Pre-Race Info

February 14, 2020

Daytona International Speedway sets the stage for Xfinity’s 2020 season opener

The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is upon us and Daytona International Speedway is all set to host this weekend’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Daytona International Speedway has hosted 56 NASCAR Xfinity Series races (1982-2019) producing 41 different pole winners and 31 different race winners.

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick won the pole for the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona last season and JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett won the race.

 

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 42 times. 31 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.

Below are the last five margins of victory in the season-opening race at Daytona:

 

Margin of Victory Race Winner Runner-Up Date
0.1160 Michael Annett Justin Allgaier February 16, 2019
0.0004 Tyler Reddick Elliott Sadler February 17, 2018
0.2180 Ryan Reed Kasey Kahne February 25, 2017
0.0430 Chase Elliott Joey Logano February 20, 2016
0.0890 Ryan Reed Chris Buescher February 21, 2015

 

 

Stealing Wins: Late race passes happen 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 season-opening races at Daytona; including two on the last lap:

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 2020 Xfinity Sunoco Rookie of the Year class

This season five drivers are vying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors – Harrison Burton, Riley Herbst, Jesse Little, Joe Graf Jr., and Kody Vanderwal.

Each week the highest finishing rookie of the race will be awarded with Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award and the rookie who finishes the season highest in the driver championship points will win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

Harrison Burton (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) from Huntersville, N.C. will work with crew chief Ben Beshore this season. The 19-year old has nine previous Xfinity starts in his career but will be making his series track debut this weekend at Daytona. Among his nine previous Xfinity starts, his best finish was fourth at Iowa in 2019. Burton is the son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver and current NBC Sports TV analyst Jeff Burton.

Riley Herbst (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) from Las Vegas, Nev. will work with crew chief Dave Rogers this season. The 20-year old has made 10 Xfinity Series starts, all for Joe Gibbs Racing, including the July Daytona race last season where he started 11th and finished 18th.

Jesse Little (No. 4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet) from Sherrills Ford, N.C. will work with crew chief Bryan Berry this season. Little will be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Little is the son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver Chad Little.

Joe Graf Jr. (No. 08 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet) from Mahwah, New Jersey will work with crew chief Patrick Donahue this season. Graf made three starts last year for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series, including a start at Daytona – where he started sixth and finished 23rd. This season he will compete fulltime with SS Green Light Racing.

Kody Vanderwal (No. 52 Means Motorsports Chevrolet) from LaSalle, Colorado is not entered this weekend at Daytona International Speedway but is expected to compete for rookie of the year this season. J.J. Yeley is driving the Means Motorsports No. 52 this weekend at Daytona. Vanderwal has cut his teeth competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Series driving for Levin Racing.

 

Garage Talk: Lots of new faces in new places

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

Ross Chastain has been tapped to run fulltime with Kaulig Racing and their No. 10 team with crew chief Bruce Schlicker. Chastain won the July race at Daytona last year, giving Kaulig Racing their first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory. Now the Florida native and famous watermelon farmer is looking to bring the organization its first series title. Chastain has made 11 series starts at Daytona, posting one win, six top 10s and an average finish of 12.4.

Myatt Snider makes his Richard Childress Racing debut as a part-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet this season. Snider will share time behind the wheel with Anthony Alfredo as newly named crew chief Andy Street will try and guide them to an owner’s championship for RCR. Snider is slated to drive five of the first seven races on the schedule, as well as the fall race at Martinsville and the season-ending race at Phoenix. This will be Snider’s Xfinity Series track debut this weekend at Daytona.

Joe Graf Jr. joins SS Green Light Racing at run for championship this season in the No. 08 Chevrolet. Graf has three Xfinity career starts under his belt, all for Richard Childress Racing last season. He participated in the July Daytona race in 2019; he started sixth but finished 23rd after being caught in an incident.

Jeb Burton will be in the JR Motorsport’s No. 8 Chevrolet this season on a part-time basis with crew chief Taylor Moyer; including this weekend at Daytona. The Virginia native and son to former Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton, ran seven Xfinity races last season with JRM posting a career-bests in starting position (fourth at Texas) and finishing position (fourth at Indianapolis). Has made two series starts at Daytona posting one top five.

 

Grizzled Vets: Drivers to watch in 2020

As always, the drivers we recognize, know and love are returning for another shot at a NASCAR Xfinity Series title this season – the veterans.

The JR Motorsports contingent of Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and Noah Gragson return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season looking to bring JRM its fourth Xfinity driver championship and third consecutive season-opening victory. A win this weekend would be JR Motorsport’s seventh overall win at Daytona International Speedway (2019-1, 2018-1, 2017-2, 2016-1 and 2014 sweep). Annett won last season’s opener by a scant 0.116 second over his teammate Justin Allgaier in second.

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric returns to challenge for a 2020 title after his breakout season in 2019 where he posted his first career wins (Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio), made the Playoffs and finished the year a career-best sixth in points. He’s made four starts at Daytona in the Xfinity Series posting two top fives – including a fifth-place finish in this event last season. Team Penske has four owner championships in the Xfinity Series, but Cindric is looking to bring them their first driver title this season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones returns to the No. 19 Toyota Supra with crew chief Jeff Meendering atop the pit box in 2020. Jones will have two rookie teammates this season in Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst. Both will lean on Jones this season, especially after his breakout season in 2019 where he produced his first Xfinity career victory (Kansas) and finished a career-best third in this race at Daytona last season.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe returns for the 2020 season looking to build on his successful first season with the team. Briscoe finished 2019 as the Sunoco Rookie of the Year with a career-best fifth in the Xfinity Playoffs, and he got his second career Xfinity win (Iowa). Looking to this weekend he has made just two starts at Daytona, both last season for SHR, posting a finish of 12th in this event. SHR won its first Xfinity Series owner championship last season with Cole Custer and this season looks to capitalize on a driver championship with Briscoe.

