Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – In what seemed like eons before Saturday’s PowerShares QQQ NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona International Speedway concluded in the late Saturday afternoon, two future stars of the sport made early trips to the garage.
In his first start in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Austin Cindric fought a loose handling condition for the first nine laps. On the 10th circuit, the car broke loose off Turn 4 and triggered an eight-car wreck that brought out the first of a record 12 cautions.
Collected in the accident was the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Christopher Bell, who was an innocent victim of the melee.
Cindric started the race adopting a conservative, patient approach.
“I learned that waiting until the end really isn’t a thing,” Cindric said. “It’s tough, because you just work all year to get prepared, and you work all year trying to find seats to sit in. It’s just unfortunate it only lasts that long. I hate it for the guys on the 60 and anybody else involved. We’ll move on to Atlanta. I look forward to seeing how Chase (Briscoe) and those guys do in the 60.
“I will be in the 12 (for Team Penske). Hopefully, we have a longer race down there. We were a little loose coming off of (Turn) 4, but I need to see a replay to see how close the 18 (Daniel Suarez) was to my door. Those guys were getting pretty aggressive for Lap 10 or wherever we were. It’s unfortunate to be put in that position, but we were just racing.”
Bell was philosophical, understanding the vagaries of restrictor-plate racing.
“Yeah, we get ready for the rest of the season,” he said after exiting the infield care center. “We knew coming into Daytona there could be a mishap. We tested at Atlanta (site of next week’s race) and it’s one of my favorite racetracks so I am excited to get there.”
As to the wreck itself, Bell said: “I didn’t see what happened. There was a car parked in front of me and I ran into him.”
TYLER REDDICK GOT MORE THAN A MORAL VICTORY
As Tyler Reddick and Elliott Sadler came off the Turn 4 on the final lap of the PowerShares QQQ 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway, reporters watching from the press box knew it was going to be close.
At the finish line, after side-to-side contact between the two Chevrolets, Reddick was less than three inches ahead, and the scoring monitor showed no time difference between the first- and second-place cars.
When NASCAR announced in the a winning margin of .000 seconds, closest in the sanctioning body’s history, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, “That’s like a tie. Am I right? Either way, fine with me.”
Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports, of course, owns both cars.
But the race didn’t end in a tie. NASCAR timing and scoring doesn’t measure beyond thousandths of a second and couldn’t express the photo finish in numbers smaller than .000.
“Can I protest?” Sadler quipped.
BUBBA WALLACE IS FASTEST IN FINAL DAYTONA 500 PRACTICE
Fresh from a third-place finish in Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. topped the speed chart in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Wallace’s best lap in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet was 45.696 seconds, translating to 196.954 mph.
“We all know that means absolutely nothing, but it feels good,” Wallace said. “I didn’t know we were top of the board there. We were stuck in the back of the pack (in the draft) for a little bit there. Started making moves late, and the pack split up and we started doing pit road runs and the next thing you know we are on top of the board.
“I’m like – cool. I even missed pit road opening looking at the pylon. That gives us a lot of confidence, especially going into this week. A lot of stories, a lot of headlines being talked about. To win something is good.”
Even if it’s just practice.