Sometimes, a race is just strange. Saturday’s (July 16) Crayon 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was one of them. In the end, it was Justin Allgaier hoisting the trophy for JR Motorsports and Chevrolet, the Florida driver scoring the 19th win of his Xfinity Series career and his third in the last eight races, but it took him a crazy road to get there.
The strangeness started in qualifying, when Josh Berry claimed pole position despite clocking the outside wall on the exit of turn two with the right-rear of his racecar. Despite finishing the lap fastest of all, the No. 8 crew made the decision to repair the damage, and Berry started from the rear of the field.
That left Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric at the front, one of the many drivers hoping to bring a strange statistical anomaly to an end. Shockingly, Chevrolet, the most dominant manufacturer in NASCAR history, hadn’t won an Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire in 15 years.
Hemric put his Bowtie out front to start, but then the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota teammates of Ty Gibbs and Trevor Bayne took him three-wide and moved to the front.
On lap 35, while running second, Allgaier made contact with Alpha Prime Racing’s Julia Landauer, who was making her first career Xfinity Series start and running a lap down in 35th. Landauer’s No. 45 was sent spinning into the inside wall and suffered hard damage, though not enough to send the car behind the wall.
The caution for Landauer brought some interesting strategies into the mix, with a number of lead-lap runners including Ryan Sieg, Anthony Alfredo, Brandon Brown, Myatt Snider and others stayed out, while the race leaders pitted to prioritize the next stage. Sieg won the first stage with the call.
While Ty Gibbs returned to the lead at the start of the second stage, William Byron, running the No. 88 for JR Motorsports, made a veteran move in traffic on lap 81 to pass the young Gibbs. However, Gibbs began reporting brake issues and dropped down the order, with the caution coming for the end of stage two (and Noah Gragson’s spin) stopping the bleeding.
Under caution, the Gibbs No. 54 team realized that the right front suspension had shaken itself apart, and the fastest car all day lost four laps on Pit Road while the team repaired it.
William Byron led the field to green- then immediately another yellow for Julia Landauer and Matt Mills’ crash- and then to green again, before the No. 88 slowed dramatically with a flat tire giving the lead to Kaulig Racing’s Landon Cassill. It was the first laps Cassill has led in the Xfinity Series since 2015.
A caution for Daniel Hemric opened up pit strategy, but it was once again Cassill up front, until Josh Berry took the lead on lap 111 for the first time all afternoon.
Until Cassill passed him back, and Noah Gragson followed the No. 10 car through. Berry defended third place from Sheldon Creed, trying to ‘diamond’ turn two for a better run down the backstretch, but Creed was already inside. The No. 8 spun in front of the field, collecting Sam Mayer and Brandon Jones before Jeb Burton absolutely piled into Ryan Sieg, sending the No. 39 skyward. A similar hard hit on Riley Herbst ended Myatt Snider’s day.
Strategy paid off for Brandon Brown, who inherited the lead after a brief red flag as the front-runners pitted, but Landon Cassill and Sheldon Creed fought their way forward. The melee of cars, some on new tires, some on old, couldn’t last, and it was AJ Allmendinger who collided with Alex Labbe, triggering a hard hit for Brandon Jones into the inside wall and once again bringing out the yellow.
Once again it was hard racing on the restart, as Cassill took the lead again and Sheldon Creed flipped the bird to his teammate Austin Hill. With 48 laps to go, Justin Allgaier took the lead for the first time, but William Byron looked to spoil the Xfinity regular’s party.
Until, that is, the No. 88 blew a motor and went to the garage. Byron’s topsy-turvy day was done. Then another engine failure, this time on the No. 13 of Akinori Ogata, brought out the caution for the final time with 27 laps to go.
Restarting with just 21 circuits left, Landon Cassill hugged the apron for the first two turns and cleared Allgaier to retake the top spot, but it wouldn’t be enough. Allgaier soon got through and vanished into the distance as Trevor Bayne battled Cassill for second.
In the end, it was Allgaier by over three seconds ahead of Bayne, then Cassill and Noah Gragson. Late-race tire calls worked out for Brandon Brown and Jeremy Clements in fifth and sixth, followed by Creed, Ty Dillon (pulling double-duty for Big Machine Racing) and Austin Hill. Kyle Weatherman, behind the wheel of the Jesse Iwuji Motorsports No. 34, scored that team’s very first-top ten finish at the end of a very strange afternoon in New England.
Then it got just a little bit stranger. In post-race inspection, the cars of Landon Cassill and Noah Gragson were found to be too low and disqualified, meaning the top ten actually looks like this:
- Justin Allgaier
- Trevor Bayne
- Brandon Brown
- Jeremy Clements
- Sheldon Creed
- Ty Dillon
- Austin Hill
- Kyle Weatherman
- Mason Massey
- Bailey Currey
With the disqualifications, Creed, Weatherman and Currey all best or equal their career-highest finish in the Xfinity Series.
Featured image sourced from JR Motorsports on Twitter