DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -Michael Annett can finally check the box in the win column in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Holding off his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier, Annett captured his first career Xfinity Series trophy during the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
“This is amazing,” Annett said. “My first words were ‘Eight years,’ my eighth year in the series. My guys have stuck with me through the hard times, when everybody has counted us out and wondered why I get to drive this car.”
In what felt like a complete 180 degree turn from the results of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener, the Xfinity Series opener only had four cautions, and two of them were for stage breaks.
Even with 20 more scheduled laps, the Xfinity Series race still finished quicker than the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race last night, with a sub-two hour Time of Race on the official report.
Tyler Reddick, the defending Series Champion, started the race from the pole position, but had to fall back on the pace laps after changing a tire that was leaking air.
The initial start then fell to Jeffrey Earnhardt, making his debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 18 Supra, now alongside Annett on the front row.
Earnhardt pulled out to the lead and led the first 29 lap of the 30 lap Stage. On the last lap of the stage, Kaulig Racing teammates Justin Haley and Ross Chastain pulled low entering Turn 3, and took over the Top 2 positions.
Haley went on to win the stage and collected a playoff point.
Christopher Bell won the race off of pit road and led the field to the second restart of the day to being Stage 2.
The first few laps of the stage cycled the lead around to a few different drivers, including Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones, and eventually Ross Chastain on lap 42.
After Chastain took the lead, the field went back single file, and remained that way until the final lap of Stage 2. Chastain was able to hold off charges from Jones and Cindric and went on to win the stage.
The final stage began with Jones and Reddick up front, and almost immediately went back under caution.
Brad Keselowski battled against his roof’s emergency hatch all day, and finally around lap 70, it completely flew off and on to the track. The caution was soon displayed for debris on lap 72.
Many cars came down to top off on fuel, seeing that they could possibly make it to the end from there. Brandon Brown in the No. 86 Camaro decided to stay out and led the field to the next restart.
Brown’s lead didn’t last long, as Annett pulled ahead and took over the lead for the first time at lap 76.
The final caution flew at lap 81 when Earnhardt misjudged a move, and consequently sent Ray Black II spinning on the backstretch.
Annett took the restart and his teammate Allgaier fell in line. The field singled out again, and it proved to be the winning move for Annett. Allgaier attempted to back up to the third place car and get a run, but it wasn’t enough, as Annett held on for the victory.
Brandon Jones, after a 5th place finish in Stage 1, and 2nd place finish in Stage 2, is the current Xfinity Series points leader by six points over Ross Chastain.
Annett becomes the first driver to qualify for the 2019 Xfinity Series Playoffs.
Next up for Xfinity is Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23rd, 2019.
Daytona International Speedway
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