Joe Graf Jr.

Harrison Burton takes lead with 2 laps to go for Xfinity win in Miami

1 Comment

Harrison Burton led the last two laps, but that was enough to win his second race of the season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, capturing the first of a two-race weekend doubleheader at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“So much fun, for me especially,” Burton said. “I gave him (Gragson) the lead on the outside early and I think he chose the inside because of that. I knew I couldn’t give it to him again.

“This is such a tight series and everyone is so, so competitive that you kind of have to claw and dig every chance you get. This was one of those times where he kind of got loose and got under him and it was a good race, that’s for sure.”

The 19-year-old Burton, son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, has now won twice (also won at Fontana) this season and has earned seven top-5 finishes in the first nine races.

Burton overtook runner-up Austin Cindric and prior race leader Noah Gragson, who was seeking his third win of the season, but tailed off on the last lap to finish third. Anthony Alfredo finished fourth and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth in his first race since last August’s Xfinity race at Darlington.

Burton becomes the third two-time winner of the season, joining Gragson and Chase Briscoe. The series returns for its second race of the weekend Sunday at Miami.

Click here for results, standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Sieg

STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson

Who had a good race: Dale Earnhardt Jr., making his first start since late last August at Darlington, finished fifth.

Who had a bad race: Tommy Joe Martins had high hopes coming into the race, only to suffer a mechanical failure prior to the start of the race. Repairs were made and he finished 31st.

Notable: Chase Briscoe’s race started off disastrous: a piece of ballast fall off his car during the pace laps. After repairs, he rejoined the race six laps down, but was able to make up the laps and was up to sixth place by Lap 132, but hit the wall with 11 laps left and finished seventh. NASCAR announced late Saturday night that it has handed down four-race suspensions to Briscoe’s crew chief Richard Boswell, car chief Nick Hutchins and engineer DJ Vanderley, starting with Sunday’s Xfinity Series race at Miami. The trio will also miss upcoming races at Talladega, Pocono and Indianapolis. They are eligible to return at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday, July 9. The incident and resulting penalty is similar to the ballast that fell off Denny Hamlin’s car prior to the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.

Next race: The Xfinity Series returns to Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday (12 p.m. ET on FS1) for the second half of the weekend doubleheader.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

AJ Allmendinger earns first career oval win in Atlanta Xfinity race

Leave a comment

NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger showed Saturday he still has a lot of racing success left in him, winning the EchoPark 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Driving part-time this season for Kaulig Racing, Allmendinger, who had to roar back from back in the field, earned his fourth career Xfinity Series win, but the first on an oval.

“Oh my God, oh my God, I won on an oval. Do you like that? Whoo!” Allmendinger said to Fox Sports after climbing from his race car. He even kissed the camera, he was so excited about the win.

“This car was awesome,” said Allmendinger, who took the lead on Lap 127 of the 163-lap race and held on the rest of the way. “This is Atlanta. The car was awesome on long runs, probably better than the driver early. Once I got in the lead, I was just trying to hit my marks, which is hard to do.”

Later, in a post-race teleconference, Allmendinger said, “Heck, I might retire. Man, I just wanted to win on a damn oval. … I wanted to win on an oval that we really had to drive and get after it. More than anything, I was happy with myself because I always push myself and question myself a lot if I can do it on these race tracks and it’s always a challenge each time I’m in the race car with myself mentally and to push myself and try to be better. … What I was most happy about those last 35 laps was I gave everything I could and not make any mistakes.”

Noah Gragson, who won last week at Bristol, was the highest finisher of the four drivers eligible for the first of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races, finishing second and taking home a cool $100,000.

Allmendinger was originally not slated to be entered in next Sunday’s back end of a weekend doubleheader race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The second race of the weekend on Sunday, June 14, will serve as the second of four races in the Dash 4 Cash series.

Moments after Allmendinger left the stage, Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice told the media that the team will indeed field a car for “Dinger” in the Homestead Dash 4 Cash race. He will go for the $100,000 price along with Kaulig Racing teammate Justin Haley, as well as Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric.

