Reigning series champion Austin Cindric wins Xfinity opener at Daytona
Austin Cindric, winner of last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series, started the new season off well with an overtime victory on Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway. In a race that had nine caution flags, he rallied to win over Brett Moffitt by .105 seconds.
It was Cindric’s ninth win on the Xfinity Series, which he would likely trade for a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. He will start 39th in the 40-car field.
Cindric started on the pole for the NASCAR Xfinity race.
“The thing that’s really cool about winning [Saturday] is that I’ve won on the road course here,” Cindric said. “I’ve won on the superspeedway, and I won the rallycross race they had here, so anything with four wheels, man, Daytona I guess is a decent place.
“I’m just excited that I get to come back here tomorrow and run in front of a great group of people. We have fans here. I’m excited for the Great American Race.”
The biggest pile-up occurred with 16 laps remaining when there was a 14-car accident precipitated by tight racing between teammates Ty Dillon and Daniel Hemric. Both drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Alex Bowman, after winning the pole for the Daytona 500, was nothing but pedestrian in the first of Thursday’s twin 150 qualifying races. He finished 20th out of 22 cars. Since he had already qualified in the first position, his only goal was to keep from wrecking the car, but still the lackluster finish prompted questions.
“In the 150s, we had a vibration issue that we had to investigate,” said Greg Ives, crew chief for Bowman. “We initially thought it was an engine issue, but fortunately it wasn’t. The team was able to diagnose and fix it. We didn’t get a whole lot of practice [Saturday], but Alex felt everything was fine.”
Denny Hamlin is looking to win the Daytona 500 for the fourth time on Sunday, but he understands he’ll need to improve on road courses this season.
Front to back
William Byron qualified on the outside of the front row for the Daytona 500, but he got caught up in a wreck during the second of the 150-mile qualifying races and will use a backup car that will start at the back of the pack.
“Even though we didn’t get to make a timed lap in practice” Saturday because of rain, “I’m still confident in the backup car the guys brought us,” Byron said. “It’s actually the car we won Daytona with last year in August and then we ran it again at Talladega in the fall and got a top-five finish. It’s been fast every time it’s been on the track, and I think it will be again when we get to the race [Sunday].
“Obviously, we didn’t want to go to a backup car, but I think we’re still in a really good place for the 500. We’ll definitely be good to go.”
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