HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the typical NASCAR Xfinity Series race when the average speed was a paltry 91.382 mph around the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.
At first glance, an uncharacteristically slow race average speed makes one think that Saturday evening’s RAPTOR King of Tough 250 was held at a short track. Based on the action and condition of a myriad of cars, that may have not been so far from the truth.
However, the fifth round of the season offered plentiful excitement and drama prevalent with the 63-year-old motorsports venue with a 21st century twist. With five cautions in Stage 1, one had to wonder if the race would if the race would have a green flag beyond one to nine laps.
Perhaps adding to the craziness was the jumbled up field with rain prompting a field lined up by NASCAR’s metric. Namely, four of the top 10 finishers started outside of the top 10.
Once the race was underway, Joey Gase and Caesar Bacarella tangled in a frontstretch incident on Lap 3 that kicked off one of the 12 caution periods. Notably, one of the cautions sparked off a moment that likely garnered buzz outside of the stock car circles.
After getting swept up in a Turn 1 accident on Lap 28, Josh Williams brought his No. 92 Chevrolet Camaro to hit pit stall for repairs. Not long after, on Lap 33, debris flew off his car, prompting another caution flag.
Due to the debris that resulted in the caution flag, Williams was ordered to bring his car to the garage for essentially extending the yellow flag period.
Rather than drive his car to the Xfinity garage area, Williams parked his car, literally, adjacent to the start/finish line stripe.
Eventually, Williams’ ride was brought into the garage area, situated alongside the NASCAR Xfinity Series hauler.
In time, the 29-year-old racer met with NASCAR officials and the assembled press awaiting to hear from him.
“I was a little bit frustrated, but it’s in the rulebook. It’s up to them,” Williams said. “It’s their sandbox and we play in it. I enjoy the Xfinity Series and respect Wayne (Auton) and everybody and we just move on and go to the next one.”
After 49 laps of mini green flag runs quashed by spins and incidents, the race truly got in full swing by Stage 3.
Prior to the race’s truly competitive moments, Austin Hill, a native of Winston, Georgia, won Stage 1 while Parker Kligerman took the checkered flag in Stage 2.
With 63 of the race’s final 71 laps run under green flag conditions, the race looked like an exciting, superspeedway showdown as Hill and Riley Herbst swapped the lead in the final stretch.
Meanwhile, Kligerman drove his way from 20th to the top five in a matter of a handful of laps, drawing a bead on Hill and awaiting for the time to make his charge for the win.
On the final lap, with the field heading to the stripe, Kligerman appeared to make the potentially winning move against Hill. However, Daniel Hemric made slight contact with Kligerman with the latter tapping Hill’s No. 21 ride.
Somehow, Hill kept his car under control, seemingly unfazed by the contact as he won his third race of the year. Behind Hill, chaos ensued with Kligerman spinning in front of the lead lap finishers before getting t-boned by Brennan Poole.
When all was said and done, Hill was elated about winning at his hometown track for the second consecutive time.
“We basically came here with the same setup as last year,” Hill said. “We finished second in the first race and won the second one, so we thought we were at a really good spot on what we needed setup-wise. We knew that our Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet was going to drive a little bit different just because of the new rear package that we have this season.
“During Stage 1, we knew that we were going to have to figure that out to see if I was going to be a little too loose or a little too tight and make whatever adjustments we needed to get the car where we needed it.”
After being released from the infield medical care center, Kligerman wanted to clear the air with Hemric, who placed runner-up, regarding the final lap.
“I wanna talk to him because you maybe kinda thinking, ‘Maybe he wanted to push us to win. I don’t know,'” Kligerman said. “And he just misjudged it.”
Ryan Truex rounded out the podium finishers by account of holding wide open like Cole Trickle in his comeback race in Days of Thunder.
“I saw cars wrecking and I just didn’t lift,” Truex said. “I saw a lane, but if it was like Talladega and the start-finish line was down there, I probably would have won. That’s racing. It was a crazy race. I didn’t expect it to be the way it was.”
With the way things are in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, perhaps Hill is making a bonafide case to battle for a championship. For now, it is another victory and proof in the pudding that Hill and his No. 21 team are here to stay as race and title contenders.
“Our Chevrolet Camaro wasn’t that far off when we unloaded, which shows that everybody at Richard Childress Racing puts in the work and pays attention to all those minor details that need to be done to be fast,” Hill said.
Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers
Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers
RAPTOR King of Tough 250 Top 10 Finishers at Atlanta