Earl Bamber’s impressive NASCAR Xfinity debut from Daytona was curtailed prematurely after the Kiwi sent his Richard Childress racing Chevrolet Camaro into the air in a violent collision with the kerb at the bus stop chicane just nine laps from the finish.
Off track excursions and kerbs proved to be the hamartia of several key runners with erstwhile leader Noah Gregson crashing with victory in sight and Justin Haley having a wild spin at the same chicane as Bamber to have his race cut short.
Despite the accident which ultimately left Bamber classified down in 31st, the Kiwi showed plenty of promise at one stage was within contention for the win.
At first the race itself looked unlikely as ashen skies and a threat of lightning postponed proceedings for over an hour before race officials felt it was safe enough to start the race.
Starting 29th, the double Le Mans winner gained ten positions in the opening lap, scything his way into 15th by the seventh tour just before the race’s first caution was waved when Ross Chastain stalled on track.
RCR whistled the Kiwi into the pitlane in time to take the restart in 13th before putting in a standout drive to finish stage one in fifth.
It meant Bamber started third for the start to the middle stage, holding position as thousands of NASCAR horsepower shot off the Turn 1 of the Daytona road course, giving the Toyota of Riley Herbst an unintentional bump on the way through.
Bamber then moved himself within a shot of the lead but some apparent wheel hop problamisted the Kiwi’s performance over the final five laps of the stage, yielding the stage win to Chase Briscoe to eventually come home in seventh.
A lengthy pitstop attempted to rectify the issue but his race was ended shortly after as he propelled himself off the kerb at the chicane on lap 43 of 52 to bring out the caution.
At the head of the field, Austin Cindric had worked himself towards the front of the queue for the restart and, after claiming the lead on Lap 47, expertly drove away from the challenging pack to claim an unrivalled victory seven seconds clear of Brandon Jones who edged home a rejuvenated Gragson for the final podium spot.
Cindric’s victory was his fifth win in the last six races as the Team Penske Mustang extends his championship points lead.
Bamber has yet to confirm if he will contest any more NASCAR Xfinity races this season but admitted his Porsche IMSA commitments remain the primary priority.
The Kiwi will be back behind the wheel of the 911 RSR next weekend as part of the Michelin GT Challenge from Virginia International Raceway.
Meanwhile, NASCAR Xfinity will have a rapid turn around before their next event which will be a doubleheader from Dover International Speedway on August 22 and 23.
Main Image: Nigel Cook