“I haven’t told AJ this yet, but we will be running the second race at Homestead next Sunday with the Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet with A.J. Allmendinger starting dead last because we will not run the first race (Saturday), we’ll run the second race,” Rice said. “(Allmendinger) said he had a tee time, but that gives Kaulig Racing two chances to run for $100,000. So yeah, we’ll be there with A.J.”

MORE: Results, standings from Atlanta Xfinity race

Haley was third, followed by Hemric and Harrison Burton. Sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones, Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Cindric (second stage win of season)

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson almost made it two wins in a row, but can’t be too upset for finishing second in Saturday’s race. Also, Harrison Burton continued his strong effort this season with his fifth-place showing.

Who had a bad race: Timmy Hill finished 33rd, 76 laps back. Even though he was strong in the iRacing Series during the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, Hill continues to struggle since the Xfinity Series resumed with finishes of 20th or worse in three of the four races back.

Notable: Ross Chastain did his Kyle Busch impression of sorts, competing in both races Saturday. He finished seventh in the Xfinity race and was sixth in the Truck Series race earlier in the day. … All cars passed post-race inspection with just one issue: a lug nut violation on the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Brandon Jones, who finished eighth.

What’s next: There will be an Xfinity Series doubleheader next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Saturday, June 13 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), and Sunday, June 14 (Noon ET on FS1). The latter race is also the second of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash Series races.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Chase Briscoe holds off Kyle Busch for thrilling Darlington Xfinity win

1 Comment

Chase Briscoe held off Kyle Busch in a thrilling last-lap drag race to the checkered flag to win Thursday’s Toyota 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

It capped an emotional few days for Briscoe. Earlier this week, he and his pregnant wife learned they had lost their first child.

The 23-year-old Briscoe broke into tears after climbing out of his race car, telling FS1: “That’s for my wife. This is the hardest week I’ve ever had to deal with. I was crying in the race car and emotionally I wasn’t there at all.

“This is more than a race win, it’s the biggest day of my life after the toughest day of my life. To beat the best there is just so satisfying.”

Click here for results, driver standings

Briscoe, who beat Busch to the checkered flag by .086 seconds, led 44 laps en route to his fourth career Xfinity triumph and second of the season.

Busch finished second, followed by Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric and polesitter Noah Gragson.

If there was a comeback award, Busch would have won hands down. He won Stage 2 and was coming off pit road on the resulting caution when he was caught speeding, sending him to the back of the field for the restart for the final segment.

He quickly moved through the field and came up about one car length short.

“I hated we had the pit road penalty,” Busch said. “No excuses, just got busted for speeding unfortunately, .02 over and had to go to the back. Hopefully we put on a good show for the fans.”

It was the Xfinity Series’ first event since the season was suspended March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race was scheduled for Tuesday night, but rain forced its postponement to today at Noon ET. Even with that, rain Thursday caused a 4 ½-hour delay until the green flag.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Noah Gragson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier had a strong car and appeared to be the only challenge for Briscoe and Busch, but couldn’t get back to the front, having to settle for third.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: It was a bad end to what had been a good day up to that point: Michael Annett was running fourth and charging toward the lead when a tire went down on him with 15 laps to go, leading to a spin that caused significant damage to the right front of his car.

NOTABLE: Brett Moffitt made his first race start since suffering two broken legs in a motocross accident in mid-March and didn’t look too worse for the wear, finishing 11th.

WHAT’S NEXT: Alsco 300, Monday March 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Xfinity Series storylines for Darlington

Leave a comment

Remember the Xfinity Series?

It’s been a while. Xfinity Series drivers will compete Tuesday night at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on FS1) in their first race since March 7 at Phoenix Raceway.

Jeff Meendering, the last crew chief to win in Xfinity, looks back at the March 7 race and it “honestly feels like it was the last race of the season and we’re getting ready to start a new season.”

