Even though rain forced it to be spread across two days, the Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway put on quite the show. Originally scheduled for August 27th at 7:30 p.m., rain and lightning forced the race to be suspended Friday night and resumed at 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. After the restart, the drivers were able to safely complete the rest of the competition.
Since neither practice nor qualifying were held, the lineup was set by the same formula that NASCAR has been using all year. Starting position was determined as 25% driver’s finishing position from the previous race, 25% owner’s finishing position from the previous race, 35% team owner points, and 15% fastest lap from the previous race. This formula put the 16 of AJ Allmendinger on the pole with the 9 of Noah Gragson in second. The rest of the top five included the 19 of Brandon Jones, the 7 of Justin Allgaier, and the 20 of Harrison Burton. No cars were sent to the rear after pre-race inspection.
The green flag was waved at about 7:50 p.m. Friday with Allmendinger and Gragson on the front row. By lap four, the 9 of Gragson had passed Allmendinger for the lead, but eventually gave it up a lap later. The 19 of Jones exited the track for an unscheduled pit stop on lap nine as he had gathered some trash on his grille and his engine overheated. The competition caution was brought out at lap 17 as a result of having no practice. 15 cars pitted under yellow, including Jones for the second time. He would be sent to the garage and not return to the race.
At lap 19, still under caution, the red flag was brought out. It had started to downpour and the track was almost immediately lost. Officials attempted to wait it out, but another storm came through not long after the first one cleared. At 9:10 p.m. the race was called and it was announced that it would resume at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Restarting on lap 20, the green flag was waved at 12:38 p.m on Saturday. Allmendinger led the field with the 54 of Cup regular Christopher Bell on his inside. On lap 27, the yellow flag was brought out again for a large wreck at the front of the field. The 2 of Myatt Snider had gotten loose and pushed the 22 of points leader Austin Cindric into the wall. The 1 of Michael Annett, 8 of Sam Mayer, 18 of Daniel Hemric, and 54 of Bell were also involved. Cindric’s damage was considered too much to fix, and he was declared out of the race. The 11 of Justin Haley was determined to be the leader and won the stage under caution. Kaulig finished the stage 1-2-3 with Allmendinger in second and the 10 of Jeb Burton in third.
At the restart, it was the 68 of Brandon Brown on the inside with the 98 of Riley Herbst on the outside. As they battled for the lead, the yellow flag was brought out again for debris on the track. It came off of the 1 car of Annett as his fender exploded from the prior wreck. It was again Herbst and Brown at the front of the field on the restart with Brown taking the lead. Two laps later, Allmendinger took the lead back. Another caution came out on lap 50 as the 90 of Caesar Bacarella lost his rear fender after having contact with the 23 of Blaine Perkins.
11 cars pitted at the caution, including the leader. This led to the restart once again being Brown on the inside and Herbst on the outside. At lap 54, Jeb Burton took the lead with both of his teammates lining up behind him. While Brown was still showing great promise, he ran out of fuel on lap 56 and was forced to pit. The stage ended at lap 60 with Burton taking the win. Kaulig once again finished 1-2-3 with Allmendinger second and Haley third.
All but four cars pitted at the stage break with most taking fuel only. The restart saw the 54 of Bell on the outside and the 9 of Gragson on the inside. The beginning of the stage saw a battle between JR Motorsports teammates with the 9 taking the lead on a push from the 7 of Allgaier. Allgaier, alone on the inside, lost a bunch of track position as the outside lane got a huge burst of momentum. At lap 72, the caution was brought out again for the 26 of Colin Garrett who spun and the 15 of Colby Howard who followed him. Gragson had some debris on his grill which was causing his car to heat up, but was able to remove it without pitting.
It was Gragson and Bell on the front row as the green flag was waved for the restart. Bell took the lead on lap 78 with help from the 10, and the top line went single file. Just five laps later, the yellow flag came back out as Bacarella hit the wall. The 31 of Jordan Anderson, 5 of Matt Mills, 44 of Tommy Joe Martins, and 48 of Jade Buford were all involved. Other than the five involved, only the 99 of Cup driver Chase Briscoe pitted for tires.
Christopher Bell once again led the field to green at lap 87. There was a threat of another caution at lap 90 as the 07 of Joe Graf Jr. began to smoke, but he made it to the apron and the race stayed green. On lap 96, the field’s nightmare had come true. The Kaulig cars had lined up again and were running 2-3-4. A lap later, Allmendinger passed Bell for the lead, and Burton took second with Haley right behind him. There was a strong battle for the lead as all organization had been lost and it was Allmendinger on the top and Bell on the bottom.
On the final lap, the Kaulig cars had gone three-wide at the front to prevent any passing. It was Burton on the inside, Allmendinger in the middle, and Haley on the outside. With a huge push from Hemric, the outside line proved to have the best momentum – as it had all day – and Haley earned the victory over Allmendinger by 0.023 seconds. Allgaier crossed the line in third, Burton fourth, and Hemric fifth. Kaulig Racing once again proved their dominance at superspeedways with a 1-2-4 finish after finishing both stages 1-2-3.
Earning his first win of the season, Haley locked himself into the playoffs. Marking his fourth superspeedway win in his last six attempts, he has proven just how talented he is at these extremely difficult tracks. By virtue of points, Daniel Hemric and Harrison Burton have also clinched playoff spots. The next Xfinity Series race will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 4th at Darlington Raceway.
Featured image from @XfinityRacing on Twitter.