Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR Xfinity Series teams displayed strong performances in a span of two days for two races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A day after Harrison Burton earned a thrilling win for himself and JGR in the first Xfinity event at Homestead, all JGR Toyota teams managed to finish in the top-10 in the second race down in Miami with Brandon Jones leading the way after earning a close runner-up finish.
The starting lineup was based on the results from Saturday’s event at Homestead, where the top-15 finishers from Saturday were inverted for Sunday’s race and the remaining spots were placed in the finishing order from Saturday. Burton, who won at Miami on Saturday, started 15th while rookie Riley Herbst and Jones started sixth and eighth.
When the green flag dropped, the JGR entries remained inside the top 15 while battling handling conditions to their respective Toyotas. When the competition caution flew on Lap 20, Jones was in third despite battling tightness to his No. 19 Toyota, Burton was in seventh despite struggling on exit and Herbst fell back to 13th despite rallying from early tight conditions. Under the competition caution, Herbst pitted for early adjustments while Jones and Burton remained on track with the leaders.
When the race resumed, Burton and Jones marched towards the front, running inside the top five. Following a late caution and a four-lap shootout to the conclusion of the first stage, Jones would lead the way for the team by finishing third while Burton and Herbst finished seventh and 18th. The trio pitted under the stage break for adjustments and exited pit road inside the top 10 for the start of the second stage.
On Lap 47, the start of the second stage, Jones made a three-wide move on Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric entering Turn 1 to take the lead. Four laps later, Jones was overtaken by Cindric for the lead and locked in a heated battle for the runner-up spot with Burton along with Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric. As the laps progressed under green-flag conditions in the stage, Jones and Burton continued racing and battling inside the top five while Herbst was in 11th. When the second stage concluded, Jones and Burton finished third and sixth while Herbst settled in 11th. Under the stage break, the trio pitted with the field and exited inside the top 10.
When the final stage started with 78 laps remaining, the trio started battling one another and their fellow competitors for more positions inside the top 10 as Herbst remained within sight of his teammates. With less than 60 laps remaining, Jones was in third while Burton and Herbst were in sixth and seventh. With 45 to go, Herbst made a green-flag pit stop followed by Burton and Jones the following laps. With less than 10 to go, the trio was running inside the top 10 when Burton made contact with the wall and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop. By the time Burton and his No. 20 Dex Imaging Toyota Supra returned on track, he was a lap behind.
With two laps remaining, the caution returned following a single-car wreck and Burton took the wave around by remaining on track. Jones and Herbst pitted under caution and exited inside the top five. In the first overtime attempt, however, Herbst was turned in Turn 2 after being bumped by AJ Allmendinger and was involved in a multi-car wreck. At the time of caution, Jones was able to pass Gragson for second while Burton was able to dodge the incident. Despite the damage, Herbst was able to continue and remain on the lead lap. In addition, Burton was the recipient of the free pass and returned on the lead lap.
In the second overtime attempt, Jones gained another strong short-run boost from his No. 19 Menards Toyota Supra and made a charge for leader Chase Briscoe. He tried to gain a run on Briscoe, but was unable to navigate a run in time to pass Briscoe as he settled in the runner-up spot and right behind the rear bumper of Briscoe’s No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Burton was able to finish eighth while Herbst nursed his wounded No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota Supra across the line in ninth.
With his fourth top-five finish of this season, Jones jumped from eighth to sixth in the regular-season standings, trailing points leader Gragson by 90 points, and will be one of four competitors contending for the next Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It was close, but I don’t think I got into [Briscoe],” Jones said. “We were just going as hard as we could. I didn’t get as good of a run through [Turns] one and two as I thought I was going to, so I saw him dive to the bottom in three and I wanted to use the high line. I wanted to try to get the big arc because I knew he was going to push up and I thought I could go low. That was the thought process there. I did try to fake him on the frontstretch to try to get him to move around and mess up but just didn’t work there. This was by far probably the hottest we’ve been in a while anyways. I think it was great that we were able to run back-to-back races. It was great that we were able to take the same exact car to the second race as well.”
Despite falling short in winning two NASCAR Xfinity races of the weekend at Homestead, Burton extended his remarkable streak of finishing in the top 10 in all 10 series scheduled races as he is still third in the standings, trailing Gragson by 45 points.
“I felt like we had a better car than we did yesterday,” Burton said. “We were a little bit more competitive. [Gragson] was still really good. [Jones] was better today, [Herbst] was better today, so as a company I think we made some strides. Not a finish my team deserves, but that happens. You are getting all you can the last few laps – right against the fence – and sometimes you just overstep. Once I got to the wall, I couldn’t get off of it, and that’s what caused the right rear to blow…I still haven’t won a stage – won two races but haven’t won a stage. Got to find a way to get those Playoff points, they are really important come later in the year. That’s my main goal now – to fire off faster and try to be aggressive from the start and hopefully, get more dominate.”
Herbst made a decent recovery from his late accident to earn his fifth top-10 finish of this season as he is still 11th in the standings, trailing Gragson by 179 points.
“I beat [Hemric] initially on the start, so I dropped down and made it three-wide on the bottom and I was about to clear him,” Herbst said. “AJ Allmendinger came from behind and gave me a push to help clear him and then he pushed me too far in the left side and hooked me up and wrecked us. All in all, it was a decent day and we got better and better. It’s promising. At the end there, we were probably top-five speed and just lacking a little bit. It was cool to get better as the day went, for sure.”
With the results, this marks the fourth time this season, second consecutive day, where all three Joe Gibbs Racing full-time entries finished in the top 10.
All three full-time JGR Xfinity competitors along with their fellow competitors will return on June 20 for the next series race at Talladega Superspeedway, where the race will air at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1.