But it’s not a new season. It’s race No. 5 of the 2020 season. Here’s a refresher on where the Xfinity Series is heading to Darlington.

1.) Joe Gibbs Racing Strikes Back

Entering 2020, there were a lot of questions surrounding Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver lineup, which consisted of Brandon Jones (one win in 137 starts), Harrison Burton (nine Xfinity starts, winless in 38 Truck Series starts) and Riley Herbst (winless in 17 Xfinity/Truck Series starts).

Even Jeff Meendering, crew chief on Jones’ No. 19 Toyota, had concerns.

We were pretty nervous going into the West Coast swing that, ‘Oh my gosh, we could come home and be in trouble car wise from potential wrecks and everything,'” Meendering said. “It actually didn’t turn out anything like that.”

Instead, JGR went into NASCAR’s COVID-19 imposed lockdown with two consecutive wins after Burton won at Auto Club Speedway and Jones found Victory Lane at Phoenix. Meanwhile, Burton, who finished in the top five in all four races, leads the point standings. The team’s only DNF was from Herbst at Daytona.

“We heard the doubters from outside, I guess, but that just only motivated us to be better,” said Burton, who went winless as a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver in the Truck Series in 2019. “There was the Big 3 last year (Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer), we had a meeting and we wanted our three guys to be the Big 3 this year. We wanted to race each other every weekend for wins and go against each other every weekend and have to beat our JGR teammates, which is kind of how it’s been.”

While Burton, 19, has led the charge for JGR, it’s Jones, 23, who is the veteran of the group. He’s in his fifth full-time Xfinity campaign and third with JGR.

“We all laughed at the start of the year,” Jones recalled. “I said, ‘Well, dang boys. I’m the old man of the group I guess this year.’ But it is it is interesting. Christopher (Bell) last year was obviously dominant. But I still have more races than he had in Xfinity, but he just took to the car so well. But this year kind of coming in, I feel that I’m kind of playing that role now a little bit. I’ve definitely helped (Burton and Herbst) come up to speed at race tracks and they’ve actually helped me too.”

Burton recalled how advice from Jones helped in his effort to win in his first start Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 29.

“I asked him, ‘Hey Brandon, how far are you going to drive in (to the turns)?’ and I ended up winning … and he said ‘I’m never telling you how deep I drive in ever again!'”

But with where the Xfinity Series is going tomorrow, Jones’ experience will be invaluable.

2) Darlington Rookie Stripes

When the green flag drops on Tuesday night’s Xfinity race, it will be a big moment for select drivers in the 39-car field.

Among the competitors will be 11 – more than 1/4th of the field – who have never taken a lap around Darlington. Not in practice, qualifying or a race.

The first lap will truly be the first lap of action at Darlington for Burton, Jesse Little, Herbst, Anthony Alfredo, Myatt Snider, Kody Vanderwal, Colby Howard, Ronnie Bassett Jr., Mason Massey, Joe Graf Jr. and Colin Garrett.

“I think I’d lie if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about it,” said Burton. “But the cool thing is, everybody’s nervous about it. Everyone’s in the same boat. … There’s an advantage to have in your head that everyone’s in the same boat and you just have to do your job the best you can do it.”

As for Burton’s crew chief, Ben Beshore, he doesn’t have too many concerns about Burton’s first Darlington experience.

“I felt that way about Fontana too and he showed up there and hauled ass,” Beshore said. “He’s really quick to adapt and uses the tools that he has available to him before he gets there. Whether it be studying data or notes that I sent him or running in iRacing races, he seems to be able to use that to his advantage.”

Little, a rookie driver for JD Motorsports, took on the mindset of “they’re gonna race with or without me” as he dove into his preparation of watching film, taking notes, talking to drivers and making laps on iRacing. Meanwhile, he reiterates to himself “I’m gonna go there and I’m gonna be cautious.”

When it came to advice from drivers, he didn’t have to go far.

“Definitely lean heavily on my roommate/landlord,” Little said.

