Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

TORRES: Instant Reaction on the 2020 Drive for the Cure 250

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

How ’bout that Roval race boys and girls?

It was one of those days where rain wasn’t such a burden for NASCAR because the Xfinity Series ran under wet conditions during Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

To no one’s surprise, it brought tremendous unpredictability and in the end, A.J. Allmendinger reigned supreme and will go down into the record books as the sport’s “Rainmaster.”

To give you a further idea how the vibe was, let Noah Gragson tell you what it was like running in the rain at Charlotte because he went through a lot today and still got second.

“It so much fun racing in the rain here. It seems like its different every lap like a dirt track,” said Gragson, who was involved in three incidents. “The standing water is the hardest part, especially the last chicane because there’s a lot of standing water. The brakes will lock up, then it’ll hydroplane and then I’ll get grip and roll. It’s all over the place and real challenging.”

Without further ado, my main takeaways on a race filled with aquaplaning and vision mood swings which created quite an entertaining race.

Nurburgring Vibes

Never in my lifetime I expected to see several NASCAR drivers go through so much hell when the track just becomes undrivable in a span of a few minutes. It reminded me of the 2007 European Grand Prix where several drivers just kept sliding into the gravel.

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That’s was my main thought of these following drivers (in order) who either slid or plowed into the tire barriers, notably on the final set of corners before hitting the oval portion of the track:

Kyle Weatherman (twice), Gragson (while leading), Ross Chastain (windshield issues), Austin Hill, Ryan Vargas, Tommy Joe Martins, Matt Mills and C.J. McLaughlin.

All of those guys were victims of aquaplaning, leaving NASCAR no other choice but to bring out the caution in the closing laps of Stage 1. It was really evident such madness would happen when it’s raining like cats and frogs, something the sport rarely sees.

I’m more surprised NASCAR didn’t throw the red flag because with such conditions in that time period, it would’ve rightfully warrant a stoppage. We would have to wait until Stage 2 to see the race halted.

Keep in mind that many racing disciplines (ex. F1, IndyCar and IMSA) can halt the race when standing water becomes unbearable. During the closing laps of Stage 1, it was still safe to run in the wets as Kaz Grala won the two-lap dash to wrap up an intense stage.

Hope the fans who were at Charlotte enjoyed it because that was a helluva sequence that I’ll remember for a long time. Just because it parallels the F1 mayhem from 13 years ago.

Oh by the way, Formula 1 are running at the Nurburgring tomorrow (8:o5 a.m. ET on ESPN2) with Valtteri Bottas on pole. Give it a watch because the Eifel Grand Prix could be unpredictable. One can hope because their season has been up and down as far as race quality is concern.

Turn 3 is Calamity Corner

Two Las Vegas natives were going at it again. Only this time, it’s battling for the lead under the damped conditions.

Riley Herbst punted Gragson, who had already lost the lead due to aquaplaning in Turn 5, into the Turn 3 tire barriers. The incident brought out the fourth caution that ultimately led to a red flag due to the standing water.

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Gragson was livid with Herbst’s move, saying over the radio that he’s going to kick his “motherfucking ass.”

Once the race was halted, Gragson kept his thoughts short on the accident that sent him back to 30th before rallying back for a seventh-place stage finish.

“Just a racing deal I guess,” Gragson on the incident. “I don’t get really mad, I just get even.”

Even he got because on Lap 54, Gragson slammed into the back of Herbst while battling for sixth, popping the hood up and that’s all the feud wrote for the day as Gragson and Herbst got second and 12th respectively.

Immediately, the flashbacks of Texas kicked into overdrive as the two polarizing drivers just can’t keep themselves apart. Maybe it’s just the conditions that parlayed Herbst’s “payback,” but just keep in mind that his day was ended due to Gragson moving him out of the way very early in the race.

Herbst’s day up front was over following contact from Allmendinger in the same corner where Herbst ran into Gragson. This caused a massive accordion effect where the days of Justin Allgaier, Justin Haley, Preston Pardus and Michael Annett plowed into the Turn 3 barriers on Lap 34.

Haley’s car was completely demolished due to his collision onto Pardus, who went from all smiles following his Spec Miata title Friday to utter disappointment on Saturday. Haley brought the mangled No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro to pit road, signaling the end of his afternoon but thanks to his Talladega win, he’s in the Round of 8.

The four guys who were eliminated from championship contention were Annett, Herbst, Brandon Brown and Harrison Burton. All four of those were involved in accidents that completely knocked them out of contention for the next round.

ROVAL Heroes

Saturday’s rainy race would come down to the only Xfinity ROVAL winners as Briscoe (2018) and Allmendinger (2019) gave it their all for the race win, proving if any competitor is going to have a shot of winning, they’ll have to get through them first.

With 11 laps to go, Briscoe executed the backstretch chicane to perfection and appeared a ninth win was in the cards. Not even a near scare from the stationary chicane of McLaughlin, who ended up having three incidents, stopped him from having such a beautiful race.

As the conditions got darker and wetter, the final caution came out for Brown crashing in Turn 5, forcing the race into overtime. Briscoe reported over the radio that he can’t see due to those visual problems, but we still got two more laps of ROVAL fury.

Briscoe nailed that restart, but flat out lost it in Turn 1 and ended his bid for the win. What a shame because he almost pulled off arguably his greatest drive of his young career. He admitted fault for the ordeal as he wound up with a stinging 18th place finish.

Due to this, Allmendinger took command and never looked back as he scored back-to-back Roval wins in thrilling fashion where Gragson just about caught him, but ran out of time.

I can’t discredit Allmendinger’s performance either because he had his definitive NASCAR race where he conquered the rain better than anyone else which is why he’s celebrating in victory lane.

Even if he was complaining to Chris Rice and his No. 16 Kaulig Racing squad about the conditions, it was an unforgettable performance.

Conclusion

This was a much needed satisfying NASCAR race following the sore eye of both Talladega races. Racing in the rain is a wild card unlike anything else and sure hope the fans enjoyed a good one because we finally saw all the challenges of stock car racing handling the treacherous conditions.

Yes, the race was stopped for the 13th time this season, but it was reasonable. As I said, other racing disciplines have stopped the action due to poor wet conditions. Hope that’s been established to the viewers who don’t follow other types of motorsports.

The rain won’t go away because Sunday’s Cup race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) should expect the same levels of chaos, but for the time being, all the talk is about the downpour of an amazing 68-lap race.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.