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AJ Allmendinger wins the Drive for the Cure 250 in OT

With the remnants of Hurricane Delta dropping tons of rain on the Charlotte ROVAL, AJ Allmendinger managed to fight off the weather and competition for his first road course victory of the year and second overall.

AJ Allmendinger
AJ Allmendinger in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Credit: 368843(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Fighting off the elements and Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger sloshes through the Charlott ROVAL for his second victory of the year

“It ain’t a fit night out for man or beast!” is an old saying about the weather, but it sure didn’t stop the XFINITY Series drivers from racing Saturday. The Drive for the Cure 250 may go down as the worst weather conditions the series has ever seen. As visibility became an issue with rain and darkness on parts of the track, AJ Allmendinger prevailed, taking the checkered flag as his No. 16 Camaro was sideways in overtime.

For Allmendinger, a road course ringer, it was his second victory in 2020. Oddly, his other trip to the winner’s circle was on an oval at Atlanta in the XFINITY Series second event of the season.

“I don’t know what we just witnessed,” Allmendinger said. “Chris Rice (crew chief) stuck with me, I’m not going to lie, I was complaining the whole race. That was miserable, crazy. Chase Briscoe was doing a fantastic job. I didn’t really have anything for him after a couple laps but I knew that final restart, I was going to do whatever I could. But in the infield, with no lights in there, and the world’s biggest jumbotron blaring in, you couldn’t see anything. I was just guessing where the corners were, just praying that when you hit the puddle, you don’t go sliding off the race track.”

BRISCOE WAS CLOSE BUT ….

Rounding out the top-ten were Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Alex Labbe, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Cody Ware, Jade Buford, Michael Annett, Brandon Jones. Chase Briscoe, who was battling Allmendinger most of the last stage, made a mistake just before the white flag came out and spun. He would end up P18.

“The driver just made a mistake,” said Briscoe, talking about himself.  “In the conditions like this you’ve got to be at 100 percent and I tried going 110 and it bit me, so very unfortunate.  That one is gonna sting for a long time.  I felt like I did my job for about 95 percent of the day right and I just knew if AJ was beside me getting into three, he had been running me up so much I tried throttling up and I was in first gear and I just hit the puddle and it spun me out.  That was frustrating to say the least.  We obviously had a really good Ford Performance Racing School/HighPoint.com Mustang, but didn’t get it in victory lane, so we’ll try to do it next week.”

Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brandon Jones, Ross Chastain, and Ryan Sieg will advance to the Round of 8. Missing the cut are Harrison Burton, Brandon Brown, Riley Herbst, and Micheal Annett.

DRIVE FOR THE CURE 250 STAGE 1

LAP 1 of 167 (155.44-miles): Noah Gragson (pole) and Justin Haley lead the field of 38 to green. All cars cleared tech inspection. There will be no competition caution. With rain moving in, engines fired at 3:27 p.m. ET. The only non-playoff driver to start inside the top-ten was Daniel Hemric (P3). Charlotte Motor Speedway is hosting fans today at seven-percent capacity per government guidelines. Green flag at 3:40 p.m. All cars made it through the first lap without incident.

LAP 2: Brett Moffitt loses track bar and spins in turns 14 and 15 for caution number one. Moffitt, in an unsponsored No. 02 Camaro, is running for a Gander Trucks title. Matt Mills is back on the lead lap with the free pass. Rain beginning to fall, and the field came in for their first of two sets of wet tires allotted to each team at Lap 5. Drivers had to activate rear lights. Green flag Lap 7.

LAP 8: Road course veteran and one of the favorites, AJ Allmendinger, up to fifth after starting P22. Painted surfaces on the track have become slick, and drivers are doing their best to avoid them.

LAP 14: Heavy rain causes multiple cars to spin, starting with Kyle Weatherman, followed by Noah Gragson, and Ross Chastain. Each managed to get back on the track to avoid the caution, but five others went off. Ryan Vargan started things in Turn 5, but what brought out the yellow was a three-car pileup right behind him involving Austin Hill, Tommy Joe Martins, and Matt Mills. CJ McLaughlin found himself off track as well. Gragson was leading the race at the time. Green flag Lap 19 – two to go in the stage.

