NASCAR XFINITY Series owner Fred Biagi waited a long time for career win No. 2. In fact, it had been exactly 4,382 days, just one day short of 12 years, since Biagi made the trip to Victory Lane until Aric Almirola won the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Almirola, driving the No. 98 Ford Mustang for Biagi-DenBeste Racing, was declared the winner after a wreck on the final lap brought out the caution before the leaders made it to the finish line. JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier and Almirola were in a dead heat through Turns 3 and 4 before the caution flew. It was so close that NASCAR officials needed several minutes of video review to decide who the first-place car was at the moment of caution.
“From our angle, it was very hard to see exactly who won the race,” Biagi told POPULAR SPEED. “It looked like we led most of the way around, but we really couldn’t tell. It was very close and then when we finally got the word, to say that we were excited would be an understatement.”
It was Almirola’s first NASCAR victory since the rain-shortened 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in the Sprint Cup Series. It was also his second career win in the XFINITY Series, although the first came after he was relieved by Denny Hamlin at the Milwaukee Mile in 2007. Biagi last celebrated a win at Daytona in the 2004 Winn-Dixie 250 with Mike Wallace in the No. 4 Ford.
Biagi-DenBeste is a single-car team running a part-time schedule but has been consistent all season. The No. 98 has finished outside the top 15 only once and has six lead-lap results in eight races — quite an accomplishment for any XFINITY team not affiliated with the larger Cup organizations.
“It’s very difficult and to be honest, it’s an honor to be on the racetrack with owners like [Roger] Penske, [Chip] Ganassi, [Rick] Hendrick and [Richard] Childress,” Biagi said. “Those guys are all amazing, but we try to stay focused when we’re not racing. The crew is dedicated, and we’ve had most of them for years. It’s Aric, it’s Jon Hanson the crew chief, our engineers in the shop and we’ve also had a little help from Richard Petty Motorsports.”
For Biagi, the victory demonstrated that he can still field a winning car, despite a 130-race drought. Of the two victories, he feels that this one was slightly more meaningful.
“They’re both wonderful [wins], but maybe this one a little bit more,” Biagi said. “It just proves that you could do it again. It’s been a long time since we won a race and Aric did a magnificent job.”
Biagi said Almirola has improved the organization as a whole. The No. 98 has been a multi-driver, part-time car since 2012 with a previous best result of fourth at Talladega by David Ragan in 2014. Although Almirola has been the only wheelman for the team in 2016, Biagi hinted that there might be new faces in the cockpit later this season.
“We’d like to have Aric point us in the right direction, which I think he has done,” Biagi said. “I think we’re going to have two young men drive a couple of races — I’d rather not say who yet because sponsorship hasn’t been decided. But the plan is to put a few young guys in the car.”
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