Photo Retrieved from Broadcast. Credit to Fox Sports One / NASCAR Media Group
The Same Script as Last Year
The finish of this year's Xfinity opener was very similar to last season: Austin Hill wins the race under caution while a car flips behind him. Although Sam Mayer's flip was not as dramatic as , it is still always a scary scenario when a car gets on it's roof. Mayer was able to get out of his car under his own power and it seems like he did not suffer any injuries. However, the finish for the win was much more dramatic than last year's. Justin Allgaier, John Hunter Nemechek, and Austin Hill waited on the front stretch for what seemed to be an eternity before the winner was officially determined.
Austin Hill's week went from bad to worse whenever it was discovered that he had a radio problem before the race even began. It seemed like he rebounded from missing the Daytona 500 after securing the pole for the Xfinity race, but his first place starting position was stripped from him after he pitted under the opening pace laps to change out his radio. He would end up starting in last place. However, he was inside the top 5 within the first 10 laps of the race. he went on to win the first stage, establishing himself as the car to beat.
A "Forgettable" Race?
The opening laps were quite exciting with a lot of two and three wide racing. A couple cautions interrupted the good racing, but we were rewarded with an amazing stage one finish that saw Austin Hill barely edging ahead of Chandler Smith racing for Kaulig Racing. The early laps of stage two were exciting before another caution came out, which included Justin Allgaier, who luckily escaped major damage. Justin rebounded to go on and win stage two. However, after stage two, the racing settled down.
With around 45 to go in the race, the entire field pitted for their last pit stop, and naturally, the field was spread out for a dozen or so laps. A caution bunched everyone back up, but the field spread out single file. Unfortunately, we watched a 180 mph train around the top of the track for about 40 laps. I get it- people want to be there at the end. But nobody made a move until three laps to go. We saw a caution with just two laps to go when Brandon Jones made an ambitious block on his new teammate, Josh Berry, and Jones went around to set up an overtime finish. The finish was shaping up to be a great one until Sam Mayer lost control of his car and went over.
We see this a lot- either an exciting first half of the race, followed by a boring second half, or vice versa. It is unrealistic to expect great racing throughout an entire event. I will say that it was refreshing to not have a big one take out major players early on, and actually enjoy some great racing in the stages. But how can everyone just wait until three to go to make a move? If you are outside of the top 10, you have to make a move earlier than that. That is just something that will never make sense to me.
How did JR Motorsports Lose that Race?
With five laps to go, I was wondering "how in the world can JR motorsports lose this race?" For the last couple dozen laps, all four of the cars were inside of the top five all lined up in a row. Josh Berry, Sam Mayer, and Justin Allgaier all led a very respectable amount of laps, and Brandon Jones was in the mix all day. They worked together great, until it was the moment they needed to work together. With just three to go, Allgaier pulled out of line to try to be the leading JR Motorsports car. Brandon Jones tried going with him and tried to get down in front of the #7 machine, but it was too little too late. Jones got turned around, ending his chances of winning. Under caution, Josh Berry ran out of gas, ending his chances.
Well, on the final restart, there were still two JR Motorsport cars at the front. Sam Mayer elected to stay right behind Allgaier who was restarting on the front row. On the final lap, Mayer went to the high side to pass Allgaier but lost control of his car and rolled onto his roof. Allgaier lost all of his momentum and was passed by Austin Hill to just narrowly lose the race at the time of caution. It is crazy that this team did not win this race. I would have loved to have a camera on Dale Earnhardt Jr. to see his reaction. They will definitely have a team meeting about this one and have to figure out something else, because whatever they did this race clearly did not work out.