It was the kind of hard-nosed, impatient – and thrilling - competition that NASCAR fans have come to expect in the final laps of racing at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. In the end, Jeb Burton took the checkered flag on a double overtime restart to claim the victory in Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
The victory was the Virginia-native Burton’s second in this Spring event on the 2.66-mile Talladega high banks – both his career wins have come there – and he earned it being fast, patient and at times, truly fortunate. His No. 27 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet led 20 of the race’s 121 laps on the afternoon, won the second stage and most importantly, was able to hold off Sheldon Creed by a mere .113 seconds to earn the team its first ever NASCAR Xfinity Series win.
Burton, 30, the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, was hoarse after the race; having used his voice instead to scream congratulations to his team on the radio on the cool-down lap. It was a big afternoon-turned-evening for all involved.
“Man, I’m pumped up and out of breath from yelling,’’ Burton said grinning. “These guys have made racing fun for me again.’’
The fans were on their feet in the grandstands as the field filed up for the final restart; both Burton and Creed racing for their first wins of the season and most of the remaining top-10 drivers racing for the first win of their careers.
“I let the 27 [Burton] get way out there and had the 00 [Cole Custer] on me getting ready for a big run,’’ said Creed, who was in front of Burton when the last caution came out but the field is set according to the last scoring line and that went in Burton’s favor allowing him first choice on lane selection for that final restart.
“Nonetheless a great day,’’ he added. “Plate racing is not my best and I’ve been trying to get better at it. Happy to get Whelen Manufacturing a good finish. We’ve been up and down this year so just to have a solid day like that is really good for us.’’
Big Machine Racing’s Parker Kligerman finished third with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and JD Motorsports’ Brennan Poole rounding out the top five.
Caesar Baccarella was sixth in the Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet – his best career finish in part-time starts since 2017. Parker Retzlaff was seventh, followed by Gray Gaulding, Joey Gase and Josh Williams who all earned their first top-10 finishes of the season.
The dramatic race ending was indicative of the afternoon – restarts and close-quarter racing. Two red flags slowed the event – a result of multi-car incidents that have become characteristic of this style of competition.
Twelve cars were involved in an accident with three laps remaining – including then leader Daniel Hemric who ended up upside down against the wall. A red flag was thrown while the safety crew got Hemric out of the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevy and Hemric waved to the crowd, walking to the ambulance on his own.
“Just got too far out it looks like,’’ Hemric said watching his accident on video replay afterward. “For sure late on the block there. I committed – there had been so much give and take on the day.’’
Driver Blaine Perkins was transported to a local medical facility in an abundance of caution after being involved in the first accident to bring out a red flag. He and Dexter Stacey’s cars collided just before the second stage break and Perkins car flipped over multiple times. Both drivers climbed out of their cars on their own.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer won the Talladega Dash 4 Cash $100,000 check with a fourth-place finish – the only one of the four eligible for the bonus to finish the race. With that effort, he, race winner Burton, Creed and Kligerman are eligible for the bonus in next weekend’s final of the four Dash 4 Cash events at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of luck, I’ve been on the wrong side of that many times at these superspeedway races,’’ said Custer, driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, adding “This is the happiest I’ve ever been running fourth.’’
Austin Hill, who leads the series with three wins, reclaimed the NASCAR Xfinity Series points lead by four-points over John Hunter Nemechek, who finished 32nd. Brett Moffitt’s 20 laps out front was most among the 12 leaders.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to competition next week in the A-Game 200 at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).