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.
P11 at the line last night.. Missed a few wrecks and brought it home in one piece. Our @buckedupsupps @ZGrills_ Camaro was fast all night long and just got better as the race went on. Overall, a great start to the new season! Can’t wait to do it again next weekend! 🔥 🔥
— Joe Graf Jr (@Joegrafjr) February 14, 2021