HomeSportsAustin Hill takes Xfinity opener in climatic finish during final-lap crash

Austin Hill takes Xfinity opener in climatic finish during final-lap crash

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Sam Mayer’s car was upside-down sliding on its roof as the NASCAR Xfinity Series race ended in climatic and scary fashion with Austin Hill capturing the victory by inches after having the contact with Mayer.

Mayer was able to get out of his car uninjured all while NASCAR took about five minutes to determine the winner because the race ended under caution at Daytona International Speedway.

“I have no idea,” Hill said when asked how he won.

Three takeaways from the controversial finish:

How NASCAR Determined Winner

When the caution comes out on the final lap of a race, the field is frozen and as long as a driver continues running at reasonable speed, the driver won’t lose position.

With the cars so close, NASCAR used video to determine the winner. It synched the timestamp of when the race director hit the button to trigger the caution lights with video that is also timestamped.

The photo showed Hill barely ahead of John Hunter Nemechek.

“As soon as the caution lights came on, I thought I had it, but it was so close,” said Hill, who won the race for the second consecutive year and rebounded from Thursday night when he failed to make the Daytona 500.

NASCAR also had to use video to determine whether anyone made a pass below the double-yellow line that separates the apron from the racing surface. A driver who advances position below the yellow line is subject to a penalty (typically the last car on that lap) and a driver who forces another car below that line faces a possible penalty.

A driver can go below the lines as long as the driver does not make a pass.

It all is subject to NASCAR discretion. A NASCAR spokesman indicated that drivers were either avoiding an accident (permissible) and no driver made a pass below by going below the yellow lines.

A look at how NASCAR determined Saturday night’s Xfinity winner. (Courtesy of NASCAR)

Mayer Feeling Okay

Mayer was released from the Daytona medical center about 10 minutes after the accident.

“Sliding on my roof that far, sparks in my face was definitely wild to see,” Mayer said. “That was probably the hardest lick I’ve taken.”

Mayer was trying to block to make moves at the front of the back to try to win. He was turned by Hill and as he was pinched against the wall, he went over.

“It’s Daytona, that’s the entertainment piece that everyone is looking for — hard blocks and pushing,” Mayer said. “We’re racing to the checkered flag and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Hill thought he had no chance to win the race as Mayer turned in front of his bumper.

“As soon as he turned across, I just figured the caution is out and the race is over,” Hill said. “But as soon as he turned across my nose, it allowed whoever was behind me … to get to my bumper and they gave me a really big shot and they started pushing me [out front].”

Mayer on wild Daytona wreck

Sam Mayer speaks outside the infield care center after his scary Daytona wreck during the Xfinity Series.

Bad Day For JRM

JR Motorsports had all four of its cars running in the top-5 with two laps remaining. And it ended up with only one car in the top-5 at the end.

Josh Berry got into teammate Brandon Jones to bring out a caution and then Berry ran out of gas as the race went into overtime. Mayer then flipped on the final lap. 

Justin Allgaier finished third while Jones was 14th, Berry was 26th and Mayer was 27th.  

They didn’t have the results but they knew they had fast cars.

“I think we’ve got a lot to walk out of here with our confidence high,” Allgaier said.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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