Austin Hill Wins Third Straight NASCAR Xfinity Opener At Daytona

RaceDayCT Column – Let Them Race: Time For NASCAR To Complete All Cup Series Events Under Green
Austin Hill celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series United Rentals 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Monday (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — While other NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers were competing, and crashing, in Monday night’s United Rentals 300 at Daytona International Speedway, Austin Hill was playing a different game — Monopoly.

At the 2.5-mile superspeedway roughly two miles away from Atlantic Avenue, Hill beat former teammate Sheldon Creed to the finish line by 0.591 seconds to earn his third straight victory in the Xfinity season opener at the World Center of Racing.

The third win came on Monday because of weekend-long rain that forced NASCAR to reschedule the race from Saturday afternoon. The event served as the second leg of a doubleheader with the DAYTONA 500, which was postponed from Sunday and won by William Byron.

Hill has now owned Victory Lane at Daytona long enough to build a house there.

“It tops it off—three-peat,” Hill exclaimed. “You know how hard it is to win at Daytona? God almighty!”

Not that the driver of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet didn’t have his share of adversity. Hill overcame an early wreck on Lap 37 of 120, a flat tire and a self-destructive bent on pit road.

He crossed the finish line in a car that was heavily taped on the right front, but none of the obstacles could stop him from displaying his superiority on superspeedways once again.

“I don’t know what was going on with me on pit road today,” Hill said. “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…

“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.”

After pitting with a flat tire on Lap 97, Hill restarted 22nd but quickly worked his way forward. Two more cautions helped, and after lining up third for the final restart on Lap 118, he made quick work of Jordan Anderson and Chandler Smith ahead of him.

Hill was out front by more than a car-length when Ryan Sieg spun behind him off Turn 2 on the final lap. From that point, Hill simply had to steer his car to the finish line and won by a comfortable margin.

Parker Retzlaff ran third, one spot in front of his owner/driver Anderson.

“The little team that could is getting bigger,” Anderson said proudly.

Chandler Smith came home fifth, followed by Riley Herbst, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and AJ Allmendinger.

The race featured nine cautions for 44 of the 120 laps. There were 19 lead changes among 14 different drivers., with Sunoco rookie Jesse Love, the pole winner, leading a race-high 32 laps from the opening green flag.

Love, however, suffered more damage in the Lap 37 wreck than did his RCR teammate Hill. He finished 20th in an aerodynamically-challenged Chevrolet.

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, winner of last year’s NASCAR Cup Series Chicago Street Race, drove his battered Kaulig Racing Chevrolet to a 12th-place finish in his Xfinity debut.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – United Rentals 300

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Saturday, February 17, 2024

                1. (2)  Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 120.

                2. (14)  Sheldon Creed, Toyota, 120.

                3. (9)  Parker Retzlaff, Chevrolet, 120.

                4. (29)  Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 120.

                5. (19)  Chandler Smith, Toyota, 120.

                6. (11)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 120.

                7. (8)  John Hunter Nemechek(i), Toyota, 120.

                8. (6)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 120.

                9. (22)  Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 120.

                10. (3)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 120.

                11. (36)  Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 120.

                12. (5)  Shane Van Gisbergen #, Chevrolet, 120.

                13. (17)  Cole Custer, Ford, 120.

                14. (34)  Blaine Perkins, Ford, 120.

                15. (38)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 120.

                16. (23)  Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 120.

                17. (13)  Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, 120.

                18. (30)  Natalie Decker, Chevrolet, 120.

                19. (33)  Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 120.

                20. (1)  Jesse Love #, Chevrolet, 120.

                21. (20)  Ryan Truex, Toyota, 120.

                22. (31)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 120.

                23. (12)  Sammy Smith, Chevrolet, 119.

                24. (10)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 118.

                25. (4)  Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 118.

                26. (16)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 118.

                27. (26)  Daniel Dye(i), Chevrolet, 117.

                28. (32)  Sage Karam, Toyota, Accident, 111.

                29. (7)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, DVP, 109.

                30. (24)  Leland Honeyman #, Chevrolet, Accident, 102.

                31. (35)  Dawson Cram #, Chevrolet, Accident, 51.

                32. (27)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, Accident, 51.

                33. (37)  Frankie Muniz, Ford, DVP, 37.

                34. (21)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, DVP, 37.

                35. (18)  Daniel Suarez(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 23.

                36. (15)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, Accident, 22.

                37. (28)  Hailie Deegan #, Ford, Accident, 22.

                38. (25)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Accident, 22.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  108.119 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.591 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 44 laps.

Lead Changes:  19 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Love # 1-32;A. Allmendinger 33-35;J. Allgaier 36-42;C. Custer 43-48;J. Burton 49-56;A. Hill 57-58;S. Creed 59;A. Hill 60-63;J. Love # 64-65;S. Smith 66-70;R. Herbst 71-73;S. Smith 74;R. Herbst 75-79;S. Creed 80;N. Decker 81-87;R. Ellis 88-98;R. Sieg 99-110;C. Smith 111;J. Anderson 112-117;A. Hill 118-120.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Jesse Love # 2 times for 34 laps; Ryan Sieg 1 time for 12 laps; Ryan Ellis 1 time for 11 laps; Austin Hill 3 times for 9 laps; Jeb Burton 1 time for 8 laps; Riley Herbst 2 times for 8 laps; Natalie Decker 1 time for 7 laps; Justin Allgaier 1 time for 7 laps; Sammy Smith 2 times for 6 laps; Jordan Anderson 1 time for 6 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 6 laps; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 3 laps; Sheldon Creed 2 times for 2 laps; Chandler Smith 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 2,21,48,5,27,18,20,16,7,19

Stage #2 Top Ten: 21,8,18,00,39,19,98,7,16,9

RaceDayCT Column – Let Them Race: Time For NASCAR To Complete All Cup Series Events Under Green

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