Photo via AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack
The 2020 Xfinity Series has kicked off with a bang. With a total of five cautions in this race, including a big one with six laps left, we saw a lot of lead changes. The No. 9 car for JR Motorsports, driven by 21-year-old Noah Gragson, ended up winning the race after winning the restart after the big wreck and passing Chase Briscoe for the win. He had to hold off 19-year-old Harrison Burton in the No. 20 car who got a push from No. 66 Timmy Hill to make it a close finish.
Crashes took many drivers out as with eight laps into stage 2, defending champion Michael Annett got loose and collected Austin Hill and Joe Graf Jr. On the final lap of stage 2, Riley Herbst and Chris Cockrum got loose and took out Myatt Snider, who was on the pole for this race. With stage 2 winner Justin Allgaier falling behind in stage three, Josh Bilicki blew a tire and Allgaier ended up crashing into Jeremy Clements and was taken out for good as his hood was destroyed. Ross Chastain suffered a flat tire and got penalized for too many men over the wall, which essentially took him out of the race. Clements also had a rough race as his roof was destroyed on Lap 20 of stage 1 and then Allgaier collided with him later.
As far as the “Big One” goes, after Briscoe threw a block, Jeb Burton, who led most of stage 3, got loose and took out multiple drivers and a red flag came out that halted play for over 10 minutes. After the crash, it was Gragson that was able to take advantage on the restart and won his first career race.
Allgaier was not only my pick to win this race, but he was the car that was looking in control. He dominated stage 2 and was looking to do the same in stage 3. However, he was lost in the crowd when stage 3 began and he could not make up ground.
The most surprising aspect of this race was the drivers that finished second and third. We had 19-year-old Harrison Burton having leads in stage 1 and finishing in second after a late push. And the No. 66, Timmy Hill, whose team was docked 75 points, fined $50,000 and crew chief suspended for six weeks, finished in third amidst all the chaos. He drove smart and had a good finish to the race.
Noah Gragson won and this is a monumental moment in his career. For him to win his first career race at Daytona is very special. He will return to his home track of Las Vegas next week looking to capitalize on the momentum.
With crashes dictating this race, it certainly did not lack drama as we had a thrilling stage 3 and a close finish. There wasn’t anything special to the race, but it gave us a nice appetizer for tomorrow’s main event, the Daytona 500.