The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season came to a wild end at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kaulig Racing‘s AJ Allmendinger locked up his fourth win of the season mid-wreck while Team Penske’s Austin Cindric pushed him across the finish line.
Cindric took the lead from rookie Sam Mayer with more than 55 laps remaining in the race and built up what appeared an insurmountable lead. However, Justin Allgaier sent his teammate in Mayer spinning with five laps remaining in the race, bringing out the yellow caution flag and setting up overtime. The drivers lined up for one more two-lap shootout.
The final race to the checkered flag was downright wild. Both Allmendinger and Cindric suffered damage while swapping time at the lead. However, they both wrecked while crossing the finish line. Cindric pushed his peer sideways across the finish line while several other drivers wrecked behind them.
With the 26-race regular season complete, the 12 Xfinity Series playoff drivers will prepare for the opening race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 25. The field will consist of Cindric, Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Justin Haley, Jeb Burton, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, and Riley Herbst.
The Regular-Season Championship Battle Did Not Disappoint
While several drivers battled for the final spots above the playoff cut line, two fought for the regular-season championship trophy. Allmendinger entered the Bristol race with a five-point lead over Cindric, but the defending champion had no intention of letting his peer easily win and lock up the bonus playoff points.
Allmendinger had the advantage during Stage 1. He finished sixth and gained a point on Cindric, who finished seventh. The two drivers then reversed position during Stage 2 with Cindric taking fifth while Allmendinger took sixth.
The two men continued to battle during the final stage. Cindric took the lead from Sam Mayer and proceeded to navigate through lapped traffic. Allmendinger remained within reach, holding the fourth position overall and trying to maintain his slim lead in the points.
With Allmendinger winning the final race, he locked up the regular-season championship trophy. However, Cindric will enter the playoffs as the top seed due to having more wins (five) than his peer. Both drivers will have 2,044 points, giving them an equal advantage over their fellow drivers.
Michael Annett’s Playoff Hopes Came to a Quiet End
The driver of the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro entered the race weekend 66 points below the cutline, meaning that he needed a win to overtake Herbst and secure a spot in the playoffs. However, he did not get the opportunity.
Annett could not compete in the regular-season finale at Bristol due to an issue with his surgically repaired right leg. JRM issued a press release on Friday, Sept. 17, announcing that Annett had reinjured his leg and would miss the race. Teammate Josh Berry would take over the No. 1 Chevrolet for the third time. He previously replaced Annett at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.
The 35-year-old veteran had undergone surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right femur on July 12 after missing multiple races. He was ultimately cleared to return, and he competed at Daytona, Darlington, and Richmond while fighting to catch Herbst.
Without the opportunity to compete in the regular-season finale, Annett could not fight for the win. Instead, he watched as his playoff hopes came to an end while other drivers took the remaining spots above the cutline.