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NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at Daytona Continues Boring Speedweeks Trend

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 16: Michael Annett, driver of the #1 Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association Chevrolet, leads during the NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

By Toby Christie         

Well, that was pretty terrible.

Sure, it was awesome to see a long-time veteran like Michael Annett get his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race win in his 230th-career start, but the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway was underwhelming — to say the least — from an entertainment standpoint.

Sadly, it’s just the continuation of a trend that has been recurring throughout Speedweeks 2019.

The Advance Auto Parts Clash was our first taste of NASCAR racing action of 2019. And for 58 laps drivers played follow the leader. It was a single-file snooze fest until Jimmie Johnson pulled out of line and wiped out 17 of the 20 cars before rain ended the race.

Aside from the spectacular incident, the race was one of — if not — the most boring Clashes ever contested. Afterward many chalked it up to drivers not having enough incentive to want to put it all on the line for a race that doesn’t count toward the championship.

In theory, yes that makes sense. However, the events that have transpired since, prove that theory to be paper thin.

The Gander RV Duels, which serve as the qualifying races for the Daytona 500, were underwhelming as well. Those races awarded Playoff points to the winner of each event. That incentive plus the drama for four drivers who were fighting for the two spots left in the field failed to light a spark in what turned out to be more dull racing.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday picked up right where the Duels left off.

Jeffrey Earnhardt led the first 29 laps of Stage 1. I know, it was cool to see an Earnhardt back out front at Daytona, but it wasn’t that he was doing anything incredible to hold the lead. Everyone just formed one single-file line until the final lap of the Stage when teammates Justin Haley and Ross Chastain knifed around Earnhardt.

The rest of the race was more of the same.

In the end, Annett cruised to the victory after leading the final 45 circuits. Again, a great story, but a less than enthralling on-track product and this race had full NASCAR Xfinity Series championship implications. Still, nothing happened.

What does this mean for Sunday’s Daytona 500?

One can only hope nothing, but even two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t beaming about the product on track.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the high line becoming just so clearly dominant,” Earnhardt said.  “To listen to the drivers and to watch what happened today in the race, it doesn’t seem like it’s entirely by choice that they all ride up there.  It’s by necessity.

Earnhardt declined to speculate on what would improve racing for Sunday’s big race.

“There’s a million people with a lot of smarts and engineering minds that could have a lot of great opinions on what could be done to change the way the cars react to each other.  I just encourage those people to get together and see what could be done,” Earnhardt explained.  “We’re going to have a completely different package when we go to Talladega, so this is all probably — it could be a non-issue, but the Xfinity cars and the Cup cars are not entirely similar, and they both react the same way and did the same thing and raced the same way, right; the drag numbers aren’t the same, the power ain’t the same, the drivers aren’t the same, but they looked the same and ran the same and had the same similar race that we’ve seen all weekend.”

Perhaps something magical will happen over night and these cars will magically be able to sit two and three wide for sustained periods of time.

Maybe we will see drivers create lead changes in bunches in the Great American Race.

But one thing is for certain: the legacy of this Speedweeks rests on this Daytona 500 saving the show, because to this point it has been severely disappointing.

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