On Friday night, the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) returned to Daytona International Speedway for the series’ final restrictor plate race of the season. Always a special event, the July 4th tradition of racing under the lights in the Firecracker 250 usually puts on a spectacular race for fans and drivers alike.
Heading into the weekend, Stephen Leicht, driver of the No. 01 Flex Glue Chevrolet, found himself sitting 20th in the overall drivers points standings with a season-best finish of 15th. Leicht returned to Daytona looking for redemption after a blown engine relegated his No. 01 Chevrolet to a disappointing 38thfinish in the first race of the season at Daytona. He rolled off from the 25thposition in qualifying, but as the race started, he only went up from there.
JDM utilizes an unusual strategy at the super speedways of Daytona and Talladega in which the drivers ride at the back of the pack in order to keep their racecars clean and avoid getting collected in “The Big One”, so his Stage finishes weren’t anything to write home about. Stephen ended up P31 and P26 in both Stage One and Stage Two, respectively. However, it was in Stage Three where the 01 came to life. He narrowly avoided a few big wrecks in the final laps to find himself running in the Top 10 late in the going.
Despite getting caught up in the final wreck of the night, Leicht was able to continue with the aid of some Flex Tape support on his quarter panels. He made calculated moves through the pack to come home across the line in sixth place, however, when one car was disqualified, he was moved up to fifth, bringing home JDM’s first Top 5 of the season. The run was Stephen’s first Top 5 finish since 2007, and the team couldn’t be happier with his result. He moves up to 19th in the drivers points standings now, just 35 points behind his next competitor. Leicht returns to the site of his first NXS win this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, a track near and dear to his career.
Garrett Smithley, driver of the No. 0 Flex Tape Chevrolet, came into Daytona needing to have a good run as well, as the last month has been rough on the #NumberNuthin crew. Despite starting the race off in the 35th spot, Smithley was able to steer clear of all of the wrecks while staying up in the draft, and was able to get himself in position to make a late race charge. Stage One showed Smithley in P23, with Stage Two ending in a P27 finish.
In the last Stage, like Leicht, Smithley was able to restart up inside the Top 10 on the final restart and ran solidly in sixth up until three laps to go, when the No. 0’s engine dropped a cylinder. He went from having a guaranteed Top 10 run to finishing 14th, but the run still helped his points efforts, bumping him up to 17thin the drivers standings now.
Bad luck struck BJ McLeod, driver of the No. 15 Flex Shot Chevrolet, as he was swept away in “The Big One” on the backstretch on lap 73 of the 100 lap race. He ended up coming home with a 33rd place finish, dropping him one spot in the drivers points standings to 20th, 20 points behind Stephen Leicht.
Like BJ, Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 4 Flex Seal Chevrolet, was taken out early on lap 10 in a multicar crash in turn 4. Cassill ended up in 37th place, but he will be back for more this weekend at Kentucky.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky this Friday night for the running of the Alsco 300. This race will be the series’ lone night race on a mile and a half intermediate speedway, and is bound to put on a great show for the fans. Be sure to tune into NBCSN at 7:30 PM Eastern Time to watch Landon Cassill, BJ McLeod, Garrett Smithley, and Stephen Leicht take on the track in the Bluegrass State! For all things JD Motorsports, follow us on our social media platforms @JDMotorsports01. #TeamJDM
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!