Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway concluded under the lights with five overtime attempts, several crushed race cars and a margin of victory of 0.000.
It was a margin so close that the winner was determined by the photo finish, with Tyler Reddick’s No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet barely edging teammate Elliott Sadler’s No. 1 machine across the start/finish line.
Marking Xfinity’s 100th race as a sponsor, the 143-lap thriller didn’t disappoint.
“Either way, a JR Motorsports car wins, right?” Reddick said, as team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed. “… That was insane, I just saw a picture of it like 10 minutes ago and it’s not much.”
The final laps around the 2.5-mile speedway delivered everything Daytona promises: lead changes, passing, pushing and, yes, even a few wrecks. The second overtime attempt resulted in an 18-car wreck that took out top contenders Kyle Larson and Joey Logano among others.
It left fans glued to the action and crew members antsy in their pit boxes as the race continued to push 57.5 miles past its scheduled distance.
“Man, it was hard to watch,” said No. 9 crew member Rowdy Harrell, listed on the team’s roster as a front carrier.
“The 1 (of Sadler) was out in front of us right here,” he added, motioning to the final bit of track behind him before the start/finish line. “About 20 yards from the line, we got ’em. You hope for everything to work out the best in that situation, but we know it doesn’t always work out that way.
“Being in the first position for all those cautions, the first thing that goes through your head is, ‘There’s no way this is gonna happen. We’ve had this many opportunities and it’s about to get taken away from us. ‘ Luckily the kid hung onto it. He did good.”
In the end, the front of the field was built of a mélange of rookie drivers (Reddick and Kaz Grala), series veterans (Sadler and Ryan Reed) and underdogs, like Ryan Truex, who made his debut with new team Kaulig Racing on Saturday.
“I was just stressed out because every time I was in a really good spot coming to the white (flag), the caution would come out and we’d have to reset,” Truex said on pit road after the race. “That last run, I just pushed Ryan (Reed) as hard as I could; we’re pretty good buddies off the track so it was cool to try and push him to a win … I didn’t mind the length, I didn’t mind the restarts — our car was really good on restarts. But you have be in the perfect lane and that last lap there I backed up to whoever was behind me and got a huge run and Tyler (Reddick) was able to just shut the door at the last minute and that was all I had.”
The younger brother of reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., Truex’s debut with Kaulig Racing resulted in a seventh-place result with three laps led, earning fist bumps and congratulations from crew members post race.
It wasn’t a W, but it was an impressive performance in an equally exciting race for a young driver who hasn’t run in the Xfinity Series since 2015.
“Man, our car was really — we came from the back four times, every time we were able to get it to the front, had a lot of speed,” Truex said. “We got lucky a few times, we pretty much wrecked in Turn 3 across the apron in Turn 3 and somehow came out of there without killing the car.
“Our plan was to be there at the end and we did that and got a good finish out of it.”