DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a wild, attrition-filled Coke Zero Sugar 400, five top-10 finishers capped off a weekend that belonged to NASCAR’s underdogs at Daytona International Speedway.
Landon Cassill led the way with a fourth-place finish, which tied his best NASCAR Cup Series finish he earned at Talladega in 2014.
“It really is awesome. We were sitting in a good spot with the rain delay; and even if they would have called it, we would have been happy with that finish,” Cassill said. “But we wanted to race for it and earn the top-five finish at the end. We did have to survive. There were a lot of fast cars that weren’t in contention at the end, but it’s pretty cool to see the checkered flag that close.”
Cassill’s fourth-place finish was also the No. 77 Spire Motorsports team’s best finish since they won the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 with Justin Haley.
Noah Gragson and Beard Motorsports each earned their best Cup finish, in fifth.
Despite Gragson being involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 139, the Beard team repaired the car well enough to allow Gragson and the team to each earn their first top-5 finish.
Sunday was Gragson’s 11th Cup start and Beard Motorsports’ 20th Cup start. Beard has made all 20 starts with just one full-time employee.
“This is a pretty big deal to go up against these organizations with 500-600 employees. So, for the goals that we have, the budget that we are on and the race team that we are, it’s pretty rewarding to be kicking yourself over a fifth-place finish in the Cup Series,” Gragson said. “Very grateful for the opportunity and appreciate all the fan support and for NASCAR in letting us go to the end. I just want to say congratulations to Austin Dillon and his team. It was a lot of fun.”
Cody Ware finished sixth, his best Cup finish and Rick Ware Racing’s second-best Cup finish.
“There are a lot more downs and ups in NASCAR, but to be here and to get my first top 10 and have both RWR cars in the top 10 this weekend is really phenomenal. I wish we could have gotten more. I think it just shows how good of a day we had and I’m definitely gonna go to sleep tonight happy.”
Ragan, who finished an RWR-best fourth in the 2020 Daytona 500, finished ninth. His ninth-place finish gave two RWR cars a top-10 finish for the first time.
RWR has only six top-10 finishes in 498 attempts, including the two top-10 finishes Sunday with Ware and Ragan.
BJ McLeod finished seventh, a Cup career-best for him and his Live Fast Motorsports team.
Last year, McLeod earned the only other Cup top-10 finish for him and his team. He and Tyler Reddick are the only two drivers with back-to-back top-10 finishes in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
McLeod’s seventh-place finish Sunday is only the third top-20 finish for him and his team, which makes the finish a little easier for them.
“I’m always thankful and always driven, but this series is tough. It can beat you up running every week and having an average of 34th place speed in a series that rightfully so we’re still good, it’s just we’re 34th. There are 33 other better people out there. It gets hard and these finishes, like today, we did earn it,” McLeod stated. “It’s a superspeedway and, yes, we’ve got to work on our team a lot to be competitive at mile-and-a-half tracks and short tracks, but right now we raced today. We put a plan together as a team. We built a car together as a team and we come here and we got a top 10 finish. That’s what is so big for my guys because we’re away from people a lot and on the road a lot and it just means a lot to get them a good finish.”