The NASCAR series took to the track in Daytona again this past weekend, but this time it was on the 14-turn, 3.61 mile road course. Trucks, Xfinity, and Cup all put on quite a show with some unexpected endings.
The Truck Series kicked it off Friday night in the BrakeBest Brake Pads 159. The Trucks took the green flag in the pouring rain but the race ended under dry conditions. There was plenty of rubbing and racing causing 10 cautions, with the final caution coming on the final lap ending the race as Ben Rhodes came to the start/finish line. Rhodes drives the #99 for ThorSport. Rhodes also won last week on the Daytona oval making him only the third driver to win the first two races in a Truck season. This also puts Rhodes in a great position early in the season with playoff points. Playoff points were also earned by John Hunter Nemechek as he won Stage 1 and Raphael Lessard won Stage 2.
But the playoffs is not the only competition to be watching. Rookie of the Year is a big honor, and some of the rookies had good showings with Chandler Smith finishing 12th and Carson Hocevar finished 14th. While Chase Purdy and Hailie Deegan ran well throughout most of the race, luck was not on their side. They finished 22nd and 28th respectively.
Saturday night Xfinity hit the track in the Super Start Batteries 188 at Daytona Presented by O’Reilly. Both Natalie Decker and Ty Gibbs made their debut, but the night would only end well for one of them. Decker was involved in a wreck on Lap 3 which made it impossible for her to continue.
Ty Gibbs’ night ended better than well with Gibbs winning Stage 2 and taking the final checkered flag to win his debut in Xfinity. Gibbs was driving the #54 for Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs, the grandson of Joe Gibbs, is one of only six drivers to win in their debut, but the first to win in a debut before making it to the Cup series. Austin Cindric, who won last week on the oval, won Stage 1 and came in second to Gibbs at the end. As for Rookie of the Year, only one driver competing for this honor made the race, Ryan Vargas, who finished 37th.
The Cup Series took to the track Sunday afternoon, in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253, and produced another first-time winner. Christopher Bell, driving the #20 for Joe Gibbs Racing, held off Joey Logano to take the checkered flag. Teammate Denny Hamlin won Stage 2, and road course expert, Chase Elliot won Stage 1. Michael McDowell, who won last week on the oval, took 8th, proving that he will be competitive in the playoffs. Both rookies competing for Rookie of the Year struggled on the road course with Anthony Alfredo coming in 22nd and Chase Briscoe finishing 32nd. Briscoe, however, proved the importance of a good spotter as he drove around the track with his hood covering his windshield.
Next week the Cup Series and Xfinity Series will head south to Homestead-Miami to compete on the 1.5-mile track. Can Denny Hamlin win Homestead twice in a row? Or will there be another first-time winner for Cup Series? Who will take the checkered flag for Xfinity? With last year’s winner, Chase Briscoe, moving up to Cup Series this year, it’s guaranteed to be someone different.