For the first time this season, the Xfinity Series took on the left and right turns of the Charlotte Roval for the Drive for the Cure 250. In this final race of the Round of 12, seven drivers looked to lock themselves into the Round of 8 with strong showings at the road course. Already locked in on points was the 22 of Austin Cindric.
Like most races this season, the starting lineup was determined by a mathematical formula. Starting position was determined as 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 Austin Cindric on the pole with the 7 of Justin Allgaier beside him. The 18 of Daniel Hemric started third with the 1 of Michael Annett and 11 of Justin Haley finishing out the top-five. AJ Allmendinger, winner of the last two Xfinity races at the Roval, started in the 14th position.
Each contender in the 40 car field made it through pre-race tech without issue, meaning nobody was sent to the rear for inspection-related issues. However, Michael Annett was sent to the rear for a driver replacement. Josh Berry was initially slated to pilot the 1 car this weekend due to Annett’s leg injury, but Annett was healthy enough to race and replaced Berry after lineups were released.
The green flag was dropped at 3:37 p.m., and the field was off for the final race of the Round of 12. Cindric took an early lead in the first lap as the 10 of Jeb Burton stacked up the field behind him. At turn eight, the 44 of Tommy Joe Martins took a spin after some contact with the 26 of Will Rodgers who also spun. Rodgers suffered a flat tire, but the green flag stayed out.
On the next lap, the 31 of Sage Karam spun in turn five, collecting the 48 of Jade Buford and bringing out the caution. None of the leaders pitted, and the race restarted with Cindric and Allgaier still on the front row.
The 7 of Allgaier had a bad lap after the restart, getting tight in turn eight and wheel hopping in turn eleven. By lap eight, he lost control of his car and hit the wall hard in turn three. As he came to pit road, the 22 of Cindric missed the back stretch chicane, forcing him to serve a penalty. This put the 18 of Daniel Hemric in the lead.
At lap ten, the 39 of Ryan Sieg also missed the back stretch chicane, forcing him to serve the same penalty. In the next lap, the caution was brought out for the 74 of Gray Gaulding who stopped in the chicane with no power. Five cars pitted at the caution as most stayed out.
At the restart, it was Hemric on the inside and Cindric on the outside with Hemric holding onto the lead. In lap 15, the 92 of Josh Williams spun in the back stretch, but the field stayed green. Part of the field decided to pit under green just before the end of the stage to prevent having to do so at the break.
At lap 19 of the 20 lap stage, the caution was brought out for the 15 of Kris Wright who suffered a broken trackbar. With the stage ending under caution, Daniel Hemric was declared the winner.
The restart saw Cindric in the lead on the inside with the 8 of Sam Mayer on his inside. On lap 29, the 07 of Josh Bilicki was forced off the track to avoid a wreck and got into the curbs on the back stretch. He went airborne after the contact and lost the car. This brought out the red flag to make repairs to the track. Only the 98 of Riley Herbst and 61 of Austin Hill pitted as the field came back to yellow.
It was once again Cindric and Hemric on the front row as the race restarted. At lap 34, the 10 of Jeb Burton got some damage after battling his cousin Harrison in the 20 for 13th, but was able to keep going. The caution was brought out three laps later for debris, and about half of the field pitted.
This time, it was Hemric on the inside and Haley on the outside as the field came to green. Hemric was once again the stage winner as the restart was only two laps. Those who stayed out at the prior caution pitted at the stage break, putting the 54 of Ty Gibbs in the lead. Mayer was on the outside as the race restarted. The 2 of Myatt Snider was given a restart violation for changing lanes before the restart.
At lap 45, the 0 of Jeffrey Earnhardt spun in turn six while the 39 of Sieg missed the back chicane. Following Sieg’s lead just three laps later, Gibbs also missed the chicane and was passed by AJ Allmendinger for the lead. Two laps later, he missed it yet again, losing even more positions. The 9 of Noah Gragson suffered the same mistake at lap 52 back in the 16th position.
The 17 of Joe Graf Jr. took a spin in the front stretch at lap 53, and the leader barely missed a collision with him. In a must-win situation, the 98 of Riley Herbst was forced to pit with a rear end issue and was eventually relegated to the garage. This officially put him out of the Championship hunt.
Stretching his lead to nearly nine seconds, Allmendinger was feeling confident about another win until the 44 of Martins got into the wall and brought out the caution. 15 cars chose to pit at the caution, and the 1 of Annett was sent to the rear for speeding. Forcing overtime, it was Allmendinger on the inside with Cindric on the outside.
The 26 of Rodgers took a spin in turn eight, forcing several others to do the same. While the 1 of Annett was stopped for a time, all involved were able to get going again to prevent another attempt at overtime. In a hectic final lap, the 8 of Mayer missed the back stretch chicane and spun the 54 of Gibbs for one more position. The 16 of Allmendinger crossed the finish line in the first position with Cindric not far behind. Hemric, Haley, and the 19 of Brandon Jones closed out the top-five.
There were no major issues in post-race inspection, confirming Allmendinger as the winner. The only minor issue was a loose lug nut on the Haley car. Locking themselves into the Round of 8 was Allgaier, Hemric, Allmendinger, Gragson, Haley, Jones, and Harrison Burton. Snider, Herbst, Jeb Burton, and Jeremy Clements were eliminated from the Championship hunt.
The first race of the Round of 8 will take place next Saturday, October 16th at Texas Motor Speedway.
Featured photo from @XfinityRacing on Twitter.