That would be Cole Custer, current Cup Series rookie and winner of last year’s Xfinity race at Darlington.

“I’ve picked his brain as much as I can,” Little said. “I can’t really think of a better Xfinity driver to do it than him. … He’s helped me out quite a bit … (Making sure I’m not) psyching myself out, not being too timid or scared, you know, in a sense of, ‘It is Darlington, but if you approach it this way it’s really just another racetrack and you know, you’ll enjoy it.'”

Unlike Burton and Herbst at JGR and Alfredo at Richard Childress Racing, Little won’t make his first visit to Darlington in top equipment.

That’s something that concerns former JD Motorsports driver, Ross Chastain.

“I probably feel … the worst for Jesse, just knowing that situation and how important practice is,” Chastain said. “Even though in a normal situation going there he would only have one set of tires, he would have limited laps, but he would have 10 quality laps to learn the track and he has nothing now and you’re going to get thrown into a random draw starting position. That’s tough. Just because I know that.

“Harrison, Riley, those guys … They know their car is going to go down in the corner and it’s going to do normal stuff. Jesse’s, it can do something that he’s not expecting. And I just know that. He’s probably got the biggest, biggest challenge, but when you catch them or you’re passing them or they’re passing you, you just have to trust them.”

3) Briscoe’s Opportunity

The turnover in the Xfinity Series driver ranks this year stands out when looking at the results of the 2019 race at Darlington.

None of the top five finishers – Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Dale Earnhardt Jr. –  are entered in Tuesday’s race, with Custer, Reddick and Bell now rookies in the Cup Series.

That’s leaves Chase Briscoe as the highest-finishing returning driver from last year. In his first start at Darlington, he started fifth and finished sixth.

Count the 25-year-old driver among those excited about a lack of on-track preparation for the race.

“I actually like the no practice and qualifying deal,” Briscoe said. “I feel like that kind of fits my team’s style. You know, last year I wouldn’t have said that at all. But this year, even at the end last year we were just always really good off the truck.”

Briscoe heads into Darlington with three tops 10s, including one win (Las Vegas) through four races this season.

“I feel confident that we’ll be good,” Briscoe said. “And you know, there’s a lot of inexperienced guys in the field as far as never even racing at Darlington. I don’t have a ton of experience there, but at least I know what to expect. I think the biggest question mark for myself is (it’s) at nighttime now. How much does that change things? Last year, it was a pretty hot race and we were slick and sliding around. That fits my driving style a lot more.”

Briscoe also is concerned about there being more grip on the track, a result of Sunday’s Cup race. It’s a situation Xfinity drivers are not used to.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous about the added grip that we’re gonna have, just because I feel like that kinda kind of evens the playing field,” Briscoe said. “Regardless of the temperature outside, it’s still gonna be slick to a certain extent.”

4) What day is it?

While the Cup Series competed on Sunday, Justin Allgaier watched from a distance.

The JR Motorsports driver said it was “hard to not get your blood pumping” as he’s in the final days of prepping for his own return to racing.

Allgaier and the rest of the Xfinity Series race at Darlington and then six days later will race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the oval.

“Some of the most difficult races that we have on the schedule now on the Xfinity Series side … are kind of happening in a short amount of time,” said Allgaier, who has nine Xfinity starts and two Cup starts at Darlington. “I’m looking forward to it. I think that it’s going to be a little bit different being (at Charlotte) on a Monday. Obviously, Memorial Day. It’s going to be super, super weird.

“But somebody the other day asked me if it threw me off to race on a Tuesday at Darlington. I said ‘Well, to be honest with you, because of this pandemic, I don’t know what day it is half the time anyways. So a Tuesday and a Saturday, they’re kind of the same.”

With the Charlotte race being held at night, rather than in the day like the last oval race there, Allgaier predicted that the track will have “a little bit more character” to it.

“We all call bumps character, we know that,” Allgaier said. “The weather has been kind of hot, cold, hot, cold here in North Carolina, obviously. And that a lot of times has more affect than just all the time hot or all the time cold.”

