By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The 26th and final regular season Xfinity Series race wasn’t necessarily the greatest closure due to the fact everyone were virtually in the 12-driver playoff grid with Brandon Brown taking the final spot.
It didn’t meant the action was lacking as Friday’s Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway saw several compelling moments all across the leaderboard. Some even saying it’s like the Bristol of old with several bump and runs, take no prisoners battles for valuable track position.
In the end, it was the Ford duo of Chase Brisoce and Austin Cindric battling for the race win once again. This time around, it was Briscoe who ended up on top with his seventh series win after tapping Cindric in Turn 4 with 7 laps remaining before clearing him on the backstretch.
Cindric’s power steering had gave out with 30 laps to go, but still muscled a reputable third-place finish. With that, here’s my main thoughts of the 300-lap race.
The Blue Oval Ruling the Mountain
We have a tie between the only Ford drivers as Briscoe’s win set him equaled with Cindric at 2,050 points going into the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
It’s been quite the amazing journey seeing both guys who are fighting for their racing careers and no doubt proven they can be Cup Series material in the future. However, it’s one thing to dominate the regular season, keeping it up for the next seven races (which is what it really matters) is a whole different creature.
For now, Cindric surviving without power steering for a strong result is pretty admirable, especially when he felt helpless behind the wheel of his No. 22 Team Penske Mustang. Then there’s Briscoe, who’ll be celebrating another win and showed another side of the Stewart-Haas Racing and that’s execution.
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 19, 2020
Briscoe’s clutch driving will be lethal if he’s in a position to go all out. Keep that in mind when he’s fighting for that coveted championship at Phoenix. The No. 98 team further proved their never give up attitude and it comes a long way reaching that status.
It hasn’t been much of a secret that lately (especially at Richmond Raceway last week) Briscoe has had a skid and after taking the checkered flag, he made it clear to everyone that he’s far from being done.
“I was so mad after last week. I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today,” said Briscoe. “I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable of and I’m just so happy to get Ford Performance Racing School back in victory lane. I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”
No Dice This Time for Allgaier
The first two stages was all about Justin Allgaier as he was gunning for a third straight win following the Richmond sweep. It appeared that everything was finally materializing for the JR Motorsports veteran due to such amazing momentum he was carrying.
Unfortunately, that all went out the window in the final stage as many woes plagued Allgaier, who led a race-high 126 of 300 laps. It ranged from a loose No. 7 Brandt Agriculture Chevrolet Camaro to a wrong set of tires that clustered his outcome as he only mustered a real disappointing fifth-place finish.
A still confident Allgaier described the pit fall that cost him a shot of winning at one of his strongest tracks.
“It didn’t handle the way I wanted to. It got us behind on that adjustment,” said Allgaier. “I knew the PJ1 was starting to wear off and needed to make an adjustment, but at that point we didn’t know what the right call was going to be.
“We’ve had fast race cars here every time we come and it seems like we just can’t get the job done at the end. We’ll keep working on it and we finished the race tonight, so that’s at least a plus. We’ll go onto Vegas with a lot of momentum and bonus points. We’re in a good spot to run these playoffs a little bit.”
When a driver suddenly gets into a winning groove, it has to be agonizing for Allgaier. What should happen is such short coming further fuel the fire of having a strong playoff run because if Richmond and the first two stages at Bristol was an indicator of great things to come, watch out.
Red Flags Were All the Rage
A massive sigh came out of my mouth following two red flags occurring in the first two stages which lasted a combined total of 10 minutes and 34 seconds.
NASCAR was doing do so well not having to throw that dreaded flag, but since Formula 1 have the week off, I guess it’s back to the stoppages in the states.
The first one was just an utter disaster for the mid-tier teams as a rare B.J. McLeod error resulted in a multi-car crash on Lap 61. McLeod went under his JD Motorsports teammate Jefferey Earnhardt. It led to a brutal impact towards the Turn 3 wall, very reminiscent of Kevin Harvick’s crash 18 years ago due to contact from Greg Biffle.
Things would get worse when Tommy Joe Martins and McLeod’s own car driven by Vinnie Miller also got collected in the mayhem and their nights were done. Miller drilled his boss in that ordeal. Yikes!
That’s an absolute nightmare for McLeod, who not only caused a crash that saw him being taken out by his teammate, but one of his cars got destroyed in the progress.
McLeod is one of the most noble drivers who doesn’t get in anybody’s way that even Kyle Busch praised him awhile back. So this incident was not only rare, but being the cause is something you don’t often see from the Floridian. Absolute double whammy.
As a result of the crash and all of the debris laying on the track, NASCAR stopped the race.
Okay, no problem but what was hysterical about the red flag was the length. No kidding when I say this, but the first red flag lasted 80 seconds.
You’ve read that right. 80 seconds.
This wasn’t the shortest stoppage I’ve ever recall. Last June at Texas Motor Speedway, I happened to witness a 76-second red flag due to Angela Ruch’s Truck Series crash at Texas Motor Speedway. Like seriously?
Why stop the damn race if it’s going to be so damn short? What’s the problem driving into the pits to make the cleaning services feasible?
It’s like NASCAR throws a red flag for absolutely anything these days and in case you’re wondering, that was the 10th red flag of 2020.
The other stoppage (11th of the season) happened due to another Turn 3 accident on Lap 119 involving Michael Annett, Joe Graft, Jr. and Brandon Jones. Fortunately, the length was reasonable as it took 9:14 to clean up the oil left in “Thunder Valley.”
Following that crash, the race went without a stoppage of any kind for the duration of the event. Thank goodness, but I won’t be awfully surprised if we see one during the Cup Series race tomorrow (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) which would be historic. Right now, Cup has had 20 stoppages which is a record (2015 and 2017 being the other seasons) since I’ve collected data of red flags from 1990 to present.
Fun night for racing action at Bristol and now that the regular season is over, it’s time for the real deal with the 12 drivers battling for championship supremacy. If it’s anything like its been for much of the season, the wild stories is far from over as far as I’m concerned.
Even without fans at Las Vegas, next Saturday’s Alsco 300 is going to be quite the show.