NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Chase Elliott Edges Joey Logano for XFINITY Win at Daytona

There’s nothing like a photo finish to kick off the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2016.

Chase Elliott, following multiple heart-stopping blocking maneuvers in the closing laps, nipped Joey Logano at the line to win the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

The victory is the fifth of the 20-year-old’s NXS career and first at Daytona, giving him a boost heading into Sunday’s Cup race where he starts from the pole.

“Joey gave us a good shove today,” Elliott said following contact while coming to the checkered flag. “He gave me a great shove down the back. I tried my best to hold him off there at the line. I know it was risky but I feel, that close at the end, I feel like I had to take a chance.”

Elliott, just 20 years old becomes the youngest XFINITY Series winner. He was in the driver’s seat down the stretch with JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler pushing from behind until last-lap shuffling left him vulnerable.

“I think Kasey [Kahne] had finally gotten the good push from the [No.] 22  and they just had momentum as we came to the white,” he said. “We got off [Turn] 2, I saw the 22 coming with a big head of steam. Fortunately, he had nowhere else to go but to push me.”

Chase Elliott High Five Daytona XFINITY 2016 Mike Neff
Victory for Chase Elliott in the No. 88 JRM Chevrolet. [Photo: Mike Neff via Frontstretch]
Elliott’s Saturday JR Motorsports car owner and Sunday Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said the win can only help the young driver.

“Confidence is such a huge factor out there,” Earnhardt said. “You go out there and win races you feel like ‘Hey, I’m getting somewhere. I’m starting to learn.’ You start to build confidence.

“He’s got the Cup season looming over his head and has got a lot of things going on. For him to get in here, focus and get the win today was impressive.”

Joey Logano had to settle for second place, putting Logano three-for-three in runner-up finishes during Speedweeks.

“Second is not bad, but it kind of sucks at the same time,” Logano said. “That restart, started to get a good push and tried to go around Chase and the No. 1 kind of held me out.”

Despite the initial concern, Logano was beyond pleased with the race with Elliott, saying he would make the same maneuver with a win on the line.

“That’s what I expect,” said Logano. “I’m a racer. I expect him to make the move to make sure I don’t win. That’s what he should do. He did exactly what he’s supposed to do – the same thing I would do and wouldn’t expect any repercussions back.”

The 120-lap event kicked off with three cautions in the opening 22 laps. The most significant incident of the day involved Bobby Labonte crashing on the backstretch with Jeb Burton, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson and Brennon Poole also receiving damage.

Race winner Elliott sparked the incident following a chain reaction bump to the No. 18 of Labonte.

“I know everybody checked up really, really hard in front of me,” Elliott said. “I tried to get stopped and got into Bobby and he got loose. If that was my fault, I take full credit for it.”

XFINITY Daytona 2016 Pack Mike Neff
Though it didn’t last all afternoon, Saturday brought massive pack racing with the XFINITY Series. [Photo: Mike Neff via Frontstretch]
Labonte, who made a return visit to the XFINITY Series with Joe Gibbs Racing, was unable to stay on the lead lap for the remainder of the event, eventually finishing 23rd.

Unlike 2015, the XFINITY field ran an impressively clean race. A 77-lap green-flag run was interrupted by a caution for Ray Black, Jr. stalled on the track, which set up a restart with 13 laps to go.

From that point on, the aggression cranked up amongst the top 10 drivers. But they raced to the line clean and only 14 finished on the lead lap in an event where the field got fairly strung out.

JRM had a strong start to the season with Elliott’s victory, Kahne in third, and Sadler in fourth. Further back, despite a pit road penalty on lap 99, Justin Allgaier came home 12th in his first start in the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet. Sadler begins the new season as the XFINITY points leader.

“Had some fun. Got a car in one piece to take to Talladega,” Sadler said. “Great shot of momentum moving on to Atlanta for us from here.”

Completing the top 10 was Austin Dillon in fifth followed by Darrell Wallace, Jr., Brandon Jones, Daniel Suarez, Blake Koch and Brendan Gaughan.

The ninth-place effort for Koch was the first top 10 of his 148-race XFINITY career as well as the first for Kaulig Racing in their debut race.

BOWLES: Breaking Down The XFINITY Season Opener

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Chris

Couldn’t believe that I heard the guys in the booth talking about which Sprint Cup driver improved most in the Xfinity series. Does that sound crazy to anyone else or is it just me? That’s like asking which major league baseball player has improved by also playing in the minor leagues. As most of the coverage was given to the Sprint drivers I’m not sure how implementing the Chase format is going to bring in a whole new crop of fans (also not sure how this win-and-your-in concept will work with Sprint guys winning just about every week). I found that the race was pretty uneventful except for turn four on the last lap. I know that we’ve been dealing with mega-team racing for a good 20 years now thanks to Roush and Hendrick (and most importantly NASCAR) but watching Sadler staying in line behind Chase was pretty painful to me. I get the whole idea of potentially finishing one-two which is better than being shuffled back but I guess it’s just the racer in me that would’ve liked to see Sadler go for the win.

kb

There has been many things this week that has not made any sense. IMO.

Bill H

Yes, glad you brought this up. That NASCAR would change Xfinity to the “chase” and the “win and you’re in” system, and still allow cup teams in to steal the wins from teams competing for the championship rather boggles the mind. I was watching yesterday and listening to the booth hyping about who would win and about the championship, and was blown away by the disconnect between the two issues ans the utter indifference that they displayed that, after talking all day about a driver winning to get in the “chase” that the win turned out to be meaningless in terms of the championship.

They even mentioned once that the two leading cars winning would be meaningless since they were cup drivers, but the glossed over that fact as if it had no impact; disregarding that if one of them won then in terms of the Xinity championship, the race WOULD HAVE NO WINNER. “Win and you’re in” only counts for the races that actually have winners, which many races do not since non-competing teams win them. What utter nonsense.

kb

..Well given the hype of Ralph and Clyde this weekend, what an absolute shocker that Clyde won today. I mean you could have knocked me over with a feather. And a Cupper regardless of his rookie status, crickets on that…hey they yell “CUPPERS”, and he is a CUPPER now. The world is singing for them both, and by tomorrow early evening world peace will be assured as well, if the script goes according to plan. I am laughing at it all, but hey they got Daytona Rising as a big shiny object to divert the “fans” attention…brought to you in large part by Toyota. “Lets go places”. SMH.

J.Smith

Gadammitt I had this show DVRd but watched racing (Supercross) last night and planned on fast forwarding through this show today to see the wrecks and the last laps. Who knew there would be a spoiler on this website? Way back when, I can vaguely remember really getting mad when a race didn’t tape correctly, accidently seeing or hearing a spoiler or even once or twice, my wife blurted out the winner in retribution for an alleged insensitive act on my part. I’m not mad Frontstretch, I admit It was a moment of weakness to even DVR a NASCAR race and coming to this site is like attending a NA (NASCAR Anonymous) meeting for me. Now that I’ve regained my composure I will go hit DVR delete. Thanks much.

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