DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Team owner Matt Kaulig entered three cars in Friday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona Int’l Speedway with a simple goal – bring home a trophy.
His trio of drivers – Ross Chastain, Justin Haley and A.J. Allmendinger – did that and much more.
The Kaulig Racing trio dominated the 100-lap event, with Chastain leading a Kaulig Racing sweep of the top-two positions at the checkered flag just past midnight on Saturday morning.
“We’ve been trophy hunting. That’s all we’ve been saying all week,” Kaulig said. “I can’t believe we got all three of them right up front. I’m super excited for all these Kaulig Racing guys.”
All three Kaulig Racing drivers led laps during the Circle K Firecracker 250, but it was Chastain who had the dominant car when it counted most.
A restart with 21 laps left saw Chastain holding the lead. He briefly gave up the top spot to Justin Allgaier, but quickly regained the lead one lap later with 20 laps left as Haley followed in his tire tracks.
Chastain was still the lead with 15 laps left when Tyler Reddick, who had rebounded from a crash earlier in the evening, reappeared at the front of the field and took the lead with 14 laps left.
Coming down the backstretch Haley began to battle Reddick for the race lead when Michael Annett got turned into the outside wall while running directly behind Reddick. That triggered the dreaded big one, which collected at least a dozen cars and required a lengthy red flag period for cleanup.
When the crash was cleaned up Haley was the race leader, with Reddick, Chastain, Christopher Bell and Allgaier next in line. Allmendinger had barely made it through the crash and had to pit for new tires, putting him at the back of the lead lap cars for the restart with 10 laps left.
When the race resumed Haley got a big push from Chastain on the inside to take the race lead, but Reddick wasn’t going to stand by and watch. A big run down the backstretch allowed Reddick to regain the lead.
For the next two laps Reddick did everything he could to make his Chevrolet as wide as possible, but Chastain soon came knocking with a big push from Haley with eight laps left. Coming out of turn four on the outside Chastain emerged with the lead as Haley continued to push in second.
With five laps left Shane Lee got spun out of the lead pack, but he didn’t hit anything and kept going. That broke up the front of the field, with Chastain now leading a small breakaway with Haley, Bell and Austin Cindric.
Behind that group Allmendinger was charging. With three laps left he dispatched Brandon Brown to take fifth and he quickly closed on the bumper of Cindric for fourth, dispatching him on the white flag lap in turns one and two.
At the front there was no stopping Chastain, who held the lead through the final corners with his teammate Haley in his rear view mirror to earn his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory and first of the season.
“I watched these races every Fourth of July. I never could come in the spring because we were growing watermelons,” Chastain said. “These guys right here gave me a race car at Daytona. We did it!”
Allmendinger was able to sneak past Bell coming out of turn four on the final lap to steal third, giving Kaulig Racing a one-two-three finish. Unfortunately, Allmendinger’s car failed post-race inspection and he was disqualified.
“I was just trying to be a good teammate,” Haley said of the finish. “I kind of gave it up to get Kaulig Racing one.”
Bell ended up settling for third, followed by Cindric and Stephen Leicht. The rest of the top-10 included Brown, Jeff Green, Gray Gaulding, Jeremy Clements and Matt Mills.
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