DRIVE FOR THE CURE 250 STAGE 2

LAP 20: End Stage 1. Kaz Grala grabbed the lead halfway through the final lap when Noah Gragson momentarily lost control. He remained on top to collect his first-ever stage win. Playoff contender Harrison Burton had a rough ending to the stage, missing the final chicane twice, and went from inside the top-five to 16th. He restarted at the rear of the field for failing to stop completely. Picking up enough points (9) as stage end, NOAH GRAGSON CLINCHES SPOT IN ROUND OF 8.

LAP 26: Riley Herbst gets into the back of Gragson and sends him into the tire barrier in Turn 3. Despite front end damage, Gragson appeared able to get back on the track, but the caution got thrown as cars were still passing him. Track dryers on the track, blowing standing water off turns. With the rain getting heavier, and jet dryers not having much success, officials threw the red flag at Lap 30.

  • From NASCAR spokesman on why red flag (via Bob Pockrass tweet): “Rain got harder + excessive puddling (especially in the front chicane and turn 1) = Red Flag needed. Going to blow the water off, hopefully this rain will pass and they’ll be back racing soon.”

Red Flag lifted at 5:38 p.m. ET. Length of delay, 38:22.

LAP 33: Multi-car accident in Tur 3. Michael Annett, Riley Herbst, and Justin Allgaier were able to get back on track. Justin Haley wedged under the No. 90 of Preston Pardus.

LAP 36: Harrison Burton stalled on the track and towed behind the wall, effectively ending his chance to advance to the Round of 8. Chase Briscoe leads the field to green.

DRIVE FOR THE CURE 250 STAGE 3

LAP 40: Chase Briscoe records his tenth stage win of the year. Non-playoff driver Alex Labbe has collected the most points today with 16 at the end of the second stage, one better than Noah Gragson. Adding seven points with a fourth-place finish in the stage, AUSTIN CINDRIC CLINCHES A SPOT IN THE ROUND OF 8. Noah Gragson spins and hits the wall twice, but no caution right after the restart on Lap 43. The race is official.

LAP 48: Jesse Little stalls on the track and gives the No. 13 of Stephen Leicht a free pass to the lead lap. Remarkably, there are still 26 cars on the lead lap, but positions are changing faster than the turns drivers go through. Chase Briscoe is the top dog at the restart with AJ Allmendinger racing him door-to-door. As they were doing battle, Myatt Snider slipped ahead of Briscoe and behind Allgaier. He partially misses a corner, and Briscoe is back to P2 with 16 to go. Snider spins and falls back to P22.

12 TO GO: Chase Briscoe overtakes AJ Allmendinger on the backstretch chicane, taking a half-second lead. There was a question of whether he had enough fuel to make it to the end. Austin Cindric missed a chicane and did not make a complete stop. NASCAR hit him with a pass-through penalty.

LAP 59: CJ McLaughlin spins and hits the wall, and as he was trying to get straightened out, the leaders pass through that section of the track. Just as the caution came out, Briscoe hits the wall avoiding the No. 99, adding to the damage on his left front. Top five: Briscoe, Allmendinger, Hemric, Allgaier, and Gragson. Restart with six to go. Allmendinger takes the point.

THEN THERE WAS OVERTIME

LAP 64: Brandon Brown slams into the wall bringing out the tenth caution of the day. ON another part of the track, Stephen Leicht clips Justin Allgaier, who had spun. Just before the yellow came out, Chase Briscoe had taken the lead. Heavy rain has drivers complaining about visibility as the race headed into overtime. The battle of the two leaders came to an end when Briscoe spins. Allmendinger took the white flag with Gragson in pursuit, but it wasn’t enough.

STAGE 1-2 TOP 10 FINISHERS – LAPS 20 / 40
(Playoff driver in bold)

1 – Kaz Grala, Noah Gragson, Alex Labbe, Justin Haley, Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, Josh Williams, Preston Pardus, Brandon Brown
2 – Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, Alex Labbe, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Brown, Justin Allgaier, Gray Gaulding, Jade Buford

NOTE: A 100-minute, GT-only race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval shortly after the XFINITY Series race.

“IMSA has headlights, so it’s not as bad,” said Allmendinger.

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