Friday night’s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Daytona International Speedway came down to, as so many races on that 2.5-mile super speedway do, a last lap battle that featured a crash among multiple cars as they roared toward the checkered flag. That should not have caught anyone by surprise. However, what did seem to catch some by surprise was the two drivers who set off the final chain reaction mishap of the evening.
Throughout the race, the three drivers for Kaulig Racing had worked well together as they ran in formation for the purpose of keeping their cars at the front of the pack and preventing others from interfering with their plan for domination. And their scheme seemed to be working perfectly as A.J. Allmendinger, Ross Chastain, and Justin Haley appeared set to place one of their drivers in victory lane and possibly score a 1-2-3 finish for their organization.
But even the best of plans sometimes go awry.
As the lead pack raced through turn 3 & 4 for the final time, the Chevrolets of Allmendinger and Chastain touched, sending both sliding out of control and into the outside retaining wall with others also getting collected in the incident. Their teammate, Haley, escaped the drama unscathed and sailed on to his second win of the season(the other at Talladega) with Chastain limping home sixth while Allmendinger’s car came to rest on the track’s apron leaving him 15th in the final rundown.
Allmendinger had been leading as the cars made their way into that last set of turns with Chastain running second while Haley was engaged in a fierce battle attempting to keep the likes of Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett and Austin Cindric behind the Kaulig express.
Allmendinger briefly left the bottom lane open in turn three and Chastain did what a racer is supposed to do, he went for that opening. Allemendinger moved too late to block and essentially spun himself out off of Chastain’s front bumper. Forget the “team orders” that got them to that point. Racers are supposed to race, particularly on the last lap.
No one tuned in to watch that race hoping to see teammates freight train their way around the track on the last lap, handing the win to whichever one happened to be in the lead at the white flag. Chastain would have done fans, his crew members, and himself a disservice had he not fought for that opening left by Allmendinger.
The results might not have been what Kaulig Racing would have hoped for but the race played out as it should have with drivers battling to win, not play teammate follow-the-leader. Ross Chastain did exactly what a racer is supposed to do on the last lap, he raced.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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