NASCAR Xfinity Series News

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 kicks off 2021 Xfinity Series at Daytona

The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is upon us and Daytona International Speedway is all set to host this weekend’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Daytona International Speedway has hosted 58 NASCAR Xfinity Series races since the inaugural race in 1982 won by Dale Earnhardt.

Noah Gragson won last year’s season-opener, starting from the 12th position. Myatt Snider started on the pole in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing but finished 33rd after being involved in a crash on Lap 59. Gragson will look to go back-to-back in his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. His win last season at Daytona was the first of his Xfinity Series career. He went on to win again at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Harrison Burton, finished second last season at Daytona while Timmy Hill finished third in one of the biggest underdog stories of the season.

There were seven cautions for 28 laps and 12 different lead changes.

Justin Haley is the most recent winner at Daytona International Speedway in the Xfinity Series. He started ninth at the race in August and took home the victory. Haley, driver of the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet, is a force to be reckoned with at superspeedways. All three of his victories in the Xfinity Series came in 2020 at superspeedways.

Saturday evening’s race will be 120 laps for 300 miles. Stage 1 will end on Lap 30 and Stage 2 will end on Lap 60.

The Xfinity Series’ first practice will be on Friday, Feb. 12 at 4:35 p.m. ET on FS1 and qualifying will take place at 10:40 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 13.

2020 Xfinity Series champ is back for more!

Austin Cindric, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, will be back behind the wheel of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford in 2021. Cindric will run for his second straight Xfinity Series championship.

On top of running the full Xfinity Series schedule for Team Penske, Cindric will run select races in the No. 33 Team Penske Ford, in preparation for when he takes over the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in 2022.

Prior to his 2020 championship, Cindric’s best finish in the final series standings was sixth in 2019. Cindric became the 30th different driver to win the Xfinity Series title and made 33 starts with six wins, 19 top fives and 26 top 10s in the 2020.

Cindric also became the seventh different Xfinity Series champion from the state of North Carolina.

The championship marked Team Penske’s second Xfinity Series driver championship. Brad Keselowski won the first in 2010. It marked the team’s record tying fifth owner championship (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2020) joining Richard Childress Racing (five) and Joe Gibbs Racing (five) with the series-most owner titles.

Team Penske is one of 17 different organizations to win a championship in the series and the team has led nine different drivers to Victory Lane with a total of 76 wins.

Brian Wilson will also return as the crew chief for the No. 22 Ford and Cindric. The championship in 2020 marked Wilson’s first as a crew chief. He won 18 races with four different drivers in his career – Keselowski (four), Ryan Blaney (two), Joey Logano (four) and Cindric (eight).

Most recently, Tyler Reddick won back-to-back championships in 2018 and 2019 and prior to that it was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011 and 2012. Martin Truex Jr. did it in 2004 and 2005 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it in 1998 and 1999. Randy LaJoie accomplished the feat in 1996 and 1997 and Larry Pearson did it in 1986 and 1987. Sam Ard was the first driver in Xfinity Series history to win back-to-back championships (1983 and 1984).

If Cindric goes back-to-back, he’ll be the seventh driver in series history to do so.

Close Xfinity Series finishes are the norm at Daytona

Ever since the inception of electronic scoring in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 1996, close finishes of less than a second have been the norm at Daytona International Speedway.

Since 1996, the Xfinity Series has competed at Daytona 44 times. Thirty-two of the races ended under green and all 31 finished with a margin of victory of less than a second; including the closest finish in NASCAR national series history (0.0004 second) in the 2018 Xfinity season opener.

Late-race passes are the name of the game at Daytona

Unpredictability. That’s what comes to mind when you think of the finishes at Daytona International Speedway, especially as of late in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Last-lap passes for the win have happened in the closing laps of the last six of seven season-opening races at Daytona; including two on the last lap (excluding 2020, which ended under caution):

2014: Regan Smith passed Brad Keselowski on the last lap to win by just 0.013 second. 

2015: Ryan Reed passed Brad Keselowski on the last lap to win by just 0.089 second. 

2016: Chase Elliott passed Joey Logano and led the last 14 laps to win by a scant 0.043 second.

2017: Ryan Reed passed Brad Keselowski with two laps to go to take the checkered flag and the victory by a mere 0.218 second.

2018: Tyler Reddick took the lead with what turned out to be 11 laps to go in NASCAR Overtime and then held off the field for two more overtime restarts (for five total overtime restarts in the race) to win the closest race in NASCAR history (0.0004 second).

