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NASCAR Xfinity at Fontana: Burton Junior’s maiden win

NASCAR Xfinity ‘Production Alliance Group 300' at Auto Club Speedway
• Harrison Burton impresses with a win in the No. 20 Toyota

Fontana, CA, Feb 29/20 (GRW): This was only the 12th start in the Xfinity Series for Harrison Burton, the 19-year-old son of Jeff Burton, and he was driving the No. 20 car, the car which Christopher Bell had driven to eight wins last year. Despite some questioning whether Burton and his teammate Riley Herbst could live up to the performances of last year’s Gibbs’ drivers – Bell and Brandon Jones, Burton has finished second, fifth and first in the season’s first three races, winning here at Fontana – and Herbst has finished all three races in the top ten, with a close second at Fontana.

Last year, Burton ran the entire truck season in a Kyle Busch team entry but he failed to win a single race, his best finishes being a foursome of third-place finishes at Dover, Iowa, Kentucky and Pocono.

Brandon Jones, who is driving for the Gibbs Xfinity team again this year finished 30th, four laps down after starting on the pole and leading the first 73 laps of the 150 lap race. His race went sour when he had a tire problem coming off the race’s sixth caution on lap 101. He had a tire rub which resulted in the tire blowing and falling onto the race surface. After a couple of other cars hit the tire carcass, NASCAR put out the seventh caution to clean up the mess. But this was enough to end Jones’ run at the front.

Nonetheless, Jones did lead the most laps in the race – 73 – while Burton became the dominant runner after this and he led a total of 40 laps himself, including the final 20 laps, holding off his other teammate, Herbst, who finished the race less than half a second behind him.

Austin Cindric finished in third place ahead of Ryan Sieg, in the family-team car, and Justin Haley. Anthony Alfredo, in his first-ever race in this series, finished an impressive sixth.

The first two Stages were short 35-lap affairs, both won by Jones, who led the first 73 laps of the race. Jones fell to third behind Daniel Hemric and Burton coming out of the pits during the second Stage pit cycle. But, by the time Haley spun a couple laps later, Burton had passed Hemric for the lead and Jones had fallen to sixth place.

While the first two Stages had run without caution except for the Stage ends, this third
caution set off a flurry of more cautions, living up to the adage ‘Cautions breed cautions’.

During this final 80-lap Stage there were six cautions, the first four following each other with only a couple of laps of green between each one. Chase Briscoe, a Stewart-Haas Ford, seemed to have the advantage during this start-and-stop running, leading off-and-on for 16 laps until Burton came to the front again on lap 118. Soon after, Briscoe spun, bringing out the eighth and final caution and falling from contention.

This left Burton trying desperately to hold onto the lead while his teammate Herbst was trying to win the race for himself. With just two laps remaining, Herbst made one last run for the lead, dropping low on the apron and getting even with Burton momentarily – but it was not enough and Burton surged forward to take the checker by a small but decisive margin.

“Heck yeah, man, this is awesome,” said Burton. “All we’ve heard is that we can’t do it … we’ll never do what last year’s (No. 20 team with driver Christopher Bell) did, but we’re off to a good start. It feels so good to win.

“There’s times when you go through a little bit of a drought, and you doubt yourself. But to get a win feels so good, especially after last year. We struggled a little bit. Once we moved up to the top (of the track) at the end, it was going to be really hard for (Herbst) to pass us. I was trying to be smart and not put it in the wall in the lead. The whole team was huge. I’m just so happy, man. This is something I’ve worked so hard for, and my team’s worked so hard for. Hell yeah, we won — that’s awesome!”

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race at Fontana.

The next Xfinity race will be run next Saturday, March 7, at Phoenix Raceway.

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