By AMANDA VINCENT
After an overtime restart, the Food City 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season concluded Friday night with A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric crossing the start/finish line sideways after the completion of lap 306. Allmendinger was the race winner for the fourth time this season and Cindric was runner-up.
“That was crazy at the end. We had about a fourth-place car. My team a great job, there,” Allmendinger said. “I slid into Austin trying to throttle up and stay on the bottom. And, then, into (turn) one, (Justin) Allgaier had a run, and there was contact. I expected to get run into. It’s frustrating to get hit that hard coming to the checkered.”
The physical battle between the two drivers that resulted from a lap-297 caution for a Sam Mayer caution after contact with JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier also was a battle for the regular-season title. Allmendinger also bettered Cindric in that contest.
“What happened on the last lap? The short summary is short-track racing,” Cindric said. “The long summary is a lot of contact. Five-star bodies definitely made their money’s worth today. I’m surprised we were able to not cut a tire down in that situation, but just a lot of hard racing, a lot of guys wanted to win the race. I feel like, and I say with confidence, we were probably the ones that deserved to, but that’s not how these play out with these green-white-checkers, and sometimes you’re vulnerable.”
Riley Herbst finished third, and Justin Allgaier was fourth after leading a race-high 92 laps and lining up next to Cindric on the front row for the final restart. Brandon Jones rounded out the top-five.
With their top-five finishes, Herbst and Jones claimed two of three playoff berths that remained up for grabs heading in Friday’s race. Jeremy Clements took the other with a 13th-place Bristol finish to join Allmendinger, Cindric, Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Noah Gragson, Jeb Burton and Myatt Snider in the contest for the 2021 Xfinity championship.
Cindric started on the pole and led 75 laps, mostly in the second half of the race. After Hemric, who led a total of 78 laps, took the lead from the pole sitter on lap five, Hemric and Allgaier combined to dominate the first two stages. Allgaier won the first 85-lap stage, and Hemric was the stage-two winner on lap 170.
Allgaier was nabbed speeding on pit road during the caution that followed the second stage. And, from there, Mayer and Cindric took over command of the race. Mayer led a total of 47 laps before losing the lead to Cindric on lap 230.
Haley finished sixth at Bristol, Harrison Burton was seventh, Snider eighth, Mayer ninth and Hemric 10th.