2019: Michael Annett took the lead on the final restart with 45 laps to go and held off several hard chargers to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career race by 0.116 seconds over Justin Allgaier.

Five drivers make up 2021 Xfinity Sunoco Rookie of the Year class

Last season there were five different drivers competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. This season, there are five more: Ryan Vargas, Jordan Anderson, Sam Mayer, Josh Berry and Ty Gibbs. These names are familiar to NASCAR as all five of them have made names for themselves in others series as well as made some starts in the Xfinity Series.

Ryan Vargas: Vargas has made 12 starts in the Xfinity Series over the last two seasons. All 12 of those starts were with JD Motorsports and the first was at Iowa Speedway in 2019. Vargas had a best finish of eighth at Texas Motor Speedway in 2020 and made headlines with a sponsorship deal with Tik Tok. He’ll be back behind the wheel of the No. 6 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports and will run a full-time season for the team. This weekend at Daytona International Speedway will be his first start at the historic track. He has one superspeedway start at Talladega Superspeedway last season. He started 29th and finished 30th due to a suspension issue.

Jordan Anderson: Anderson and his team announced that they’d be making a run at the Xfinity Series championship in 2021 and he would be racing for the Rookie of the Year honors in the No. 31 Chevrolet. The new program announced that it will continue the Truck Series program as well and will be run by multiple drivers during the season. Anderson will take the wheel at the season-opener at Daytona. The new program in the Xfinity Series will run cars that were acquired from Richard Childress Racing and powered by ECR engines. Arthur Haire will serve as the crew chief. Anderson has 13 previous starts in the Xfinity Series, most recently running seven races in 2017. He has a best finish of 26th at Dover in 2017. He has seven years of experience in the Camping World Truck Series with 124 starts and a best finish of second, that came last season in the opener at Daytona.

Josh Berry: Berry will run a part-time schedule in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in 2021. Berry has experience in the Xfinity Series already, having made seven starts previously and five of them were with JR Motorsports. He scored a best finish of seventh at Richmond Raceway in 2015. Berry will work with crew chief Taylor Moyer for 12 events. Berry is a 10-year veteran of JRM’s Late Model program and made history with a record-breaking season that led to winning the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series championship last season.

Sam Mayer: Mayer will run a part-time schedule in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in 2021 alongside Berry. Mayer, an alum of JRM’s Late Model program and youngest champion in NASCAR history, will pilot the Chevrolet for the team once he turns 18 on June 26, 2021. In 2020, Mayer won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol and won a combined 11 races across all three ARCA Menards Series. He will use the second half of the 2021 season to prepare to run fulltime for a championship for the team in 2022.

Ty Gibbs: Gibbs will compete for the 2021 ARCA Menards Series championship and will also make his Xfinity Series debut in the No. 54 for Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He will make his first start at the Daytona Road Course next week and although his exact schedule is still being finalized, he will content for Rookie of the Year honors.

JR Motorsports shines at Daytona
JR Motorsports will look to expand their winning ways at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. The team will look for their fourth-straight win in the season-opening race and their sixth win in the last eight races run at the superspeedway.

2018: Tyler Reddick took the lead with what turned out to be 11 laps to go in NASCAR Overtime and then held off the field for two more overtime restarts (for five total overtime restarts in the race) to win the closest race in NASCAR history (0.0004 second).

2019: Michael Annett took the lead on the final restart with 45 laps to go and held off several hard chargers to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career race by 0.116 seconds over Justin Allgaier.

2020: Noah Gragson led 15 laps and beat Harrison Burton, Timmy Hill, Brandon Jones and Chase Briscoe to the finish line under caution to grab his first victory in the Xfinity Series and JR Motorsports’ third straight season-opener win.

In 2021, Annett, Gragson and Allgaier will all be back behind the wheel full-time for JR Motorsports. Josh Berry, the 2020 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series champion, will pilot the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for 12 races while Sam Mayer, the 2020 ARCA Menards Series Sioux Chief Showdown champion and ARCA Menards Series East champion, will run the second half of the season in the No. 8 to prepare to run full-time for the team in 2022.

Silly Season: Who landed where in the Xfinity Series?

