Joe Graf Jr kicks off 2021 with career best finish at Daytona

NASCAR NASCAR Xfinity Series
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By Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

Avoid the carnage and bring home a career best finish. Check. That’s exactly what Joe Graf Jr did in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

The Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 kicked off what will be Graf’s second full-time season competing in the series for SS GreenLight Racing. With qualifying cancelled due to inclement weather, Graf’s No. 07 Bucked Up Energy Chevrolet Camaro rolled off the starting grid from 18th.

The 122-lap event came down to overtime after a number of cautions. Nine to be exact for 42 laps. However, Graf was able to avoid incidents. Incidents that took out names such as Noah Gragson, Michael Annett, Justin Haley, and Jeffrey Earnhardt to name a few.

He was able to keep his No. 07 clean at the World Center of Racing as he finished Stage 1 in 19th and Stage 2 in 24th.  As overtime concluded and Austin Cindric went on to capture the victory, Graf Jr found his Bucked Up Energy Chevy scored 11th, a career best for the New Jersey native.

“This was exactly the type of performance we were hoping for to start our 2021 season with SS GreenLight Racing. We didn’t have the best car at the beginning of the race, but my crew chief Mike (Tyska) did a great job with adjustments throughout the race to get it handling and maneuvering it better in the draft,” said Graf.

“We were in contention for a top-10 finish and came up one spot short. It’s still a career-best and something to build off of going into these next couple of races. It’s been an exciting week with the announcement of Antonio Williams coming on as an investor and to see our new Bucked Up Chevrolet on the track and competitive made this Daytona trip one to remember.

Hopefully, we can come back to the Road Course next weekend and have another satisfying finish.”

It was announced last week that NFL player and Buffalo Bills running back Antonio Williams was becoming a partner in Graf Jr’s racing platform. A friendship that came about due to a mutual friend will now see Williams help Graf expand relationships in the sport. In addition, it will bring new interest to not only Graf but his team as well.

“NASCAR is going through a [huge] transition right now and it feels like the right opportunity for me to get involved and be a partner,” said Williams. “I am extremely happy and excited to be an investor with Joe Graf Jr. and his platforms.

Getting to know him as a person, not only as an athlete but on a friendship level has been great. I couldn’t think of another up-and-coming driver with my same initiatives to partner with.”

Graf Jr will look to capture his first career top-10 as the series will compete at the Daytona Road Course next weekend.  Last August, he started the road course event in 25th and went on to finish 26th.

The Super Start Batteries 188 At DAYTONA Presented by O’Reilly is set for February 20 at 5:00pm ET on FS1.

 

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Sarah Handy
A native of Rhode Island, and not growing up in a family that followed much racing, she watched it on occasion as a youngster, but her passion for the sport truly came to light around 2002-2003. Sarah currently attends Southern New Hampshire University and is slated to graduate in October of this year. At that time, she will have earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. In 2016, after starting her own blog not to much avail, Sarah was approached to join Rubbings Racing as a Staff Writer. She went on to spend about three years writing for the outlet and helping manage their social media accounts. Following her time with Rubbings Racing, Sarah went on to join Kickin’ the Tires in May of 2019 with this year being her second full season with the outlet. Her favorite tracks include her home track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway to name a few. In addition to her racing work with Kickin’ the Tires, Sarah is also in charge of Marketing Outreach for NASCAR Xfinity Series and Cup Series driver, Ryan Ellis. When not at the racetrack, she enjoys reading, running, soccer and hanging out with her friends. .

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