Austin Hill has now won back-to-back races at Daytona International Speedway – and although that may sound severely simplified, the Winston, Georgia-native’s path to his third career victory, was anything but.
After securing another pole for Richard Childress Racing at Daytona, Hill ran into some problems before the race got started when the radio on his No. 21 Chevrolet started throwing static. Pitting to fix the issue, NASCAR sent Hill to the rear for the start.
That didn’t last long though, as the 28-year-old driver had already worked his way back into the top-10 by the sixth lap of the race, solidifying the already well-known fact that Hill possessed the fastest car in the field.
Hill would eventually capture the victory in the race’s first stage, after making a bunch of late blocks, that several times nearly sent him careening toward the inside wall. Ironically enough, it would be someone else’s push that would cause damage to the No. 21.
That damage, albeit minor, was sustained less than 10 laps into the race’s second stage, when his teammate Sheldon Creed got turned into the outside wall by Parker Kligerman, clipping the eventual winner in the right rear.
A flat right-rear tire would force Hill back to the attention of his pit crew, sending him to the tail-end of the field for the second time within the first 50 laps of the event. At this point, it was just a game for Hill, who only took five circuits around the 2.5-mile superspeedway to get back to the lead.
After a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Hill would lose the top-four spots to the JR Motorsports group, leaving Josh Berry out front for 17 circuits. That was until Hill decided that it was his turn to lead, taking the lead of the race on Lap 96, and holding the top spot for the remainder of the event’s scheduled distance.
However, a caution with two laps to go, for Brandon Jones spinning to the infield, triggered NASCAR Overtime at Daytona International Speedway, which provided major fuel concerns for several drivers, including Justin Allgaier.
On the restart, Allgaier would use help from his teammate Sam Mayer to get clear of the No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro and would hold the lead coming to the final lap of the event.
The Riverton, Illinois native would eventually become a sitting duck, as Mayer moved to the outside in turn two on the final lap of the race, successfully getting the lead of the season-opening event… until he lost it.
Getting clipped in the right rear by Austin Hill, Mayer got hooked into the outside wall, where his No. 1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet Camaro got upside down and slid on its roof down the back straightaway.
When the dust settled, it was a three-way photo finish at the moment of caution, causing NASCAR to sit for several minutes while attempting to make a decision, eventually declaring Austin Hill the winner of the 2023 Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 at Daytona.
John Hunter Nemechek was awarded a second-place finish in his return to full-time competition in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, while Justin Allgaier’s dry spell at Daytona endured another close call, coming home third.
Parker Retzlaff was the highest-finishing rookie of the event, coming home in fourth for Jordan Anderson Racing. Myatt Snider, running a partial schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing completed the top five.
Riley Herbst, Joe Graf, Jr., Ryan Sieg, Cole Custer, and Justin Haley rounded out the top-10 finishers in the event.
Brandon Jones was able to rebound to 13th after being spun just prior to NASCAR Overtime, while his teammates Josh Berry and Sam Mayer ended up 26th and 27th.
Next for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is a trip to Auto Club Speedway, the last in the track’s current state, where teams will find out where they stack up as the season enters its long haul.