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley returns to the No. 11 Chevrolet team led by crew chief Alex Yontz  for the 2020 season. Haley is looking to build on his rookie season last year that saw four top fives, 20 top 10s and a Playoff berth. This year, Haley will have a new fulltime teammate in Ross Chastain. Haley has just three series starts at Daytona posting a best finish of runner-up in the July race last season. Haley also won the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series July Daytona race last season for Spire Motorsports.

 

Xfinity party part-timers at Daytona

For some drivers, this weekend is the beginning of a 33-race championship, but for others it’s just about the checkered flag, the win and the celebration in Victory Lane. Which makes it no surprise several part-time Xfinity Series drivers are taking aim at Daytona this weekend.

One such driver specifically tapped to drive this weekend to challenge for the win is veteran AJ Allmendinger. The California wheelman will be jumping into the Kaulig Racing No. 16 Chevrolet this weekend with crew chief Lennie Chandler calling the shots from the pit box. Allmendinger was dominate in his lone Xfinity Series Daytona start last season leading 33 laps and crossing the start-finish line in the top five but was subsequently disqualified and dropped to 38th after failing post-race inspection. In total last season Allmendinger made five starts with Kaulig Racing, posting one win (Charlotte ROVAL), two top fives and a pole.

2018 Gander Trucks champ Brett Moffitt will help the newly formed Our Motorsports make their NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Moffitt will pilot the No. 02 Chevrolet. Moffitt has only made three Xfinity Series starts in his career with a best finish of ninth at his home track Iowa Speedway. This will be Moffitt’s series track debut this weekend.

Hattori Racing Enterprises made their NASCAR Xfinity Series debut last season with driver Austin Hill and this weekend return to the series for a shot at Daytona. Hattori Racing Enterprises primarily races in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and the organization won the Gander Trucks season-opener last year. Hill made his Xfinity Series debut last season with owner Carl Long at Indianapolis – he started 17th and finished ninth.

 

Parade Laps: Insights to the drivers in the media breakouts this week

To kick off the 2020 season at Daytona International Speedway four NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers – JR Motorsports driver and defending winner of this race Michael Annett, Stewart-Haas Racing driver and 2019 Xfinity Sunoco Rookie of the Year Chase Briscoe, Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones – will participate in the Xfinity media breakout sessions on Friday, February 14 at 3:30-3:45 p.m. ET at the Media Center Press Conference Room.

 

Michael Annett (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 23, 1986

Driver’s Age: 33

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Hobbies: Cycling, working out, boating

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Travis Mack

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in the 2019 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, qualifying him for the Playoffs; ultimately finished the season ninth in points.
  • In 2017, he made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and finished the season ninth in the championship standings.
  • In 2012, finished a career-best fifth in the series championship driver standings.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made 16 series starts at Daytona posting one win (2019), two top fives and three top 10s.
  • Average start, 13.9 and his average finish, 20.7.

 

Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: December 15, 1994

Driver’s Age: 25

Hometown: Mitchell, Indiana

Hobbies: Spending time with family, online racing, watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Crew Chief: Richard Boswell II

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2019 — his first fulltime Xfinity Series season – Briscoe made a huge statement in the series with one win, 13 top fives, 26 top 10s and two poles. He also made it into the Playoffs and competed for a spot in the Championship 4 before being eliminated in the Round of 8.
  • In 2018, he ran 17 races for Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi and won the inaugural race at the Charlotte Road Course.
  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in 2018 at Atlanta.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made two series starts at Daytona posting a best finish of 12th in this race last season.
  • Average start, 10.0 and average finish, 23.5.

 

Justin Halley (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: April 28, 1999

Driver’s Age:

Hometown: Winamac, Ind.

Hobbies: Muscle car restoration, surfing, fishing and hunting, triathlons, mountain biking

Team: Kaulig Racing

Crew Chief: Alex Yontz

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2019, he posted four top fives and 20 top 10s and made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in his rookie year but was eliminated in the first round; finished the season 12th.
  • He secured his career-best finish in the Xfinity Series of second in July at Daytona.
  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Iowa Speedway in 2018.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made three series starts at Daytona, posting one top five.
  • His average start, 17.0 and his average finish is 12.3.

 

Brandon Jones (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra)

Birthdate: February 18, 1997

Driver’s Age: 22

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Hobbies: Woodworking, antique car restoration, metal fabrication, farming

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Jeff Meendering

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2019, Jones earned his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Kansas Speedway. He qualified for the Playoffs for the third time and finished 10th in the final standings.
  • In 2018, he tallied a career-best finish of second at Talladega and reached the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for the second time, finishing a career-best ninth in the standings.
  • In 2017, he captured his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series pole (Daytona-1).
  • In 2016, he made the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in his rookie season; ultimately finishing a then career-best 10th in the standings.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made eight series starts at Daytona, posting one top five, three top 10s and a pole (2017).
  • His average start, 12.2 and his average finish is 17.4.