Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at Daytona
- Austin Cindric to begin title defense in NASCAR Xfinity Series opener at Daytona.
- JR Motorsports vs. Joe Gibbs Racing: Two juggernauts are vying for supremacy.
- Kaulig Racing beefs up Xfinity effort on the way to NASCAR Cup Series.
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As the odds charts suggest, the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway will be a wide-open affair. The first task will be getting into the starting field, given that 45 cars are entered for 36 positions on the grid (40 positions if Saturday’s qualifying is rained out).
Next on the list is finding a way to run near the front of the field in the closing laps to have a chance to win the race. Noh Gragson is the defending winner of the 300-mile event. The race will be contested over 120 laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, with stage breaks scheduled after 30 and 60 laps.
How to Watch Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Information|
|What||Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race|
|Where||Daytona International Speedway|
|When||Saturday, Feb. 13, 5 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||FS1|
Austin Cindric Launches Title Defense on Double-Duty Weekend
This weekend will be a momentous one for reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric. In Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at Daytona International Speedway, the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford will begin the defense of the series championship he secured last November at Phoenix Raceway. Cindric is listed at +1000 in one of the most unpredictable events of the season.
On Sunday, Cindric will make his Cup Series debut in NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500. Despite a speeding penalty incurred in Thursday night’s Duel at Daytona qualifier, Cindric made the field for the Great American Race based on qualifying time, after Ryan Preece—who was already locked into the race—was the top-finishing unchartered car in the first Duel.
In pursuing a second Xfinity title before his announced move to Cup with Wood Brothers Racing next year, Cindric again will represent a Ford contingent that is short in numbers. Only three Playoff-caliber Mustangs are competing in the Xfinity Series this season, those of Cindric, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst and RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg.
The size of the Ford presence, however, didn’t hamper Cindric in the championship race last year.
JR Motorsports vs. Joe Gibbs Racing: Two Juggernauts Are Ready for Battle
If the Ford camp has a small group of Playoff-quality drivers, the Chevrolet and Toyota contingents are absolutely loaded. Foremost among the Chevy organizations is JR Motorsports, which has three drivers in its four-car stable—all veterans—capable of making the Playoffs: Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson and Michael Annett.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team is equally formidable, featuring 2020 race winners Harrison Burton and Brandon Jones as well as Daniel Hemric and NASCAR Cup Series veteran Ty Dillon, who topped the speed chart in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice session, edging Austin Cindric and Riley Herbst.
Along with Kaulig Racing, the JR Motorsports and Gibbs teams are the most likely challengers to Cindric’s quest for a second championship. Gragson is the fourth pick for Saturday’s Xfinity opener at +900 according to DraftKings Sportsbook, and he’s an excellent pick at that price. The driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet raced in Thursday’s Duel in attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 but was thwarted by a wreck not of his making.
Kaulig Racing Beefs Up Its Lineup on the Way to the NASCAR Cup Series
With an eye to an imminent move to the NASCAR Cup Series, Kaulig Racing is fielding three full-time cars this season. Justin Haley returns as the winner of the last three superspeedway races held in the Xfinity Series.
Veteran AJ Allmendinger won on the Atlanta Motor Speedway oval and the Charlotte Roval in a part-time role with Kaulig last year. Allmendinger is a full-time driver in the No. 16 Chevrolet this season, and with six road courses on the Xfinity schedule this year, he has fertile ground to exploit. At +700, Allmendinger and Haley are co-favorites in Saturday’s race.
Kaulig also added Jeb Burton (+1400) to its lineup to replace Ross Chastain, who has moved up to the Cup Series in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet. Burton, the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, scored three of his six Xfinity Series top fives in a JR Motorsports car last year.
Kaulig is testing the waters in the Cup Series this year, with Kaz Grala competing for the team in Sunday’s Daytona 500 and Allmendinger running the Cup race on the Daytona Road Course a week later.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]