It was the race that took hours to start, and then it didn’t want to end.
A series of multi-car crashes in the closing laps stretched Friday’s 250-mile Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway into Saturday before Jeremy Clements emerged victorious in the third overtime.
The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday but was delayed by more than three hours by rain and lightning. The calendar flipped to Saturday before the race ended near 1:30 a.m.
As the field struggled to reach the finish, a comedy of errors caused wreck after wreck, eliminating some leaders and damaging the cars of others.
Clements, winning for only the second time for his Spartanburg, S.C.-based family team, held first place on the last lap of the third overtime and was in front when the final caution flew. He had had a 164-race winless streak.
The victory pushed Clements into the Xfinity Series playoffs, making him the eighth driver to qualify.
With two laps to go, the fight for the lead produced a 10-car wreck as Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson hit while racing in the top five. Numerous other drivers were involved in the aftermath, spreading cars across the frontstretch apron and pit road and sending the race into overtime.
On the first lap of overtime, contact in the front three between Gragson and AJ Allmendinger caused another multi-car crash, bringing out the caution again. Gragson’s car moved up the track into the path of Landon Cassill, The impact caused Gragson’s car to lift off the track.
Austin Hill seemed poise to win before his Chevrolet apparently developed electrical problems, forcing him to drop out of first place as the field took the green flag for the final overtime.
Allmendinger was running second approaching the start of the overtime when his car ran low on fuel, forcing him to the pits.
That gave Clements, whose lower-budget team typically can’t compete with the major teams in the series, the opening he needed. He was in the lead when the 11th caution flew for Riley Herbst‘s spin, freezing the field and giving Clements the win.
“I’m speechless, man,” Clements said. “I don’t even know what to say. We survived that big wreck back there (in the first overtime). It was like a ‘Days of Thunder’ wreck. Then I was like, ‘If we can just keep up with these guys, it’ll be a good day—top five and bring this car home in one piece.’ “
Scheduled for 100 laps, the race stretched to 118 because of the crashes, cautions and overtimes.
The lead pack was jumbled with nine laps remaining when Allmendinger lost control of his second-place car, sparking a huge accident in the trioval. Among other drivers involved were Josh Berry, Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier.
A multi-car crash 16 laps from the finish eliminated several cars. The incident began in the middle of the pack with contact between the cars of Brandon Brown and John Hunter Nemechek. Creed’s car turned into heavy traffic and was slammed by the Ford of Joe Graf Jr.
Herbst, running fourth, caused a caution period when his left rear tire blew, sending him on a wild ride across the grassy area adjacent to the backstretch.
The race’s first caution flag flew on lap 16 when Sammy Smith lost control of his car in Turn 4, sailed across the apron and slammed into the inside wall. Smith was not hurt, but his car was parked.
Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs
Stage 2 winner: Noah Gragson
Who had a good race: Jeremy Clements weaved his way through the debris of a series of multi-car accidents and scored a major upset for his relatively small team. … Sage Karam came home fifth in the confusion, a fine run for a driver jumping from one form of racing to another. … Timmy Hill finished second, his best career run.
Who had a bad race: Almost everybody. Wrecks were plentiful, and they were big. Drivers with strong cars who didn’t finish well because of crashes included Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Anthony Alfredo, Sam Mayer, John Hunter Nemechek and Sheldon Creed.
Next: The Xfinity Series rolls on to Darlington Raceway for a Sept. 3 race (USA Network).