The NASCAR Xfinity Series offseason saw some shuffling of the drivers and teams, below is a quick update on who is where:

Myatt Snider will run for Richard Childress Racing fulltime in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Andy Street as crew chief in the No. 2 Chevrolet. Snider ran a part-time schedule for RCR and RSS Racing last season, running all 33 races in his rookie season. Snider started on the pole four times last season, including in the season-opener at Daytona. His best finish came at Pocono Raceway, where he started second and finished fourth for RCR.

Landon Cassill is back in the Xfinity Series and this time he’ll run for JD Motorsports for the full season in the No. 4. Cassill ran only four races last season in the Xfinity Series but will get to run all races with the team this season, his first fulltime season since 2014.

Sam Mayer and Josh Berry will split time behind the wheel of the JR Motorsports No. 8 Chevrolet in 2021. Berry will drive 12 races early on in the season and Mayer will take over for the second half of the season after he turns 18.

Jeb Burton landed a fulltime ride at Kaulig Racing, replacing Ross Chastain in the No. 10 Chevrolet. He will have NutrienAg Solutions as a sponsor and Bruce Schlicker will be crew chief. Burton, who has experience in all three NASCAR national series, has never landed a fulltime gig in the Xfinity Series so this season is highly anticipated.

AJ Allmendinger may not be a new name in the Xfinity Series but what is new is that he will be running a fulltime schedule for Kaulig Racing in the No. 16 Chevrolet in 2021. Allmendinger used to run select races for the team but will compete for a championship this year. Jason Trinchere will be Allmendinger’s crew chief. Allmendinger will also make starts in the Cup Series for Kaulig Racing.

Daniel Hemric found a new home at Joe Gibbs Racing, where he will run the No. 18 Toyota fulltime in 2021. Hemric was competing for JR Motorsports part-time last season but will get to compete for a championship in a Toyota with Dave Rogers as crew chief.

Ty Dillon will run some Xfinity Series races for Joe Gibbs Racing as part of the team’s “all-star car” lineup. Dillon will kick off the organization’s season with the No. 54 Toyota at Daytona and will also run at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Las Vegas and Talladega. Dillon will also take a shot at the DAYTONA 500 with 23XI Racing.

Jason White and Natalie Decker will run for RSS Racing in partnership with Reaume Brothers Racing in the No. 23 Ford. Decker is set to compete in five races for the team while White will pilot the No. 23 in the season opener at Daytona.

Jordan Anderson will compete for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title, running his first full-time season in the Xfinity Series with Artie Haire as crew chief.

Gray Gaulding will drive for Jimmy Means Racing in 2021 in the No. 52 Chevrolet. Kody Vanderwal will not return to Jimmy Means and Gaulding will take his place.

Ronnie Bassett Jr. and Dillon Bassett are looking to field the No. 77 Bassett Racing Chevrolet for the full 2021 Xfinity Series schedule. The brothers will share the driving duties and will have Nathan Kennedy as crew chief.

Jesse Little made the jump from JD Motorsports to B.J. McLeod Motorsports. He will run full-time in 2021 with Keith Wolfe as his crew chief.

Riley Herbst left Joe Gibbs Racing and found a home at Stewart-Haas Racing, jumping behind the wheel of the No. 98 Ford with Monster Energy has his sponsor. Richard Boswell will remain the crew chief of the No. 98 in 2021.

Ty Gibbs will make his Xfinity Series debut at the Daytona Road Course in the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. He will be running a part-time schedule alongside JGR “all-stars” Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Ty Dillon. In hopes of winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, Gibbs will have Chris Gayle as crew chief.

Robby Lyons and Austin Hill will run partial schedules in the No. 61 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota with Patrick Magee as crew chief. Lyons will pilot the No. 61 in the season opener at Daytona.

Stefan Parsons, Mason Massey, Vinnie Miller, Ryan Ellis will all run part-time in the No. 99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Ford in 2021. Ellis is currently slated for six races, Miller will return for at least three and Massey will run 12.

Jade Buford and Danny Bohn will run the No. 48 Big Machine Record Racing Chevrolet. Scott Borchetta, President and CEO of Big Machine Record Label Group, tapped Buford as the fulltime driver. However, Buford is not approved to run the season opener at Daytona so Bohn will pilot the No. 48.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Two of a kind:

Only two drivers in NASCAR Xfinity Series history won the season opener at Daytona and then went on to win the championship that same year. Randy LaJoie won the season opener in 1997 and won the championship and most recently, Tyler Reddick did it in 2018.

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