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NASCAR Xfinity at Talladega: Darkness ends the race early; Brandon Brown becomes a first-time winner.

Talladega, AL, Oct 2/21 (GRW): It was almost literally a photo finish to the Xfinity race which was the second half of Saturday’s double-header. As the cars came around to take the yellow on lap 103 of the 113-lap race, the front three were lined up side-by-side. Has the race continued to its scheduled conclusion, the question of which the car was leading the race at this point wold have been moot. But two red-flags had extended the race into dusk and NASCAR decided to call the race.

Now it was a big question who had been the official leader when they took that final yellow. All three – Brandon Brown, Brandon Jones and Justin Allgaier – hoped that it had been them who had crossed the all-important timing loops first. Eventually NASCAR ruled that the order at the yellow had been Brown, Jones and Allgaier – and when they soon afterwards called the race due to the falling darkness, this set the finishing order.

Of course, Brandon Brown was overjoyed to have won under any circumstances. He has been racing in the Xfinity Series for years, making 114 starts since 2016 but he had never won before. Even the other two drivers, who had been disappointed by NASCAR’s ruling on who was the race leader, could not fail to be a bit happy for Brown’s success after so many races.

Finishing behind these three were Daniel Hemric, Jordan Anderson and Justin Haley. Austin Cindric who has been thought to be a favourite alongside A.J. Allmendinger to win the series championship finished in eighth place but he was guaranteed a start in the finale at Phoenix o the basis of his points accumulation. Allmendinger was not so lucky. He was knocked out of the race on lap 24 in the first yellow flag crashes. Even though he is still not locked into the championship finale, he is fourth in the points – so he can be fairly confident that he will be part of the final four.

As is common here at Talladega, much of the race was run with the cars in a big pack. The first caution came just at the end of the first Stage when Allmendinger tangled with Sam Mayer and both crashed heavily – and out of the race. This was the reason for the first of the race’s two red flag periods.

The race’s fourth caution came on lap 90 when the first of the race’s two ‘big one’ crashes happened. This eliminated seven cars and it brought out the second red flag because the outer barrier had been damaged and needed repairs.

Once they got underway again, they only ran another ten laps before yet another caution which involved another seven cars. This was to be the final yellow because, when they never went green again. As it was getting darker NASCAR polled the drivers and they decided to call the race due to darkness at this point. And, as noted before, this set up Brandon Jones to take home the winner’s trophy.

“You can ask my neighbors at Coastal Carolina, I did plenty of burnouts to practice for this moment,” said Brown, who drives for his family-owned team, Brandonbilt Motorsports. “Oh, my god. It’s a dream come true. A Talladega winner. Oh my god, Dad, we did it! This is everything we hoped and dreamed for.

“Everything shifted top to bottom so much, it was like, ‘OK, let’s just stay patient where we’re at and hope for the best,” Brown said. “We saw our moment and we seized it.”

“That’s why you work so hard during the regular season to build up bonus points,” Allmendinger said after a trip to the infield care center. “We’ll see where it puts us going into the Roval. … It’s a minor setback in a great year.”

If Allmendinger’s setback was minor, the hit Noah Gragson suffered in the lap 90 wreck was a major one. Gragson was running at the front of the field in the inside lane when slight contact from Jeb Burton’s Chevrolet to the left rear of Brett Moffitt’s Camaro — after Moffitt’s car had gotten loose — triggered the first major wreck of the event.

Moffitt’s Chevy slid down the track into Gragson’s No. 9 Camaro, which rocketed nose-first into the outside wall. As Gragson slipped back down the track, Myatt Snider — with nowhere to go — plowed into the rear of Gragson’s car.

Like Allmendinger, Gragson suffered a significant blow in the standings but remained 18 points above the current cut line for the Round of 8.

There are five more races in the Xfinity season, culminating in the championship finale at Phoenix. Next week’s race on the Charlotte ROVAL will be the third race in the three-race Round of 12. There will be three more races after that (in the Round of 8) leading up to the deciding race at Phoenix in November.

• Click HERE for the Race Results


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