Unlike NASCAR’s Cup Series, which opens its playoffs next week at Darlington, the Xfinity Series still has four regular-season races remaining, beginning with the Wawa 250 scheduled for Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
The Wawa 250 dates back to 2002. It serves as the opening act for the Saturday night Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. The 400-miler is the 26th and final race of the Cup Series regular season, which began here in February with the Daytona 500.
Following the Coke Zero Sugar 400, the 16-driver playoff field will be finalized.
NASCAR news update:Kyle Larson punts Chase Elliott to win, then gets the coldest treatment
There’s a history:After dumping Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson to return to Daytona, and yes there’s a history
‘kamikaze pilot’: What NASCAR’s Aric Almirola is saying about wrecking, wild racing at Daytona
NASCAR playoff bubble:Daytona’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 will be affected by Watkins Glen
1:30 am: It’s Over! Journeyman Jeremy Clements gets second career win in 421st start
Who saw this coming? Um, nobody.
Jeremy Clements, an Xfinity Series lifer and generally a mid-packer, was in the right place (the lead) at the right time when the Wawa 250 finally ended Friday night/Saturday morning.
Clements was leading the pack back to the stripe at the end of the first lap of the most recent overtime when yet another wreck was triggered behind him. NASCAR officials (thank you?) sat on the yellow flag until Clements crossed the start-finish line, which officially made the overtime an official finish.
Clements, whose only other NASCAR won came in an Xfinity race five years ago on a road course, cruised around under caution for one final pressure-free lap to accept the checkers.
The 37-year-old racer out of Spartanburg, SC, with just six career top-fives, who’s never finished better than 12th in the season standings, has now qualified for the Xfinity Series playoffs, which begin in four weeks.
1:14 am: You guessed it, another wreck
Eventually, they’ll run out of cars that can wreck.
But we’re not there yet.
Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger, pushing toward leader Austin Hill, got nose-to-rear-bumper halfway through the first lap of this overtime. Allmendinger survived, Gragson didn’t.
And we wait for yet another try at a two-lap overtime, as the milkman begins to load the truck for his morning run.
1 am: And another ….
They made it to the backstretch on the first lap of a two-lap overtime before another multi-car wreck brought out another caution flag and lengthy cleanup.
It’s the ninth caution of a race originally intended for 100 laps and is now at 107 and counting.
This, literally, could go on all night. Stay tuned.
All they have to do is get through one clean lap of the two-lap overtime. Can they do it? We’ll see.
12:52 am: Of course it wouldn’t end without another wreck
We’re going overtime after a late wreck, a multi-car affair that surely qualifies as a “Big One” at Daytona.
We’re looking at a green/white/checkers with Austin Hill, Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs leading the way on the restart, whenever that comes following plenty of cleanup.
Midnight: Two stages complete in Wawa 250, 40 laps remain
Ryan Vargas, in a Chevy, leads through 60 laps of the Xfinity Series race at Daytona.
Riley Herbst, Justin Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Ty Gibbs round out the top five as green-flag racing resumes after pit stops following the end of the second 30-lap stage.
No major wrecks so far, but all bets are off when the last 10 laps arrives.
10:52 pm: Wawa 250 finally starts, 100 lapses await
Nearly three hours late, the Wawa 250 is under way at Daytona International Speedway.
AJ Allmendinger and Noah Gragson made up the front row, leading the field of 38 drivers to the green flag.
The race is being televised on the USA Network.
9:15 pm: Track is drying, eyeballing Wawa 250 start “soon”
NASCAR just announced a start to the Wawa 250 shortly after 10:30 pm
The prerace ceremonies will be abbreviated and limited to invocation and anthem.
Again, looking at recent races here, we’re probably looking at a two-hour race, barring weirdness, which means a finish of about 12:30 am
The grandstands are nearly empty, but the infield is rather busy with campers and the paddock — including the FanZone just outside the garage area — still has a healthy sprinkling of fans.
7:25 pm: Rain delays start of Wawa 250 at Daytona
After a few hours of mostly cloudy but dry conditions, showers — and some lightning — returned to Daytona International Speedway and delayed the start of the Xfinity Series’ Wawa 250, which was scheduled to go green at 7:45 pm
The forecast shows a hundred chance of rain through the 9 o’clock hour. NASCAR has given no word on how long they would wait tonight before starting the 100-lap race.
Once started, this race generally lasts about two hours.
5:30 p.m.: Remember the Craftsman Truck Series? Well, it’s coming back!
When NASCAR rolled out its pickup-truck series in 1995, on board was a natural sponsor: Craftsman Tools. Craftsman remained the series’ title sponsor for 14 seasons, giving way to Camping World in 2009.
Another 14 seasons, under Camping World’s flag, is now followed by the return of Craftsman, beginning in 2023.
5 p.m.: Martin Truex has a plan for Coke Zero Sugar 400!
Truex is in a weird situation heading into the final race of the regular season. He’s one of two racers, with Ryan Blaney, who’d make the playoffs on season-long points if someone other than a 2022 non-winner wins the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
For the sake of argument, let’s say a fellow Toyota racer, without a 2022 win, is alongside Blaney’s Ford on the final lap, and Truex is behind them and must pick someone to push. If Blaney wins, Truex makes the playoff on points; the other driver wins, Truex is out.
For the record, the 2022 non-winner fitting that criteria is Bubba Wallace.
“If he (Blaney) ended up in front of me at the end, i wouldn’t have any problem pushing him. Not gonna push a guy who hasn’t won,” Truex said before adding an obvious caveat.
“Best scenario for me,” he said, “push Blaney to the end and pass him for the checkers.”
4:30 pm: Aric Almirola’s retirement plans called off
It wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret. In recent weeks, talk of Aric Almirola scuttling his retirement plans had been growing louder. Friday, he confirmed his future, and he will remain in the No. 10 Ford fielded by Stewart-Haas Motorsports.
“I know that doesn’t come as a surprise to many of you,” he said.
The turning point, he said, was personal interaction with upper management at Smithfield Foods, his longtime sponsor.
“Through all that dialogue, it was very evident that not only did they want me back, but Smithfield wanted to increase their marketing campaign around NASCAR, and around me. It’s incredible, the amount of support they’ve given me and my family over the years is humbling.
“Ultimately, it just feels right.”
Almirola is among the drivers who needs a win Saturday night to reach the playoffs.
2 p.m.: NASCAR qualifying rained out for Xfinity and Cup Series
The weatherman wasn’t lying when he warned of thunderstorms Friday afternoon.
NASCAR has announced that both qualifying sessions this afternoon have been washed out.
Xfinity Series qualifying was to begin at 3 pm, Cup Series at 5.
NASCAR used to set starting fields by current points standings when qualifying was nixed. Nowadays, they use a set of statistical metrics that more or less determine recent results, laps led, etc.
Those metrics have spit out quite a front row for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400: Kyle Larson on the inside pole and Chase Elliott on the outside, less than a week after those two teammates made headlines at Watkins Glen, where Larson bullied Elliott on a late restart and got the win.
Friday night’s Xfinity Series race is still scheduled for a 7:45 green flag. AJ Allmendinger and Noah Gragson will start up front for the Wawa 250.