Austin Hill wins Xfinity opener for third consecutive season

Austin Hill remains perfect in Xfinity Series season-opening races after winning the rain-postponed race at Daytona International Speedway.

Hill did not have an easy path to victory lane. He had to overcome pit road penalties, a flat tire and a crash that damaged the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

MORE: Xfinity Daytona results

Hill also had to hold off former teammate Sheldon Creed on the final run to the checkered flag before celebrating his third straight February win at Daytona. Creed finished second. Parker Retzlaff, Jordan Anderson and Chandler Smith rounded out the top five.

"Three-peat? You know how hard it is to win at Daytona," Hill said during his post-race interview with Fox Sports. "God almighty. I don't know what was going on with me on pit road today but my guys just kept telling me, 'Look, man, dig deep. You're really good at these superspeedways.'

"I tried to screw it up on pit road, sped on pit road, slid through the box, about slid through the box on the first stop."

Hill is the first Xfinity driver to lock up a spot in the playoffs after winning his seventh race since the start of the 2022 season.

Creed, who moved from Richard Childress Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing over the offseason, remains winless in 71 career starts. Though he has finished second in three straight races dating back to last season's playoff race at Martinsville.

Retzlaff has not finished worse than seventh in three career Xfinity starts at Daytona.

A multi-car crash with eight laps remaining, the ninth caution of the night, led to one final restart for the Xfinity drivers. Sage Karam pushed Cole Custer from behind and turned him into the outside wall.

Custer rebounded into Karam and turned him into the outside wall before sliding toward the infield. Custer also hit Justin Allgaier, Brennan Poole and Daniel Dye.

The field restarted with Anderson and Smith on the front row. Once the green flag waved, Smith roared to the lead after receiving a push from Ryan Sieg. Anderson used a push from Hill to take back the lead but he jumped too far into the lead.

Hill caught up to Anderson and raced past him to take the lead before taking the white flag. He then put too much distance between himself and Creed in second before crossing the finish line.

"Just tried to be smart and not get in any of the crashes," Creed said after the race, per Toyota Racing. "I had to miss a couple of them there that were really close. Just happy to get through that solidly.

"I didn’t need to lose my pusher there, think that was (Ryan) Sieg behind me there. I feel like if I could’ve just kept him hooked up there, I would’ve had a shot at Austin (Hill) there."

The caution benefited Riley Herbst, who was preparing to serve a pass-through penalty for a restart violation. Instead of heading down pit road under green flag conditions and falling a lap down, Herbst served his penalty under caution and fell to the rear of the field.

"You can look at any restart today in the 500 and everybody gives the leader the right, the edge, because that is what they earned as the leader," Herbst said after the race, per Ford Performance. "I did the same thing I have done my whole life restarting on the front row and gave the leader the opportunity to fire first.

"I saw his nose pick up and I went off that. We raced for I think a whole lap and a half and then there was a caution and NASCAR called that I laid back to my teammate on the restart.”

Herbst was able to work his way to sixth place before the end of the race. This marked his sixth straight top-10 finish, dating back to the Charlotte Roval last season.

Shane van Gisbergen, making his first start of the Xfinity season, finished 12th after being involved in multiple incidents. He fell one lap down on two different occasions and used the free pass to get back on the lead lap both times. Van Gisbergen also made multiple trips down pit road for repairs.