Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — August 21, 2021
Partly cloudy skies and warm temperatures welcomed race fans back to Michigan International Speedway for the New Holland 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series Race. The track looked race-ready with a ribbon of rosin running along the top lane, next to the wall, in both corners.
Austin Cindric(22) started on the pole with AJ Allmendinger(16), last week’s Cup Series winner at the Indy Road Course, sitting next to him.
It did not take long to get the fans up out of their seats. Racing into Turn 1 on the first lap, Cindric got loose and almost took out a number of cars at the front of the field. He lost 6 positions before he could recover the momentum and get his Ford Mustang back up to speed.
Allmendinger jumped out to about a 15 car lead, while the big mover early was Ty Gibbs(54) driving from his 10th starting position into second. Gibbs won the ARCA series event Friday evening at MIS with his grandfather and team owner Joe Gibbs in attendance watching from pit road.
With no practice or qualifying, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for after Lap 15 to give teams a chance to check tire wear and adjust their setup. Cindric had worked his way back up to third when the yellow came out.
The field regrouped and the cars bunched up for the restart. Four-wide into Turn 1 and when they exited Turn 2 Cindirc was in the lead with Gibbs right on his bumper down the backstretch. A spinning car at the back of the pack, Caesar Bacarella(90), put the field back under caution as the leaders were just returning to the start/finish line.
The “choose rule” is in effect at MIS this weekend so drivers can select which lane they want to start in once the one lap to go signal is given to the field. The outside is the preferred lane so the restart scrambles the leaders after every caution.
The fans love it, some of the wildest racing of the day happens in those first few laps returning to green flag racing. Stages of 30/30/65 laps will keep the restarts coming, and the later the race gets it seems cautions breed cautions.
Cindric won Stage 1 but restarts Stage 2 in the eighth position. With short Stages, pit strategies are all over the board. Further shuffling the field.
Trouble for the Points Leader
On the Stage restart, Xfinity Series points leader and race favorite, Cindric got caught up in an incident exiting Turn 2. His race car was badly damaged and lost two laps on pit road as his crew worked to keep him in the race.
The cars of Myatt Snider(2), Joe Graf Jr.(07), Justin Haley(11), Daniel Hemric(18), Bubba Wallace(61), and Brandon Brown(68) were also involved. Hemric is third in points, Haley started the day 8th in the standings. Both were retired as a result of the wreck.
Jeb Burton(10) restarted with the lead. As the pack settled out it was Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier(7), and Gibbs at the front of the pack. Ultimately, Allmendinger took the Stage 2 win with Gibbs a few car lengths back, clearly the fastest two cars on the track.
The Final Stage
Things settled down after the start of the Final Stage as drivers seemed content to make laps. The driver making waves was Josh Berry(1). Substituting for Michael Annett, the JR Motorsports regular is recovering from a broken leg, Berry drove from the 17th starting position into the third position early in the last segment of the race.
Allmendinger led Allgaier with Gibbs having to work his way back to the front after getting squeezed out of the gas during the early scramble for positions. Teams will have to make at least one pit stop during the Stage for tires and fuel to complete the race. Without another caution, that stop could determine the race winner.
On Lap 87, Berry had pushed Allgaier to the rear bumper of Allmendinger when they caught lapped traffic. Three wide for the lead down the backstretch saw Berry take over the top spot. Two laps later Allgaier had moved into second.
The lead pack spread out until Berry tried to put Harrison Burton(20) a lap down as they neared the 100 lap mark. Berry got loose as the pair raced door-handle-to-door-handle allowing Allgaier to close the gap to the leader.
Gibbs was the first of the leaders to pit on Lap 106, Berry came for service on Lap 108, Allgaier on Lap 110 took fuel only and was the leader after all stops cycled through. Gibbs was flagged for speeding on pit road and had to return for a drive-through penalty, likely taking him out of contention for the win.
Berry caught Allgaier and got beside him for the lead when the sixth caution flag of the day was brought out by Jeb Burton stalled on the track. Allgaier chose to pit and Berry inherited the lead staying on the track. Gibbs, the last of 11 drivers on the lead lap, pits also.
Allgaier restarts sixth, Gibbs eighth, and it really is anyone’s race. The green flies and Allgaier pushes Allmendinger to the lead in Turn 1, Berry drives back out front exiting Turn 2, Brandon Jones(19) enters the mix with Gibbs up to fourth when cars spin on the backstretch and another caution sends the race into overtime.
The race will end with a green-white-checkered finish, just how many overtimes will it take to get it done? On the first attempt, Allmendinger leads. Jones, Berry, and Gibbs will choose how they want to line up for the green flag.
Allmendinger holds the top spot through Turn 1. Mason Massey(78) and Colby Howard(15) get together bringing out the eighth caution of the day and the race heads to overtime #2.
Gibbs managed to pass Berry before the yellow waved. However, Berry chooses to restart in the bottom lane next to Allmendinger.
Again Allmendinger holds onto the lead as Ty Gibbs gets into the wall out of Turn 2 and the race heads to overtime #3. Damage to the right side of Gibbs car brings him to pit road.
This time around, Berry stays high in the third spot and Noah Gragson(9) moves from fourth to the inside of row 1 next to Allmendinger. No accidents on the track and the pack gets to the white flag as Allmendinger takes it. He is able to hold on for the win with Jones second, Gragson third, and Berry fourth. Gibbs ends up in 13, unable to complete the back-to-back weekend sweep.
Three overtimes and exciting racing all day will likely boost ticket sales for tomorrow’s Cup race. Camping options, ticket packages, premium clubs, race day extras can all be booked and purchased online at https://www.mispeedway.com/.
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Results of the New Holland 250 from Michigan International Speedway
|19||44||Tommy Joe Martins||-1||138|
|38||7||Joe Graf Jr.||-102||37|