Chris Cockrum

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity opener at Daytona for first series victory

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Noah Gragson won Saturday’s Xfinity Series opener at Daytona, taking the victory in a three-lap shootout that ended under caution and claiming his first career Xfinity Series win.

The victory comes in his 37th career start.

Gragson, 21, led 15 laps and beat Harrison Burton, Timmy Hill, Brandon Jones and Chase Briscoe.

It is JR Motorsports’ third straight win in the season-opening race at Daytona and its fifth win in the last seven.

Gragson is the seventh Xfinity driver to earn his first win at Daytona.

The Las Vegas native took his time getting to victory lane.

His lengthy celebration on the frontstretch saw him: fan a flame on the track caused by his burnout, climb the catchfence with his crew, execute an impressive Bo Duke hood slide across his car, try multiple times to toss a water bottle into the stands before he finally planted the checkered flag atop his car before driving to victory lane.

“I’m so thankful for this opportunity,” Gragson told FS1. “Man, I’m speechless right now, I didn’t think this would come. … I spent a lot of time with (team owner) Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. this week, talking for about two hours. Wanted to be a better speedway race. He told me ‘go have fun, wreckers or checkers, you got to manage you gaps, be there at the end and just go lead the damn the thing.’ That’s what we did.”

Later in the media center, Gragson said “Without that talk I don’t think I’d be sitting here.”

Gragson had to bounce back from a Lap 32 speeding penalty. It’s the fifth time in the last seven Daytona races that the winner rebounded from an in-race penalty.

The race ended under caution due to a large wreck on the backstretch on the final lap.

The finish was setup by a wreck on a restart with seven laps to go.

It collected Jeb Burton, Austin Cindric, Ryan Sieg, Brett Moffitt and others. It began after Briscoe took the lead and he moved up to  block Gragson as they neared Turn 3. Burton, running behind Gragson, checked up and was turned by Cindric. He bounced off Jones before turning back into the wall, causing a chain reaction.

The wreck resulted in a seven minute and 50 second red flag.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Jeb Burton led a 1-2-3-4 sweep by JR Motorsports to end the first stage.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier won the stage under caution following a wreck by Riley Herbst, pole-sitter Myatt Snider and Chris Cockrum on the last lap.

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Harrison Burton earned his best finish in 10 Xfinity starts and his second top five … Timmy Hill earned his best finish and his first top five in 185 career Xfinity starts. It came hours after his MBM Motorsports team received a L2 level penalty for an improper body modification, which included a six-race suspension for his crew chief.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Caesar Bacarella finished 29th after he spun on his own exiting Turn 4 on the first lap of the race … Jeremy Clements finished 28th after the hood on his No. 51 car tore apart on Lap 19 and caused a debris caution … Defending race winner Michael Annett got loose and spun on Lap 38 and collected Austin Hill and rookie Joe Graf Jr in a wreck. Annett was later in the last-lap crash … Justin Allgaier finished 30th after he was involved in a wreck with Josh Bilicki and Clements with 13 laps to go.

NOTABLE: The top three lap leaders of the race – Jeb Burton (26 laps), Justin Allgaier (23) and Myatt Snider (22) all were eliminated in crashes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You know, don’t expect I’ll ever (go to victory lane at Daytona) again as a driver, so I’ll take these whenever they’re coming, right.  If I can get in here as an owner or part of any kind of success like this, it’s a great feeling.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. to FS1 after Gragson’s win.

WHAT’S NEXT: Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 22 on FS1.

Check back for more.

Xfinity practice report at Daytona: A.J. Allmendinger fastest in return

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A.J. Allmendinger turned the fastest lap at 194.902 mph in the Xfinity Series opening practice Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

Chris Cockrum was second, followed by Brandon Jones, Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick.

Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett, John Hunter Nemechek and Sheldon Creed rounded out the top 10.

A second practice session was canceled because of lightning in the area.

Allmendinger, who joined NBC Sports Group as an auto racing analyst this year, will be making his first start this season with Kaulig Racing. His most recent NASCAR start was in the Monster Energy Cup Series last Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Friday night’s race at Daytona will mark Allmendinger’s first Xfinity start since Aug. 4, 2018 at Watkins Glen International and his first Xfinity oval race since Nov. 8, 2008 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Click here for speeds from the  Xfinity practice session at Daytona.

Entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Daytona

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Get ready for lots of fireworks this 4th of July weekend – both on and off the race track at Daytona International Speedway.

This race marks the first time the 2.5-mile track hosts a Cup race without restrictor plates since 1988, utilizing instead the tapered spacer – which we’ve already seen used once this year at Talladega Superspeedway.

Both the Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action at Daytona. The Truck Series is off until July 11 at Kentucky Speedway.

Here are the updated entry lists for this weekend’s races:

Cup – Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There is a full 40-car field of cars and drivers entered for this race.

For the second time this season, Garrett Smithley is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Quin Houff will drive the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports.

Ross Chastain will be in the No. 27 for Premium Motorsports.

B.J. McLeod makes his ninth start of the season for Petty Ware Racing in the No. 51 Ford

J.J. Yeley makes his third start of the season for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 52 Ford.

Joey Gase makes his first start of the season for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 53 Chevrolet.

Brendan Gaughan makes his third start of the season for Beard Racing in the No. 62 Chevrolet.

Justin Haley is back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

And Parker Kligerman makes his eighth start of the season in the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing.

Last year, Erik Jones earned his first career Cup win in this race. Martin Truex Jr. was second and A.J. Allmendinger finished third.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Circle K Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN)

There are 42 cars entered. Four cars will not make the race.