5) Over prepared

When Jeff Meendering was first able to enter the JGR shop after stay-at-home orders were lifted in North Carolina, his first stop was his office. The next was to check on the condition of the car Brandon Jones would race at Darlington.

“Obviously, we shuffled some our cars around a little bit,” Meendering said. “Our car racing at Darlington was originally going to be our Atlanta backup car. And the car we were taking to Texas originally is now going to Charlotte. So we’ve had to shuffle some stuff around, looking at the condition our cars are in and what makes sense with a limited crew to put it out.”

Despite the 10-week shutdown, Meendering’s team had been able to put together car builds through at least August. But Meendering and much of the NASCAR world didn’t know where they’d be racing beyond Charlotte until last week. On Thursday, NASCAR announced Cup and Xfinity would race at Bristol Motor Speedway the weekend after the Charlotte races.

“Those builds we were just basing them off of what the original schedule was,” Meendering said. “We got pretty deep into the original schedule. … We might have built for races that we don’t even go to now. I feel like we’re over prepared for whatever could get thrown at us.”

 

Saturday Night Thunder at virtual Dover: Start time and more

Leave a comment

The virtual Dover NASCAR weekend begins with Saturday Night Thunder.

This is the fourth Saturday Night Thunder event. Logan Seavey won at virtual Bristol. Josh Berry won at virtual Richmond. Landon Huffman won at virtual Talladega.

Tonight’s event will be run with digital Xfinity Series cars. The event is open to Xfinity, Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series, NASCAR Peak Mexico Series, Pinty’s Series and Whelen Euro Series drivers.

Today’s event is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET.

FORMAT: One-lap, single-car qualifying will set heat race grids. There will be four 10-lap heats. The top  six finishers from each heat race advance to the feature event. There will be a 15-lap last chance race. If more than 40 cars are entered, there will be a second last chance race. Two drivers will transfer from the last chance qualifier to the main event. All heat races will have no cautions. Drivers are allowed one reset in the heat races.

FEATURE RACE: The feature is scheduled to have 26 cars and be 125 laps. The top five finishers from last weekend’s race at virtual Talladega – Landon Huffman, Josh Berry, Joe Graf Jr., Tommy Joe Martins and Spencer Boyd – will start at the rear provided they make the feature. Cautions will be determined by race officials. Drivers are allowed one reset. There will be up to three attempts at a green/white/checkered finish.

ONLINE: Watch at eNASCAR.com/live and on NASCAR’s YouTube Channel.

DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE (Subject to change): 

NAME

CAR #

Alex Labbe

90

Angela Ruch

00

Anthony Alfredo

33

Austin Cindric

22

Bayley Currey

74

Blake Koch

57

Brandon Brown

68

Brett Moffitt

23

Chase Briscoe

98

Chase Cabre

4

Christian Eckes

81

CJ McLaughlin

39

Derek Kraus

19

Donny Lia

07

Drew Dollar

015

Drew Herring

3

Elliott Sadler

099

Gus Dean

56

Jeb Burton

8

Jeffrey Earnhardt

50

Jesse Iwuji

36

Joe Graf Jr.

80

Josh Berry

88

Josh Bilicki

99

Josh Williams

92

Justin Allgaier

7

Justin Haley

11

Kaz Grala

29

Landon Huffman

75

Logan Seavey

67

Matt Mills

5

Michael Annett

1

Myatt Snider

93

Noah Gragson

9

Raphael Lessard

04

Ruben Garcia

27

Ryan Ellis

78

Ryan Truex

40

Ryan Vargas

51

Sam Mayer

21

Scott Stenzel

63

Sheldon Creed

74

Spencer Boyd

02

Stephen Leicht

25

Stewart Friesen

52

Thad Moffitt

46

Todd Gilliland

38

Tommy Joe Martin

44

Ty Majeski

45

Tyler Ankrum

26

Will Rodgers

55