan out and scramble to the front.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hill remained as the leader ahead of ex-teammate Creed, who muscled his way into the runner-up spot followed by Sieg and Sammy Smith while Chandler Smith was losing momentum on the outside lane. Then as the field navigated through the first two turns, Sammy Smith and Sieg made contact that resulted with both along with Truex wrecking. The race, however, remained under green flag conditions as Hill remained ahead of Creed and a scattered field with the lead. With Creed unable to gain any draft or momentum for one final turn, Hill was able to smoothly navigate his way around Turns 3 and 4 with a comfortable advantage at full speed before he returned to the frontstretch and claimed his third consecutive checkered flag at Daytona to commence a new season of competition.

With the victory, Hill achieved his seventh NASCAR Xfinity Series career victory in his 82nd series’ start and his fifth on a superspeedway venue as he also became the first competitor to achieve three consecutive Xfinity Daytona opener victories since Tony Stewart made the last accomplishment from 2008-10, with Stewart proceeding to win a fourth consecutive opener in 2011. Compared to his two previous season-opening victories at Daytona that ended under caution, Hill earned this year’s victory under green flag conditions. The Daytona victory was also the ninth overall in the Xfinity circuit for Richard Childress Racing.

“[Tonight’s victory] tops it all,” Hill said on FS1. “Three-peat. You know how hard it is to win at Daytona? God almighty! I don’t know what was going on with me on pit road today, but my guys just kept telling me, ‘Look, man, dig deep; you’re really good at these superspeedways.’ I tried to screw it up on pit road—sped on pit road, slid through the box, about slid through the box on the first stop, but man, this Bennett Chevrolet was fast as Xfinity 10G, that’s for damn sure. I don’t even know what time it is. I know it’s past my bedtime, but we’re about to party tonight, I can tell you that. I am so stoked. This is incredible…it can’t get any better.”

Creed settled in the runner-up spot for the eighth time in his career and in his first event driving for Joe Gibbs Racing while Retzlaff, Jordan Anderson and Chandler Smith finished in the top five.

Herbst rallied his way to finish sixth while Nemechek, Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Allmendinger completed the top-10 finishing order on the track.

Notably, Ryan Ellis ended up 11th after leading 11 laps followed by newcomer Shane van Gisbergen, Cole Custer, Blaine Perkins and BJ McLeod. In addition, Natalie Decker settled in 18th and pole-sitter Jesse Love ended up 20th while Ryan Truex, Ryan Sieg and Sammy Smith ended up 21st through 23rd, respectively, following their last-lap accident.

There were lead changes for different leaders. The race featured cautions for laps. In addition, 22 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the first event of the 2024 Xfinity Series season, Austin Hill leads the regular-season standings by 11 points over Sheldon Creed, 24 over Riley Herbst, 25 over both Parker Retzlaff and Justin Allgaier, and 26 over Jordan Anderson.


1. Austin Hill, nine laps led, Stage 2 winner

2. Sheldon Creed, two laps led

3. Parker Retzlaff, six laps led

4. Jordan Anderson

5. Chandler Smith, one lap led

6. Riley Herbst, eight laps led

7. John Hunter Nemechek

8. Justin Allgaier, eight laps led

9. Brandon Jones

10. AJ Allmendinger, three laps led

11. Ryan Ellis, 11 laps led

12. Shane van Gisbergen

13. Cole Custer, six laps led

14. Blaine Perkins

15. BJ McLeod

16. Garrett Smithley

17. Patrick Emerling

18. Natalie Decker, seven laps led

19. Brennan Poole

20. Jesse Love, 34 laps led, Stage 1 winner

21. Ryan Truex

22. Ryan Sieg, 12 laps led

23. Sammy Smith, one lap down, six laps led

24. Anthony Alfredo, two laps down

25. Parker Kligerman, two laps down

26. Jeb Burton, two laps down, eight laps led

27. Daniel Dye, three laps down

28. Sage Karam – OUT, Accident

29. Jeremy Clements – OUT, DVP

30. Leland Honeyman – OUT, Accident

31. Dawson Cram – OUT, Accident

32. Josh Bilicki – OUT, Accident

33. Frankie Muniz – OUT, DVP

34. Josh Williams – OUT, Accident

35. Daniel Suarez – OUT, Accident

36. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident

37. Hailie Deegan – OUT, Accident

38. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Accident

With the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season underway, the next event on the schedule is Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, for the RAPTOR King of Tough 250. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, February 24, and air at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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