Sheldon Creed makes his third Xfinity start of the season and the first for JR Motorsports in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger makes his first Xfinity start of the season in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Joe Nemecheck makes his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 13 Motorsports Business Management Toyota.

Riley Herbst makes his fifth start of 2019 in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Joe Graf Jr. makes his second start of 2019 in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Chris Cockrum makes his third start for ACG Motorsports in the No. 25 Chevrolet.

Shane Lee makes his third start for H2 Motorsports in the No. 28 Toyota.

Austin Hill makes his Xfinity Series debut in the No. 61 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is on the entry list with the No. 81 XCI Racing Toyota but stated on Twitter that the team would not be competing this weekend. 

A spokesperson for True Speed Communications, which had done PR for XCI Racing, said they had no additional info and that its agreement with the team was only through Chicagoland.

Caesar Bacarella makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

Cody Ware makes his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota.

Kyle Larson won this race last year, followed by Elliott Sadler and Christopher Bell.

Click here for the entry list.

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Two multi-car wrecks involving 30 cars bring out red flags early in Xfinity race at Daytona

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Saturday’s Xfinity Series season-opening Powershares QQQ 300 has been red-flagged twice in less than the first 30 laps.

The first red flag was the result of a major wreck that involved 18 cars. The pack was on Lap 23 of the scheduled 120-lap event when several drivers made contact, setting off a chain reaction crash.

Among those involved in the wreck were Cole Custer, Garrett Smithley, Austin Dillon, Michael Annett, Ray Black Jr., Jeff Green, William Byron, Blake Koch, J.J. Yeley, Ryan Reed, Brad Keselowski, Spencer Gallagher, Ryan Sieg, Tyler Reddick, Anthony Kumpen, Benny Gordon, Scott Lagasse Jr., Jeremy Clements, Clint King and Aric Almirola.

The first red flag lasted 18 minutes, 20 seconds.

The race went back to green flag racing on Lap 28 when yet another multi-car wreck – this time 12 cars – took place one lap later on the back straightaway, bringing out the red flag once again.

The second wreck occurred one lap before the scheduled end of the first of two stages in the race.

Drivers involved in the second wreck included Darrell Wallace Jr., Daniel Suarez, Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Erik Jones, Chris Cockrum, Harrison Rhodes, Brandon Hightower, Matt Tifft, Blake Koch and Ryan Reed.

The second red flag lasted 27 minutes, 51 seconds.

When the racing resumed following the second wreck, of the 40 cars that began the race, only Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon, Ross Chastain, Dakoda Armstrong, Brennan Poole, Joey Gase, Brendan Gaughan, Kasey Kahne, Mario Gosselin and David Starr had not been involved in wrecks.

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Elliott Sadler breaks 65-race Xfinity winless streak on 41st birthday at Talladega


Elliott Sadler gave himself one of his most memorable birthday presents, winning his first Xfinity Series race in his last 66 starts in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.

But it was far from easy.

Sadler was involved in a wreck with Joey Logano coming to the finish line. Logano tried to block Sadler but they made contact, sending Logano’s car up the track into the SAFER barrier.

Sadler bounced off Logano’s car but maintained control. Even though he dipped below the double yellow line and into the grass, Sadler was in the lead at that point and NASCAR threw the yellow flag.

“I felt that was one of the best saves I’ve ever made in the grass to keep it straight,” Sadler told Fox Sports.

Brennan Poole crossed the finish line first, but NASCAR determined — after about a five-minute review — that Sadler was the leader when the caution waved.

“People don’t know how hard it is to win these races and it’s very emotional,” Sadler told Fox Sports, his voice cracking. “Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. gave me a great opportunity to come here and I have one heck of a race team.”

While disappointed at not getting the win, Poole was also happy for Sadler.

“It was really cool to be able to have an opportunity to have a win,” Poole said. “I thought we were way to the good, but that’s how it is. Congrats to Elliott. He’s a former Late Model stock guy like myself, so it was cool to see him win.”

Sadler’s win came at the same place as his last Xfinity victory: May 3, 2014 at Talladega. Saturday’s race was scheduled for 113 laps, but went three laps longer due to a late wreck on Lap 110 when Jeb Burton‘s spin brought out the caution.

Sadler’s teammate at JR Motorsports, Justin Allgaier, finished second, followed by Poole, Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan.

MORE: Results from Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega

MORE: Sadler moves into tie with Suarez for Xfinity Series points lead

HOW SADLER WON: Sadler faked right and went left to try and get around race leader Joey Loganotried to block Sadler but lost control of his car, bounced off Sadler’s car and went head-on into the wall. Sadler maintained control of his car even though he was partly pushed into the grass and in the lead when NASCAR called the caution, freezing the field and giving the win to Sadler.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Even though he was first thought to be the winner, and had to wait for five minutes while NASCAR reviewed video to make a final determination, Brennan Poole wound up third, his first top-five. … Others having good races were Justin Allgaier, Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: There was a hard wreck on Lap 31 between Chris Cockrum and Joey Gase. Cockrum spun seven times after clipping the wall that juts out on Turn 2 in an area that allows safety crews to access the track. Both drivers were uninjured. … Erik Jones had a rare off day, finishing 22nd. Jones was clipped by Jeb Burton on the second-to-last caution and suffered damage to the right front of his car.

NOTABLE: Chase Elliott was forced to start at the back of the pack after missing driver introductions. … Logano went from the leader to a 27th-place finish after the wreck on the frontstretch coming to the start-finish line.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Great birthday gift to me, with my wife and kids here with me. We needed this win. I told everybody this morning we’ve got the car to win it, things went our way, we had a little luck and we were able to make it at the end.” – Elliott Sadler.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series is off next weekend. The next race will be Saturday, May 14, at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET).

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