Friday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville Speedway (8 p.m. ET, FS1) begins this year’s Xfinity Dash 4 Cash program, which offers bonus prizes to full-time series drivers.
As the four top finishers among series full-timers on March 20 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger earned the chance to claim the first bonus.
Burton, Allgaier and Gragson finished 1-2-3 last October at Martinsville. Allmendinger was also a contender until he suffered a tire failure while leading late and finished 26th.
Allgaier and Allmendinger return to Martinsville already locked into the playoffs with wins. Burton seeks his first win of the year. Meanwhile, Gragson has become a lightning rod.
Allgaier held off Cup regular Martin Truex Jr. to win at Atlanta, which effectively reset his season. Prior to the victory, Allgaier had recorded just one top-10 finish in the first five races (two crashes in the first three races didn’t help matters).
Gragson, his teammate at JR Motorsports, is looking for his own reset at Martinsville.
Entering the season, Gragson spoke of newfound maturity and expectations of being a title contender in his third full campaign. But setbacks and controversies have plagued him early.
A likely win at Miami was dashed partly because of another competitor’s tire failure, and Gragson’s subsequent comments drew attention. A few weeks later at Atlanta, Daniel Hemric took exception to Gragson backing into his car during a pit stop and confronted him after the race.
That led to punches being thrown. NASCAR chose not to penalize Gragson, determining that his actions actions during the pit stop were not deliberate.
The incident capped off a rough opening stretch that included three DNFs and four finishes of 28th or worse. Gragson now must climb from 14th in the regular season standings and only nine points above the playoff cutline.
Burton’s had a much less turbulent time, engine failure at Miami notwithstanding. When you take that DNF out, his worst result of the season becomes a 12th at Phoenix.
His third-place run at Atlanta was not only Burton’s fourth top 10 of the year, but also earned him a season-high 50 points.
Having scored in nine of 12 stages so far, Burton sits third in the regular season standings. Among winless drivers, only Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Hemric is ahead of him.
Then there’s Allmendinger, who secured his post-season berth with a win at Las Vegas. He followed that victory with consecutive fifth-place showings at Phoenix and Atlanta.
His four top fives through six races are only eclipsed by reigning series champion Austin Cindric (five, including two wins). Allmendinger’s average finish of 10.8 leads the D4C group of drivers entering Martinsville.
That mark ranks fourth in the series. He trails Cindric (4.3), Hemric (8.2), and Kaulig Racing teammate Jeb Burton (9.0).