Roush Fenway Racing young guns flex their muscle in Xfinity opener

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On Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing’s kids were all right.

Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher teamed up on a frenzied final lap of the Alert Today Florida 300 to pass Brad Keselowski and finish first and second respectively. With the win, Reed now joins teammate Buescher as a winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series after Buescher notched his own first victory last year at Mid-Ohio.

Reed’s rookie Xfinity season in 2014 was a tough one. Even though he finished a respectable ninth in the driver’s standings, he only had one top-five finish all year (a fourth at Daytona in the summer) and led just 29 laps in the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford.

But Reed said post-race that a win under his belt is a major boost for him.

“I’m perfectly fine with standing up and saying I struggled in some areas and I’m probably still going to struggle in some areas, but this is a huge step in the right direction – a lot of confidence,” Reed said. “[Crew chief] Seth [Barbour] did a great job during the off-season keeping me a lot more prepared and keeping me involved and just being a lot more organized.

“I think that’s what it takes – it’s those little things at the shop that go a long way. All the preparation that goes in before the race, a dozen little things added up to a lot this week and I think we’re gonna see that a lot throughout the year.”

Buescher also got some redemption today as well. Last year, he failed to qualify for this race, the biggest of the season for NASCAR’s junior league.

But coming from 10th on the starting grid today, Buescher turned in a steady 300 miles and played a major role in the outcome. He might prefer being up one more position, but second is still a lot better than where he was one year ago.

“As a racer, I am not a very good race fan when I know I should have been able to be in that race,” Buescher said of last year’s Daytona DNQ. “That hurt. We took that last year and we tried to build off of it and put ourselves in a situation where we didn’t worry about points and just went out and tried to win races.

“It put us in some situations where we were able to take some chances and get the Mid-Ohio win. Now that we have that first one out of the way this year, I am confident we can get more. To be able to come to Daytona and make the race, make it comfortably and push our teammate to the win and bring home a second place finish is great for our team and organization as a whole.”

Roush’s third young gun, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., also spent time at the front of the field on Saturday before finishing one lap down in 12th. Wallace traded the lead with Ty Dillon repeatedly over the first 40 laps or so before being shuffled back in green flag pit stops.

While calling his 12th-place result a “bummer” for him and his team, Wallace was still happy that Roush reigned supreme.

“I’m excited to be a part of this team,” he said. “We’re showcasing what we’re all about and how much work was put on in the off-season and we’ll build off this.”

The team’s veteran, Elliott Sadler, was also in contention for a solid finish in his first race for Roush. But he was one of 10 drivers involved in a vicious wreck with less than 10 laps to go that sent Kyle Busch to the hospital and, ultimately, out of Sunday’s Daytona 500 (right leg injury). Sadler returned to the track and finished four laps off the pace in 19th.