In between raindrops, the Xfinity Series completed 200 laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Saturday, July 17th. While the dark clouds around the track posed a constant threat to the race, the drivers were able to safely complete the entire competition.
With no practice or qualifying before the race, the lineup was set with the same formula that has been used since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year: 25% driver’s finishing position from the previous race, 25% owner’s finishing position from the previous race, 35% team owner points, and 15% fastest lap from the previous race. This put the 10 of Jeb Burton one the pole position with the 11 of Justin Haley in second place. The rest of the top five included the 9 of Noah Gragson, the 22 of last year’s champion Austin Cindric, and the 7 of Justin Allgaier.
Before the green flag was waved, the 4 of Landon Cassill, 5 of Matt Mills, and 74 of Dawson Cram had to drop to the rear of the field. The 4 and 5 for unapproved adjustments discovered in pre-race inspection, and the 74 for a driver change. All other cars started in their original qualifying positions.
The green flag was waved around 3:20 p.m. with Jeb Burton on the outside and Haley on the inside. By lap 17, it was a battle of the Kaulig Racing cars at the front as the 16 of AJ Allmendinger took the lead, putting Burton in second and Haley in third. On lap 22, there was a competition caution with the 39 of Ryan Sieg as the first to pit. Nine cars pitted on the caution with none of the leaders coming in. The 61 of CJ McLaughlin was the free pass.
Allmendinger led the field to green on the restart with Haley on his inside. Haley quickly fell to fourth with the 22 of Austin Cindric moving up to third. In the middle of the field, the 98 of Riley Herbst got caught up in an accordion-effect wreck with the 02 of Brett Moffitt at his front and the 19 of Brandon Jones at his rear. The 98 and 19 both suffered heavy damage while the 02 escaped relatively damage free. The 8 of Sam Mayer also got some damage, forcing him out of the race.
The race restarted just five laps later with Allmendinger still in the lead. This time, the 20 of Harrison Burton was on his inside. Burton took the lead on lap 40, but quickly fell to third after the 54 of Cup Series regular Christopher Bell passed him. On lap 45, the 44 of Tommy Joe Martins was spun by the 47 of Kyle Weatherman, bringing the caution back out. The stage would end under caution, making Bell the stage one winner.
As the pits opened, all lead lap cars except the 68 of Brandon Brown and the 07 of Joe Graf Jr. came down pit road for tires and a splash of fuel. Bell won the race off pit road and Harrison Burton lost nine spots after getting stuck behind the 26 of Brandon Gdovic. Brown led the field to green with Graf Jr. on his inside, but Allmendinger quickly took the lead on newer tires. Just two laps later, Bell took the lead back. The entire stage was run under green flag conditions and Bell took the win, sweeping the stages. The 23 of Patrick Emerling was the free pass on the stage-ending caution.
On the restart of the final stage, Bell led the field to green with Allgaier on his inside. On lap 126, the drivers started getting more aggressive as Harrison Burton got loose battling the 1 of Josh Berry for seventh. Near the front, the 18 of Daniel Hemric and 7 of Allgaier made contact battling for second, but both were able to keep going with Allgaier taking the position. On lap 149, Hemric passed Allgaier again to take second back. On the same lap, Emerling got into the wall and brought out the caution. The 26 of Gdovic was the free pass.
All lead lap cars pitted for fuel during the caution, and Bell won the race off of pit road. He led the field to green once again, with Hemric, Allgaier, and Cindric on his tail. After some contact with Allmendinger, the 9 of Noah Gragson got into the wall and fell to the last car on the lead lap. The field stayed green, however, and by lap 170 the 98 of Herbst had cracked the top 10 after his incident earlier in the race. While Bell had a strong lead as the race drew to a close, Allgaier and Hemric forced a strong battle for second with Allgaier taking the position. Bell earned the win, his third in three Xfinity starts at this track. He previously won in 2018 and 2019. There were no issues in post-race inspections, making Bell the official winner. There is now a two-week break for the Olympics in Tokyo, so the next Xfinity Series race will be on August 7th at Watkins Glen.
Featured image from @NASCAR_Xfinity on Twitter