Clements wins at crash-filled Daytona, reaches postseason
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jeremy Clements won a crash-filled Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway early Saturday for his second career victory and first since 2017.
No. 2 came in race No. 421 for the 37-year-old driver/team owner.
“I’m speechless, man,” Clements said near the start-finish line. “I don’t even know what to say.”
No one did.
His win came after two multicar melees in overtime and gave Clements an automatic — and unexpected — berth in the postseason.
“We have nothing to lose, man,” he said. “We’re going to give these big teams all they can stand.”
Clements passed sluggish Austin Hill on the final restart thanks to a big push from Sage Karam and cruised to the checkered flag. Hill looked poised to sweep both Xfinity races at Daytona, but his car seemed to have fuel and electrical issues during the final caution.
When the green flag dropped, Hill did, too. Clements and Karam flew by on the outside.
Timmy Hill finished second, followed by series points leader AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and Karam.
Clements’ first win in 164 races was about being in the right place at the right time. He avoided four big ones in the closing laps. The first involved seven cars with nine laps to go in regulation. The second included eight cars with three to go. The third and biggest of the night came in overtime, with Hill and Noah Gragson just ahead of a 13-car cluster.
Gragson started the fourth one when Clements and Allmendinger pushed him at nearly 190 mph. Gragson slammed into the outside wall and then got spun helicopter style when broadsided by Landon Cassill. When the dust settled, eight more cars were involved.
The grand total: 36 cars involved, some of them several times.
Allmendinger looked like he would challenge Hill and Clements during the final two-lap shootout, but he ran out of fuel just before the final restart and had to pit.
“We survived that big wreck somehow,” Clements said. “I thought if we can just keep up with these guys, it will be a good day. Top five and bring this car home in one piece and that’s a good day.”
It ended up being much better, a playoff-clinching performance.
“Wow, this is incredible,” he said before thanking the fans who stuck around following a three-hour rain delay. “Now let’s go drink a beer.”
MORE BAD BREAKS
Riley Herbst was running fourth early in the final stage when he lost control because of a flat right rear tire. Herbst’s No. 98 Ford slid through the backstretch grass, bringing out a caution and going a lap down.
It was a bad break for the driver who started the day eighth in points and was looking to make up ground with four races to go before the playoffs.
Herbst rallied to finish 15th and found company in the unlucky club.
Sheldon Creed, vying to make the postseason, was involved in a multicar accident on lap 83 and knocked out of the race. John Hunter Nemechek got sideways in the middle of a three-wide pack and turned into Creed, who ended up sliding back across the track and got T-boned by Joe Graf Jr.
Creed finished 36th in the 38-car field.
The series moves to Darlington Raceway next Saturday. Justin Allgaier won there in May in the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports