NASCAR allowed the Xfinity Series to test the waters for the Cup Series.
The Xfinity Series raced in the rain Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval with wet-weather tires, and the Cup Series is fixing to do the same Sunday as remnants of Hurricane Delta continue to hit North Carolina. Cars were slipping, sliding and spinning around the 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course throughout the 68-lap event that went into overtime.
“I felt like a dart without feathers,” said Daniel Hemric, who finished third. “Man, what chaos that was. Definitely added a different element of discipline that I have never experienced inside a race car. Truly incredible just how precise you have to be.”
Rain came down so hard puddles formed on the track. NASCAR even decided to red-flag the race midway through Stage 2 for 38 minutes and 22 seconds to get rid of standing water. The sanctioning body did the best it could, but cars still hydroplaned later on.
Overall, there were 11 cautions, including the stage breaks and red-flag period. Five came from single-car incidents, such as stalling in a turn after a loss of control.
“At time, I thought we should have stopped,” race winner AJ Allmendinger said. “But once you go back green, everybody has to face the same conditions and you just have to go do the best job you can.”
Much like the upcoming Cup race, Saturday marked an Xfinity playoff elimination race, adding an extra level of oomph to the already heightened Roval showdown. Four drivers were cut to create the Round of 8.
Ross Chastain entered in the eighth and final transfer spot with just a seven-point cushion. He finished fifth to advance and now sits seventh in the playoff standings with 10 points to his benefit.
Chastain was asked what advice he’d give Cup Series drivers who are on the bubble much like he was before the wild-card event.
“There’s nothing to tell them,” Chastain said. “They’re really good race-car drivers. If NASCAR lets them have all that fun and race in the rain like we got to, then they’ll figure it out.”
Runner-up Noah Gragson thought otherwise.
“Don’t wreck,” he said. “Wear a clear visor. Make sure you have a Swiffer inside your car. And don’t wreck. I mean, stay on track. Go slow. Don’t wreck your car.”
Easier said than done.
The Cup Series’ race will be longer — set for 109 laps. It’ll start an hour earlier than the Xfinity Series did, which is helpful for logistical reasons. The Roval cannot be raced in the dark since the infield road-course portion doesn’t have lights, though reports indicate the track will add more before Sunday’s showdown.
Darkness mixed with the rain created visibility issues for the Xfinity Series. The brightness of the Jumbotron in the infield then made it even more difficult to see while navigating the tight twists and turns there (it was later dimmed for the IMSA event that followed.) A handful of broken windshield wipers didn’t help either.
Nonetheless, the Cup Series action will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET (NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“It was like nothing I’ve ever done before,” Hemric said. “But I can promise you one thing: I’m going to have a cold one tomorrow, sit back and watch this. It’s going to be fun.”