2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series preview: Daytona (oval) 1

The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season kicks off on Saturday with the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 at Daytona International Speedway. The race will cover 300 miles through 120 laps with the three stages being split through laps 30, 60 and 120.

Once again, the Xfinity Series begins their nine-month long season at Daytona and last year was a crash-filled race that saw title contenders such as Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe get caught up in wrecks that are typical for a superspeedway. In the end, Noah Gragson capitalized and picked up his first career win, holding off Harrison Burton and Timmy Hill for the victory.

Due to rain, the Xfinity Series qualifying was canceled, prompting the starting lineup to be determined through the top 30 in owners points in 2020, along with qualifying attempts in 2020 and race winners from last season.

Austin Cindric, who won at Phoenix Raceway back on Nov. 7 to win his first Xfinity Series Championship, will start on the pole. Cindric looks to repeat as the Xfinity Series champion, which would make him the second-consecutive back-to-back champion as Tyler Reddick won the championship in 2018 and 2019. Cindric looks to follow up a strong 2020 that saw him win six races with 19 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes. Cindric will also race in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Allgaier, who is still looking for his first Xfinity Series championship after finishing second in standings last year. He will start second. Allgaier won three races with 11 top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes.

Starting the second row is the king of superspeedway racing in the Xfinity Series, Justin Haley. Haley not only won at Daytona in the Cup Series in July of 2019, but he also dominated at superspeedways in 2020, winning both Talladega races and winning the second oval race at Daytona. This allowed Haley to qualify for the championship race at Phoenix where he finished third among the championship four drivers.

Joining Haley in the second row is Riley Herbst, who takes over for Chase Briscoe in the No. 98 car. Briscoe will take over Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 car in the Cup Series, allowing Herbst to take over a car that won nine races last season. The pressure is on Herbst to deliver as last year, he was involved in over 20 race incidents in the 33-race season and has still been unable to win a race in the Xfinity Series.

The third row consists of two drivers who were eliminated in the Round of 8 last season in Gragson and Brandon Jones. Gragson failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 due to a crash in the duels, but still has the opportunity to win the opener in the Xfinity Series at Daytona for the second year in a row. Jones looks to build on a 2020 season that saw him win three races with 10 top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes.

Jeb and Harrison Burton will start seventh and eighth. Jeb takes over for Ross Chastain in the No. 10 car for Kaulig Racing after Chastain’s promotion to full-time Cup Series driver for 2021 in the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing. Jeb had three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes in 11 races for the 2020 season. His cousin, Harrison, won Rookie of the Year last season with four race wins, 15 top-five finishes and 22 top-10 finishes. While he was eliminated in the Round of 12 last season, he won at Texas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway in the Round of 8 to give him a lot of momentum heading into 2021.

Josh Berry will start ninth as he will run in a part-time role for JR Motorsports in the No. 8. Michael Annett, who won the season opener at Daytona in 2019, rounds out the top 10. Annett finished 2020 with four top-five finishes and 22 top-10 finishes.

Two other notable changes to the lineup for 2021 are 2020 part-time drivers in Daniel Hemric and A.J. Allemdinger. Hemric was one of the part-time drivers in the No. 8 car for JR Motorsports in 2020, but this season, he will replace Herbst in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing. Allmendinger, who won two races (Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Charlotte Roval) with six top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes in 11 races with Kaulig, will run full time in the Xfinity Series in the No. 16 car for Kaulig. Hemric will start 12th and Allmendinger will start 31st.

Coverage for the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 at Daytona will begin at 5:00 p.m. EST. You can catch the race on Fox Sports 1 and the Motor Racing Network.

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/02/08/goodyear-tire-notes-daytona/

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