The NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers kicked off the playoffs with a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 25. All eyes remained on Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger as the green flag waved, but three JR Motorsports drivers stole the show. Josh Berry won his second race of the season, holding off two teammates while replacing Michael Annett in the No. 1 Chevrolet.
The final stage featured a wild battle between JR Motorsports teammates. Justin Allgaier had the lead and what appeared to be a dominant car, but Berry continued to push before finally jumping ahead in the No. 1 Chevrolet. He proceeded to build up a four-second lead with fewer than 50 laps remaining before heading in for a green-flag pit stop.
Allgaier headed to pit road three laps prior to his teammate and retook the lead with under 25 laps to go. However, he did not remain at the front for very long. Berry raced ahead of Allgaier once again and built up a lead of 4.5 seconds. He crossed the finish line ahead of every other driver while Allgaier finished second and Noah Gragson finished third.
As a part-time driver, Berry is not eligible for the playoffs or the championship race. However, the No. 1 is currently competing in the owners’ playoffs, so the win at Las Vegas aids in that pursuit.
A Stage 1 Wreck Shook Up the Playoff Picture
There were several drivers that entered the Las Vegas race above the cutline and in pursuit of even more points. Jeb Burton, in particular, had a four-point advantage as the green flag waved, but he ended the night 27 points below the cutline.
A massive wreck took place as the drivers returned from the competition caution in Stage 1. This incident collected 12 vehicles, including those belonging to Sam Mayer, Burton, Riley Herbst, Jeremy Clements, Dylan Lupton, and Alex Labbe among others. Berry was also involved, but he avoided damage and continued in the race.
The incident occurred as the field approached Turn 1. Herbst ran on the outside line with Berry and Burton to his left. The trio came together, pinching Berry’s No. 1 Chevrolet before it spun Herbst’s No. 98 Ford into the front of Burton’s No. 10 Chevrolet. The stock cars sparked a chain reaction that collected several cars and brought the race to a halt moments after it began again.
“I think [it was] kind of old tires, slick track, everybody just kind of spun their tires a little bit,” Herbst told NBC Sports after the wreck. “I know the two behind me got a better run than I did into Turn 1, so I tried to shade down and give him the room that he deserved because he got to the restart box better than I did.”
Herbst continued and explained that having cars go four or five-wide usually does not work out at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For him, the maneuver resulted in a race-ending wreck that dropped him further below the cutline with two races remaining in the opening round of the playoffs.
Daniel Hemric Sets a Unique Xfinity Series Record
While JR Motorsports stars took care of business and finished first, second, and third, another driver made NASCAR history. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Hemric finished fifth overall, becoming the driver with the most top-five finishes without a win (56) across all three series, per Racing Reference. GC Spencer previously held the mark with 55 top-fives in the Cup Series without a win.
Hemric posted one top-five during his lone Cup Series season with Richard Childress Racing in 2019. He added another 15 top-fives during his Camping World Truck Series career in 2015 and 2016. Finally, Hemric has posted 40 top-fives during his Xfinity Series career.
The driver of the No. 18 will have more opportunities to continue extending his historic lead during the rest of the 2021 Xfinity Series season. He will head to Talladega on Oct. 2 and then the Charlotte Roval on Oct. 9 to finish out the Round of 12. Hemric will cap off the season with races at Texas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Phoenix Raceway. Once the championship race comes to an end, he will prepare to join Kaulig Racing for the 2022 season.