Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Alex Bowman was the surprise winner of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway after rain forced the start to be delayed by more than five hours.
In a race that featured 10 lead changes and eight cautions, Bowman steadily climbed up the leaderboard before taking the top spot for good with 31 laps remaining.
This was a key race in the Xfinity Series playoff, with the field being cut down from 12 to eight at the end of the night. Brendan Gaughan, Michael Annett, Blake Koch and Jeremy Clements were the four drivers eliminated from championship contention.
Here are the top 10 finishers from Charlotte on Saturday, via NASCAR.com:
1. Alex Bowman
2. Sam Hornish Jr.
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Austin Dillon
5. Brennan Poole
6. Cole Custer
7. Daniel Hemric
8. Daniel Suarez
9. Matt Tifft
10. Elliott Sadler
Bowman’s first-career Xfinity Series win seemingly came out of nowhere, with Jeff Gluck noting it was the 24-year-old’s first win in 134 combined races:
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
.@AlexBRacing: First career NASCAR national series win in a combined 134 starts between Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.
The win didn’t go unnoticed by one of the biggest names in the NASCAR community:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. @DaleJr
That @AlexBRacing can wheel. Pure talent. Can’t wait to watch him do amazing things next year in the @nationwide88.
There was definitely something in the air on the track Saturday. A caution flag came out with less than 60 laps to go when a display board fell off the flag stand and onto the track.
XFINITY Racing @XFINITYRacing
This area of @CLTMotorSpdwy is cursed today. #XFINITYSeries https://t.co/CZyEWBo3nV
Because of the weather early in the day at Charlotte, Saturday’s qualifying session was canceled. Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney started in the front row based on owner points.
Suarez and Erik Jones each earned a bonus point for winning the first two stages in the race. Suarez was seemingly unstoppable early in the race, leading 111 of the 200 laps.
With 70 laps to go, Blaney was able to steal the lead for the first time coming off pit road.
The playoff picture came into focus during the first stage, when eight drivers locked up a spot in the next round.
Justin Allgaier was the top playoff driver during Stage 1, giving him a spot in the final eight. His No. 7 car did end the day early with engine problems, but he’s secured a top-three seed in the round of eight.
Motor Racing Network @MRNRadio
Problems for @J_Allgaier. He’s taken his car to the garage with an engine issue. Luckily he’s advanced in the #NASCARPlayoffs #AskMRN https://t.co/SJJ8JUPoDn
After taking his car into the garage, Allgaier said on the NBC Sports Network the problems began following B.J. McLeod’s crash:
NASCAR XFINITY @NASCAR_XFINITY
Bad news: @J_Allgaier sees his race end early.
Good news: He is already locked into the #NASCARPlayoffs Round of 8. https://t.co/eAnNA6soBf
Ryan Reed started the day in the eighth playoff spot, but his grip was tenuous since he was only 12 points ahead of 11th-place Blake Koch.
Following a practice session on Friday, Reed knew everything he had at stake with a strong performance during the actual race.
“The entire season is on the line, coming down to one race,” he told Allie Davison of NASCAR.com. “It makes for a lot of exciting (moments) and a lot of drama. I would rather not be the that’s one in the position, I would rather be watching from afar. … We just got to go out there and do a really good job all weekend. Execute.”
Reed stayed alive, finishing one point ahead of Gaughan in the standings when the race was over.
Bowman was the big story on Saturday thanks to his win. Allgaier, Reed, William Byron, Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole and Matt Tifft will continue their fight for the Xfinity Series championship with four races left on the schedule.