Although Harrison Burton was eliminated from the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs prior to the Round of 8, he continued to play spoiler by taking the checkered flag in the Draft Top 250 at Martinsville Speedway. In a short track battle to the finish, Burton drove his No. 20 Toyota Supra ahead of Justin Allgaier by a mere .355 seconds to capture his second consecutive Xfinity Series victory.
At 20 years and 22 days, Burton became the youngest Xfinity Series driver to win the iconic Martinsville grandfather clock at the historic half-mile short track. The driver who held the previous record was his father, Jeff Burton, who won the Xfinity Series Zerex 150 at Martinsville on Sept. 22, 1990 when he was 23 years, 2 months and 24 days.
“Martinsville is one of those places that’s really cool to win at,” said Burton. “For me in particular because my family is from here. The fans here are awesome. It’s amazing to win here at what is one of my home tracks I would say and do what my dad did. I think it was his first Xfinity win here.”
Second-place finisher Allgaier, driver of the No. 7 for JR Motorsports, claimed one of the four Xfinity Series Championship 4 slots. Noah Gragson, who fell short in his bid to have a shot at the championship, was third, one week after he was edged by Burton for the victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
Pit strategy ultimately played a big role at Martinsville. Non-championship contenders such as Burton and veteran AJ Allmendinger, who led 68 laps, were able to gamble on pit-stop timing and track position. Allmendinger had the lead after the Stage 2 restart, and he and Burton were the only two drivers to trade the top position from there out while the early leaders navigated back up through the field in traffic.
In addition to his race win, Burton won Stage 1 of the race and led a race-high 81 of the 250-lap race. He took the lead for good with 53 laps to go when then-leader AJ Allmendinger got a flat left-rear tire. Jeb Burton (4th) and Ross Chastain (5th) rounded out the top-5. Chastain won Stage 2 of the race.
The three drivers who joined Allgaier in advancing to the Championship 4 in Phoenix a week from today are regular season champion Austin Cindric of No. 22 for Team Penske, Chase Briscoe of the No. 98 for Stewart-Haas Racing and Justin Haley of the No. 11 for Kaulig Racing. The highest finisher among the four in next Saturday’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix Raceway will claim the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series title.
“A lot of boxes checked for us today, I feel like we’ve had to points-race the entire Playoffs,” said Cindric. “And it’s been really annoying. We’ve brought some really fast race cars to the tracks in the last few weeks and our guys did an incredible job coming to the race track with no notebook and really basing it off the Ford simulator of notes from the Cup guys. Really proud of that effort. It’s a year’s worth of work and going to try to go take advantage of it next week.”
Haley entered today’s race in the final transfer spot, four points above the cutoff line, and finished 12th to advance to the Championship 4.
“It was really nerve-racking,” said Haley. “The engine kept getting worse and worse and I couldn’t pass anyone. Just getting out of the corner it would stumble down the straightaways. It was nerve-racking but thankfully we got it done.”
With his third-place showing today, Gragson recorded his fifth top-3 finish in the last six races. However, it was a 36th place finish in the opening race of the Round of 8 at Kansas Speedway that kept him from the Championship 4.
“I feel like it was a success, the season is not over,” said Gragson. “At the beginning of the year we wanted to go finish top-5 every single race. It’s unfortunate not making the final four but if we don’t have that finish at Kansas it might be a different story. It’s definitely a bummer but I don’t think it’s a failure by any means.”
In addition to Gragson, the Round of 8 drivers who did not advance to the Championship 4 were Chastain, Brandon Jones and Ryan Sieg.
All four drivers in the championship round next weekend will be seeking their initial titles in the Xfinity Series. Of the four, only Allgaier has been a part of the Championship 4 previously, as this will be his fourth appearance (2016-17, 2019). Allgaier has thrived in his career at Phoenix Raceway, a place where he has recorded two wins in 20 Xfinity Series starts, including Nov. 9, 2019 to propel him into last year’s Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Obviously I’m excited,” said Allgaier. “When we found out that we were going to Phoenix for the championship finale probably nobody had a bigger smile on their face as I did. There’s been a lot of hard work, effort and time to be in this position. If we can go to Phoenix next week and win it would be a great day. There are three other cars that I know are going to be on their A-game and have been tough all year. We better be at 100 percent or we’re not going to have a shot at the championship.”
The Draft Top 250 had 12 lead changes among six different drivers and 10 cautions for 63 laps.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action at Phoenix Raceway to decide the 2021 championship on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 5:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Martinsville Speedway PR