It was a photo finish of a different kind at the NASCAR Xfinity Series Subway Firecracker 250 race at the Daytona International Speedway with Aric Almirola being in the right place at just the right time. Just nosing ahead of Justin Allgaier exiting turn four on a green-white-checkered run, the yellow flag had to come out for safety reasons by NASCAR officials reviewing the accidents on the backstretch that set up this tight race scenario. Both cars were wheel to wheel rushing to the finish line with the spotters in their ears telling them to keep pushing in building line momentum then it was over in the blink of a yellow light with Almirola edging Allgaier by less than an inch.
Almirola and Allgaier were held up at the end of pit road until video could reveal an immediate top-six finish or as Almirola said, “felt like waiting for four days” before NASCAR motioned him to victory lane to the delight of the No. 98 Fred Biagi-owned Ford crew collecting the team’s first Xfinity win.
His second Xfinity victory in the series erases a long time asterisk along his name from winning at the Milwaukee Mile in 2007 that he started, but was replaced by regular scheduled driver, Denny Hamlin, who arrived from Daytona later than expected. He wasn’t happy about being taken out, but after clinching, the checkered flag at Daytona in his hands on Friday finally takes that burden off his shoulders.
“I’m so glad to be back in Victory Lane here at Daytona,” Almirola said. “This is such a special place for me. I won my first Cup race here two years ago, and for me, this is my first XFINITY win. I know I have a win, but there’s always been an asterisk next to it.
“I hated the fact that I got credit for that. When they called me the winner, I didn’t want any of the credit. (Crew chief) Dave Rogers actually got the trophy. They tried to give me the trophy, but I didn’t want it. I didn’t think I deserved to win the race, because I wasn’t in the car when the race was over. But tonight I was. Tonight we went to Victory Lane, and I’m here, and I was in the car—so this is my first Xfinity win.”
The race had plenty of chaotic actions with numerous wrecks including a couple of ‘big ones’ and there were plenty of fast Xfinity candidates Friday night. Two of them were Joey Logano and David Regan, respectively, playing the role as the rabbit leading a combined 64 laps of the race distance of 100 over the tight fields that produced eight caution flags. Both drivers fell victim to a faster line leaving them in the middle sliding to the back in the pack. Regan was replacing Matt Tifft, who successfully came out of brain surgery on Friday evening finishing 21st and Logano jetted back in the front pack in fourth.
The series moves up north to Kentucky Speedway next weekend for the Kentucky 300 on Friday, July 8.