By Dustin Albino

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Whenever NASCAR races at Daytona International Speedway, there’s likely going to be an unfamiliar name or two that finishes inside the top 10. In Friday night’s Wawa 250 Xfinity Series race, there was a bunch.

In triple overtime, Jeremy Clements picked up the win, escaping the carnage. Of the 38 cars that took the green flag, less than a handful made it through the 10 cautions unscathed with no crash damage.

The win is the second for Clements in his career (421 starts), with both coming on August 27 (Road America, 2017). He’s locked into the playoffs for a third time, now sitting 16th in the championship standings.

“This is a speedway race, so anything can happen,” Clements said, “but we were the ones that survived for once. I’ve had my fair share of wrecks. To win is incredible.”

Finishing second, Timmy Hill recorded his best NASCAR national touring series finish in his 446th start. It also marks the best result for MBM Motorsports in team history.

“It means we’re one spot short now,” Hill told after the race, alluding to hopefully one day picking up a checkered flag. “These are the type of finishes growing up as a kid, as a racecar driver, that you’d like to have. In my career, I’ve been in situations where it’s very tough to achieve those goals. To come here and get a second-place finish is special.”

A familiar foe in AJ Allmendinger placed third and leads the regular season championship standings by 58 points over Ty Gibbs.

Aside from Gibbs in seventh, the remainder of the top 10 had feel-good stories. Brandon Brown, who believed Daytona was a must-win race or he might not be able to compete next weekend at Darlington Raceway, finished fourth.

And though Brown picked up his second top-five finish of the season, he was disappointed.

“It was absolutely a must win, if I was going to be in the playoffs,” an emotional Brown said. “The must-win feeling is setting yourself up to show everybody that this kid is a driver, that‘s all he wants to do. That‘s all I‘ve ever wanted to do is drive and race for wins. It‘s been a rough year.

“[I] really, really wanted this one.”

An emotional Brandon Brown had a lot riding on Daytona. He believed it was a must win and be finished fourth.

— Dustin Albino (@DustinAlbino) August 27, 2022

Rounding out the top five was Sage Karam, who scored Alpha Prime Racing its first top-five finish. Including team owner Tommy Joe Martins’ previous team, Martins Motorsports, this was the best result for him as an owner in the series.

“I didn’t expect that, that’s for sure” Karam said post race. “I got onto the radio 15, 20 laps into it and said, this is actually quite fun. I wasn’t sure how I was going to enjoy that, and it was a lot of fun.

“I can’t believe I have an interview with you guys about me pushing the leader to a win at Daytona. You think about all the cool tracks in the world, you put Daytona up there with Indianapolis and Le Mans. They’re so hard to do well at, but when you do it makes it that much more awesome.”

Ryan Vargas placed sixth, improving on his previous best finish of eighth at Texas in 2020. It’s also the second top-10 finish for JD Motorsports in 2022.

As for all the smaller, underfunded teams, it was a much needed finish, as Vargas had five top 20s in his first 19 races of the year.

“I shouldn‘t be here, I shouldn‘t be at Daytona,” Vargas said, fighting back tears. “But I‘m here and it means a lot. I needed that really bad. We needed that really bad. For National Metering Services, [it’s] their first race. Their first race in NASCAR, top 10, almost a top five.”

It was a good night for the small teams. Ryan Vargas fought back tears when discussing his best career sixth-place finish.

“It means a lot. I needed this really bad.”

— Dustin Albino (@DustinAlbino) August 27, 2022

Johnny Davis, team owner of JD Motorsports and Florida native, believed the No. 6 team needed the strong showing as well.

“This was a big shot in the arm for him to get that, and the team as well,” he said. “I look at it as a 100% positive. Good things will come out of it, I believe.”

Other notable underdogs inside the top 10 were Alex Labbe (second top-10 result of the season), JJ Yeley (the first driver in history to have two top 10s in a single season for MBM) and Kyle Sieg, who picked up his first career top-10 finish.

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