Friday night’s bizarre, attrition-filled, and rain-delayed NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway produced an appropriately unexpected outcome when Jeremy Clements took the checkered flag under caution at the end of the third attempt at overtime.
Clements’ victory in the Wawa 250, a race that started roughly three hours late and ended shortly before 1:30am on Saturday, was his first at Daytona and the second of his career. Both of Clements victories have come on August 27, his first at Road America on Aug. 27, 2017.
“I’m speechless, man, I don’t even know what to say,” said Clements, who grabbed a Playoff spot with the victory and shoved Ryan Sieg into 13th place in the standings, 12 points below the cut line. “We survived that big wreck back there (in the first overtime). It was like a ‘Days of Thunder’ wreck.
“Then I was like, ‘If we can just keep up with these guys, it’ll be a good day – top five and bring this car home in one piece.’ But, wow! This is incredible.”
As race leader Austin Hill lost electrical power and steered his Chevrolet to the apron, Clements got a push from Sage Karam on the third overtime restart on lap 117 and was out front on the final lap when NASCAR called the 11th caution for Riley Herbst’s spin on the backstretch. Timmy Hill finished second, followed by AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and Karam, who posted his career-best finish.
Eighteen of the 38 cars that started the race were already in the garage when Clements took the checkered flag.
A massive multicar wreck on lap 98 of a scheduled 100 sent the race to overtime. First, Landon Cassill’s Chevrolet slapped the outside wall and collided with Jeb Burton’s Camaro.
Then, at the front of the field, Daniel Hemric moved down the track and turned off the nose of Noah Gragson Chevrolet, igniting a melee that involved eight cars.
But that was just the appetizer before a feast of crumpled chassis that followed the restart for the first attempt at overtime. On lap 104, Brown’s Chevrolet got loose on the backstretch in front of Riley Herbst’s Ford.
Brown spun, and 13 cars were damaged in the ensuing chaos. But the hardest hit of the night came on overtime attempt No. 2.
Chain reaction contact between the cars of Clements, Allmendinger and Noah Gragson turned Gragson into the path of Landon Cassill’s Chevrolet. The impact from Cassill’s car spun Gragson around 360 degrees and tore the body off the front clip.
Gragson had led a race-high 54 laps at that point.
A multicar accident on lap 83 put a dent in Sheldon Creed’s playoff hopes and destroyed his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
John Hunter Nemechek’s No. 26 Toyota got loose off Turn 2 and spun off the front bumper of Brown’s Chevy.
“All of a sudden, I was looking at the inside wall,” Nemechek said. “I’m not sure what happened, but I felt like I was hooked in the left rear.”
Creed’s Camaro hit Nemechek’s car and spun to the inside and shot back across the track into traffic, demolishing Joe Graf Jr.’s Ford. The wreck kept Creed below the Playoff cut line, 55 points behind Cassill for the last spot, with three races left before the playoff field is set.