Ryan Reed won Saturday’s season-opening Powershares QQQ 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway, surviving a day filled with calamity.
Reed, an XFINITY regular, held off Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski in an overtime finish to win in his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
It was a stunning victory for Reed, who has Type 1 diabetes and once was told by doctors when he was 17 years old that he would never race again. His only other career XFINITY win came in this same race two years ago.
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“I know so many people told me my first win here was inspirational,” a jubilant Reed, now 23, told FOX Sports in Victory Lane. “That drove me to try to get back to Victory Lane here.”
Kahne finished second, with Austin Dillon, Keselowski and XFINITY regular Brendan Gaughan rounding out the top five.
There were 10 cautions, with the last coming with three laps to go to set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
Virtually all of the drivers seemed to have to battle to keep their cars under them in the first XFINITY race under the new three-stage format, with other new rules that also took away downforce from the cars also in play for the first time.
“It was wild for sure,” Austin Dillon said. “My car was pretty fast, but evil to drive.”
The next-to-last caution came with 16 to go and took out top contender Elliott Sadler, among others. Sadler won the first two stages of the event and led a race-high total of 40 laps before the accident that was just one of three huge ones on the day as the race lasted well over three hours.
The first came after a restart on Lap 23 following a caution, Scott Lagasse Jr. mistimed a bump draft on Tyler Reddick in front of him, sending Reddick sideways and into the heart of the field. Getting the worst of the multi-car wreck were Spencer Gallagher and Blake Koch – but they were far from alone.
All told, 19 cars were involved in the incident — just one short of half the field. It brought out a red flag, halting the action for 18 minutes and 22 seconds.
Under NASCAR’s new procedures, cars that couldn’t be driven back to the pits were eliminated from the race.
One of the drivers taken out was Cole Custer, who was making his first start in the new Stewart-Haas Racing XFINITY team.
“It’s Daytona,” said Custer. “You’re gonna have this all the time.”
Just four laps after the long red-flag delay to clean up the first huge wreck and a few laps of caution, another violent, 12-car wreck followed.
On Lap 29, the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Daniel Hemric appeared to drift ever so slightly up the track as it went into Turn 3 – clipping the left rear quarter-panel of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevy of Justin Allgaier in the process.
That sent Allgaier’s car sideways into high-speed traffic, setting off a chain reaction of calamity. Among the additional collateral damage: the cars of Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Darrell Wallace Jr., Brandon Jones, Chris Cockrum, Harrison Rhodes, Brandon Hightower, Matt Tifft, Scott Lagasse Jr. and Blake Koch.
Hemric told FOX Sports that he thought his car might have slipped in some of the Speedy-Dry and oil residue that was still left on the track from the wreck just a few laps earlier. But Suarez had another idea about what might have contributed to the unexpected melee.
“I feel like we were racing too hard. It was too early,” Suarez said. “I don’t really know what happened exactly. … I feel like we have to be a little bit smarter than that. I just feel like it’s a long race and we should be a little bit more smart.”
Yet another lengthy red-flag period followed for more track cleanup.
Sadler won the first two stages, each lasting 30 laps. He took the second one under caution after yet another accident on Lap 59, when Brad Keselowski badly misjudged a bump-draft attempt on Brennan Poole and sent Poole into the outside wall, where Poole’s No. 48 car took a secondary hit from the No. 11 of Blake Koch.
With 40 laps to go, Sadler was one of only 10 cars in the original 40-car field that had escaped some kind of damage. That changed soon enough as his night ended on the wreck with 16 to go that ended up involving a total of 16 cars.
Reed survived it all to score the stunning win.
“I don’t know how it looked from the stands or on TV,” said Reed, “but from my point of view, it was a lot of fun.”