Jeremy Clements wins Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway

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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.

MORE: Daytona Xfinity results, driver points

MORE: Unforgettable night for Jeremy Clements stretches into morning

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.’ “

Following Clements at the finish were Timmy Hill, Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and IndyCar driver Sage Karam.

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).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he wants to run another Martinsville Xfinity race

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NASCAR Hall of Famer and NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to race Martinsville again, he said on this week’s episode of the “Door Bumper Clear” podcast.

Earnhardt, a two-time Xfinity champion, has continued to make one-off appearances in the series every year since retiring from his full-time Cup career at the end of 2017.

The JR Motorsports co-owner made his lone start of 2022 at Martinsville Speedway last Friday but left unsatisfied with his 11th-place finish. Earnhardt eyes another trip to the 0.526-mile track to improve his result next time out.

“I really love Martinsville, and I think I didn’t get everything out of that that I wanted in terms of performance, so I’d love to go back and try again to run better knowing what I know now,” Earnhardt said. “The short runs in that series, the lack of tire wear, the grip, the cooler temperatures, all those things, we weren’t quite prepared balance-wise for how that race was going to play out. And I don’t know that I would’ve been able to prepare any better because I just didn’t know. But going back, I think I could perform better.”

Earnhardt, who needed to make the race on time, qualified 30th with a lap of 20.407 seconds. The final driver to make the field on time was JJ Yeley, who posted a 20.444-second lap.

“Qualifying, man, I was sweating bullets,” Earnhardt said on the podcast. “I told everybody going into that race I was like, ‘Man, it ain’t a lot. I’m a go-or-go-homer.’ I’ve never experienced that for one. That was not fun. Even though I knew I had a really fast car, I’m thinking ‘Man, how do these guys like Timmy Hill and (Stefan) Parsons do it every week?’ Because every week, some of them guys live that — that nerve. That is a horrible way to live and having to worry about that every single week.”

The experience reminded Earnhardt, the sport’s 15-time Most Popular Driver, how strong the Xfinity field. Earnhardt averaged a 15.4 running position Friday evening.

“You’ve got to have it all lined up all just right for you to be able to go out there and be competitive, and there was a bunch of pieces missing when that race started,” he said. “Some of it was the balance of the car. A lot of it was me. As the race went on, we got the balance better. I felt like I was getting better. But I want to go do it again.

“I definitely want to do it again. I love driving the cars … The thing is I need to do it more to be better. It does help (covering the sport on TV). Because like you say, it reminds me of how good they are and I think we take that for granted. Sitting up there in the booth, you’re watching it over and over and over and you’re talking nuts and bolts or strategy or what a guy’s thinking or feeling. But we sometimes kind of forget these are the elite. These are the best guys out there.”

Since rejoining the series on a part-time basis, Earnhardt has made starts at Richmond (2018, 2021), Darlington (2019), Homestead (2020) and Martinsville with three top fives in his last five races.

After surviving Duels, Greg Biffle heads toward Daytona 500

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Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, Greg Biffle raced his way into the Daytona 500.

It wasn’t the first time Biffle has faced that crucible.

In 2002, he attempted to qualify for the team then known as Roush Racing. But he suffered an engine failure in his Duel qualifier, finished 22nd and didn’t get in.

Two decades later, Biffle found better luck. He finished 13th in his Duel qualifier Thursday to put himself and the fledgling NY Racing Team in Sunday’s “Great American Race.”

“It’s a humbling experience,” said Biffle, who went on to make 14 Daytona 500 starts for the Roush organization (2003-16) after his DNQ in 2002.

“It’s challenging. I’m used to coming down here, being in the 500. [But] you’re a charter team or you’re high enough in points. It definitely has been a lot of pressure.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys that come down here and have to do it every year. It’s tough.”

Biffle’s pact with the NY Racing Team was announced Monday. The following day, he was limited to 10 minutes of practice in the first Cup session – in his words, “because some of those new car issues that we weren’t quite ready for.”

The team eventually got things sorted, but Biffle couldn’t lock into the Daytona 500 on single-lap qualifying speed Wednesday. He’d have to be the top finishing non-chartered driver in his Thursday Duel.

