Despite being held on the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval, Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race had more twists and turns than the track’s infield road course layout.
But in the end, there was no surprise in the winner, as Kyle Busch came back from a pit road speeding penalty to make a last lap pass on Austin Cindric for the victory.
Busch had a massive lead with just four laps to go when a multi-car crash behind the leaders brought out the caution and sent the race into overtime.
On the final restart, Cindric battled to the inside and took the lead away in the first turn. But Busch battled back on the last lap, getting to the inside of Cindric as the leaders raced into turn two. He made the final pass for the lead as they raced into turn three, and drove to the win.
“I thought choosing the outside was the right way, but obviously it wasn’t,” said Busch. “Those guys put up a whale of a fight tonight on restarts. I was really surprised by that, I guess I’m not that good at it anymore.”
It’s the 97th career series win for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who led 94 laps on the night en route to his ninth series win at Charlotte.
“It was interesting and it was crazy,” said Busch. “Earlier in the race, Ross Chastain gave me a hell of a run on a restart and then right there, Austin (Cindric) gave me a hell of a run on that restart and I thought picking the outside lane would be the sure launch and those guys would spin their tires down there and not get going. It might have been the 8 that helped the 22 stay alongside of me and he was just able to clear me in one and two.”
Cindric would finish in third after being passed in the final moments by Daniel Hemric.
“It is hard to beat the best in the business on older tires. I got a great push from Daniel,” said Cindric. “I am shocked the restart zone went as well as it did. That was a big struggle for me all night. I knew I was going to have to defend in three and four and took the top in one and two. He just had way more grip than I did. The heat cycles were killer. I never lifted driving into three. I just gave up second but didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted to win the race. Overall it was a great night and I am really proud of my team.”
For Hemric, who hails from nearby Kannapolis, North Carolina, it marks his career best sixth Xfinity Series runner-up finish.
While Busch clearly had the strongest car on the track, coming out on top of a fierce early race battle with Chastain, he had to recover from a driver error that could have cost him the race.
It came as when Busch came to pit road under green from the lead for a scheduled stop with just over 50 laps to go. While the stop went well, Busch broke the pit road speed limit, with NASCAR officials bringing him back to pit road for a penalty under green.
He wasn’t alone in drawing a speeding penalty, as Darlington winner Chase Briscoe and Phoenix winner Brandon Jones were also nabbed for speeding. All three were now a lap down under green flag conditions.
Fortune swung back towards Busch moments later when Timmy Hill blew an engine, putting oil down on the track that put both Briscoe and early race leader Ross Chastain in the wall.
Both Busch and Jones were able to use a wave around to get back on the lead lap.
Busch came back to pit road under the next caution on lap 171 to take on fresh tires. He would charge his way back to the front, moving up to third as the race entered the final 15 laps.
With Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson fighting for the lead, Busch bided his time before blowing past both of them on lap 189. Another caution followed on lap 192. On the subsequent restart, Busch simply drove away from the competition, opening up a massive advantage as the leaders came off turn two.
The race would be marred by one last caution, triggered when Gragson’s car broke traction while racing with Harrison Burton off turn two, setting off a multi-car crash that included Justin Haley and Tommy Jo Martins.
That set up the final restart, with Busch re-taking the lead with half a lap to go to score the win.
The race, which was slowed by cautions 11 times for 53 laps, was run in front of empty grandstands as NASCAR continues to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Chastain finished in fourth, with Justin Allgaier in fifth.
Brett Moffitt, Michael Annett, Brandon Brown, Burton and Myatt Snider rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday night for the third of four straight events, with the Gander Outdoor Truck Series moving to center stage for their first post-shutdown event.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Charlotte Motor Speedway – Concord, NC
Alsco 300 – May 25, 2020
1. (18) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 203.
2. (12) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 203.
3. (6) Austin Cindric, Ford, 203.
4. (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 203.
5. (4) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 203.
6. (22) Brett Moffitt(i), Chevrolet, 203.
7. (9) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 203.
8. (15) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 203.
9. (11) Harrison Burton #, Toyota, 203.
10. (17) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 203.
11. (10) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 203.
12. (5) Riley Herbst #, Toyota, 202.
13. (19) Dillon Bassett, Chevrolet, 201.
14. (21) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 201.
15. (34) Jesse Little #, Chevrolet, 201.
16. (37) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 201.
17. (14) B.J. McLeod, Chevrolet, 200.
18. (36) Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, 200.
19. (28) Joe Graf, Jr. #, Chevrolet, 200.
20. (8) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200.
21. (30) Mason Massey, Toyota, 200.
22. (13) Chad Finchum, Toyota, 200.
23. (16) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 199.
24. (32) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, Accident, 198.
25. (23) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 198.
26. (31) Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, 198.
27. (2) Brandon Jones, Toyota, Accident, 197.
28. (7) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 197.
29. (3) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 196.
30. (33) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 196.
31. (24) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 193.
32. (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Accident, 176.
33. (26) Austin Hill(i), Toyota, Accident, 173.
34. (25) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Engine, 151.
35. (35) Kody Vanderwal #, Chevrolet, Engine, 26.
36. (20) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Power Steering, 15.
37. (29) Colby Howard, Chevrolet, Overheating, 11.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 111.743 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 43 Mins, 30 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.178 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 53 laps.
Lead Changes: 20 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Chastain 1-31;K. Busch(i) 32;R. Chastain 33-37;K. Busch(i) 38-50;R. Chastain 51;K. Busch(i) 52;R. Chastain 53-80;K. Busch(i) 81-98;R. Chastain 99;K. Busch(i) 100;R. Chastain 101-102;K. Busch(i) 103-149;M. Annett 150-158;A. Cindric 159-174;N. Gragson 175;A. Cindric 176-182;N. Gragson 183;A. Cindric 184-189;K. Busch(i) 190-201;A. Cindric 202;K. Busch(i) 203.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Kyle Busch(i) 8 times for 94 laps; Ross Chastain 6 times for 68 laps; Austin Cindric 4 times for 30 laps; Michael Annett 1 time for 9 laps; Noah Gragson 2 times for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 54,10,11,9,19,22,18,98,8,20
Stage #2 Top Ten: 54,10,98,22,9,19,8,18,11,20
Top 10 in Points: 1. Chase Briscoe – 251 (2 Wins); 2. Austin Cindric – 243; 3. Ross Chastain – 239; 4. Harrison Burton – 234 (1 Win); 5. Noah Gragson – 232 (1 Win); 6. Justin Allgaier – 218; 7. Ryan Sieg – 192; 8. Brandon Jones – 186 (1 Win); 9. Justin Haley – 186; 10. Michael Annett – 169.