NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week 21 of the 2016 season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington for a humid and rain soaked Saturday afternoon race event. Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) support driver Owen Kelly and the No. 18 Tunity Toyota team started from row one, in second place after a 84.784 sec lap at 95.877 mph in qualifying on Friday. While the No. 18 Tunity Toyota took the front of the field two times over the 75-lap race, poor weather conditions caused extremely bad visibility issues that hindered Kelly’s performance through the afternoon. While the No. 18 drove off course a few times, Kelly was able to steer his Toyota back on track and regain positions to finish the race in 16th place.
Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 23rd, which is only his fourth finish outside the top 15 this season. During first NXS practice Friday morning, Suárez ran off the track and suffered major cosmetic damage to the right-rear of the No. 19 Toyota Camry. Instead of bringing out the backup car, the ARRIS team worked hard to repair the damage on the primary car. Hard work paid off and Suárez was able to make laps during final practice on Friday afternoon. Suárez qualified his No 19 ARRIS Toyota fifth for the 75-lap event, turning a lap time of 85.018 seconds at 95.613 MPH around the 13-turn Lexington, Ohio road course. Following the drop of the green flag under cloudy skies, Suárez was able to move up the scoring pylon to third before the caution flag flew for light rain on lap four. The No. 19 team hit pit road for four rain tires and fuel. He was listed eighth for the lap nine restart. During a caution flag on lap 20 while running ninth, Suárez radioed to his crew that he was lacking grip on his No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry. Since they were not in a fuel window crew chief Scott Graves opted to keep his driver on the race track. On the lap 23 restart, Suárez lost several positions and was listed 16th two laps later. Unfortunately, on lap 27, Suárez lost control of his ARRIS Toyota and slide into the gravel pit in turn four. The No. 19 machine did not have much damage but Suárez would go one lap down waiting on the track crew to pull him from the gravel. The No. 19 ARRIS team spend the remainder of the 75-lap race trying to get back on the lead lap. However, the caution flags did not fall in their favor and Suárez crossed the finish line 23rd one lap down to the leaders.
Qualifying in the sixth position for the Mid-Ohio Challenge, Erik Jones and the No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry team survived the-rain soaked race to finish in the same position, sixth after 75 laps around the 13-turn track. With the green flag in the air Saturday afternoon and the radar showing rain in the area, teams were prepared in the pits with both rain tires and normal race tires. As anticipated, the race was halted on lap two for rain and crew chief Chris Gabehart made the call to bring Jones to pit road to switch to rain tires. Jones returned to the track with the team reminding him to keep the car on track and be patient while adapting to the wet conditions. The race restarted on lap nine with Jones in the sixth position. Jones was able to advance as high as fourth before dropping back to sixth when the second caution waved on lap 13 for a spin on the track. Gabehart made the call to leave Jones on the track and again reminded him that running cautious laps was good and to focus on making it to the end of the 75-lap race. The race restarted on lap 18 with Jones sixth. With several cars getting together on the restart, Jones too got in the back of a competitor, leaving the No. 20 Camry with damage to the right-side nose of the car. The race continued until lap 20 when another full course caution was displayed. Jones was scored in fifth place for the lap 23 restart. The caution was waved again on lap 27 with Jones in the seventh position. The team opted to leave Jones on the track and the race restarted on lap 31. As the field got up to speed to make their way around the 13 turn course, Jones spun and several competitors made contact with the No. 20 Camry causing damage to the right-rear quarter panel. With a full course caution displayed, Jones was able to pit two times under the caution to repair the damage and change tires. The race restarted on lap 33 with Jones in the 30th position, still on the lead lap. Picking off one car at a time, Jones cracked the top 20 on lap 38 and returned to the top 15 on lap 41. On lap 42 under green-flag conditions, Gabehart called Jones to pit road for fresh tires, switching from rain tires to normal race tires, and packed the No. 20 Camry with fuel. Over the next 10 laps, Jones moved from 18th to 12th before the caution was displayed for debris on lap 52. Before the race returned to green-flag conditions, rain started to fall again and teams opted to return to pit to switch back to rain tires. The race restarted on lap 55 with Jones in the 10th spot. With several cautions over the final laps, Jones was able to stay focused on the leaders and gain several positions to cross the finish line solidly in the sixth position.
Justin Marks won the Mid-Ohio Challenge followed by Sam Hornish, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier. Up next for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, August 19. The race can be viewed on USA Network at 7:30 p.m. ET.