Duel 1 saw Kaz Grala pass J.J. Yeley on the final lap for a transfer spot into Sunday. With Yeley going home, Duel 2 had Biffle race Timmy Hill for the other transfer spot (the other non-chartered driver in Duel 2, Jacques Villeneuve, was already locked in on speed).

Hill fell off the lead lap early. But Biffle still had obstacles to overcome.

“These team guys thrown together, we had trouble getting fuel in the car, I ran out of gas with two laps to go, 25 pounds of fuel pressure – everything happened tonight,” he said in initial comments to Fox Sports. “But we finished (13th). You know, I’m glad that maybe that fuel stop wasn’t perfect because I might have been in that wreck.”

Trouble averted, Biffle now looks ahead to his first start at NASCAR’s top level since the 2016 season.

By then, the Roush organization had fallen to mid-pack and Biffle was frustrated by being unable to compete for wins. So, he called time on his Cup career.

But he didn’t leave racing entirely. In recent years, he’s won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race for Kyle Busch Motorsports and has also raced in Stadium Super Trucks and the SRX short track series.

The chance to drive a Next Gen car, one built by Richard Childress Racing and powered by a Hendrick engine, was enough to lure Biffle back to Daytona.

And based on the performance of his car in the Duels, he feels he can make the most of this opportunity.

“It’s been a challenge all weekend, but I think we got our feet under us now, especially with the way the car drove,” he said. “The car drove amazing. Really, really good. I watched some guys that looked like they were too free and have handling issues, and I didn’t experience that.

“Makes me feel good for the 500 on Sunday that I’ve got a competitive car that I can challenge for the win (with).”

Daytona Duel 2 results

NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Chris Buescher won Thursday’s second Duel qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway, securing a fourth-place starting position for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Buescher won under caution after Joey Logano made contact with him while racing for the lead on the last lap. Logano crashed, and the field was frozen by the ensuing yellow flag with Buescher in the lead ahead of Michael McDowell.

Daytona Duel 2 Results

Harrison Burton finished third, followed by Kyle Busch in fourth and Christopher Bell in fifth.

Greg Biffle finished 13th to make the Daytona 500 as Duel 2’s top finisher among non-chartered drivers.

Chris Buescher wins Daytona Duel 2 after last-lap incident with Joey Logano

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A last-lap crash in Thursday’s second Duel qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway left Chris Buescher with the win and Joey Logano wrecked.

As the lead pack of Logano, Buescher, Michael McDowell and Harrison Burton rode past a lapped car, Buescher moved inside on Logano for the lead in Turn 2.

Logano moved to block Buescher, but the two made contact and Logano was sent across the track into the backstretch wall.

When the caution came out to freeze the field, Buescher was ahead of McDowell – giving Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing a sweep of Thursday’s Duels after Brad Keselowski’s victory in Duel 1.

“I don’t want to get into [Logano] – just trying to pull down and get in front of the 15 [David Ragan] there,” Buescher explained to Fox Sports. “I don’t want it to happen that way for sure.

“But I am really proud of the effort. Proud of nice, good execution all the way down pit road, and we’re in a good [starting] spot here. That’s exciting.”

Cup rookie Burton made contact with Logano as the latter bounced off the wall, but kept going and finished third. Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell rounded out the top five.

Logano was credited with finishing ninth. Shortly after the race, his No. 22 Team Penske crew unloaded his backup car.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Greg Biffle raced his way into the Daytona 500 with a 13th-place finish. Biffle, a 19-time race winner in the Cup Series, will make his first start at NASCAR’s top level since 2016. “This was a last minute deal,” Biffle told Fox Sports. “These team guys thrown together, we had trouble getting fuel in the car, I ran out of gas with two laps to go, 25 pounds of fuel pressure – everything happened tonight. But we finished [13th]. You know, I’m glad that maybe that fuel stop wasn’t perfect because I might have been in that wreck.”

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Timmy Hill finished four laps down in 20th and failed to make the Daytona 500. He joins J.J. Yeley in going home.

NOTABLE: This is the first time both Duels have been swept by a single team since 2015 (Hendrick Motorsports – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson).

NEXT: The 64th Daytona 500, Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX