An ultimate underdog story was made on a dark afternoon in Talladega, Alabama, after Brandon Brown dodged two late multi-car wrecks and emerged out in front of the field to win the weather-shortened Sparks 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, October 2, and score his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win.
Brown, who achieved his first Xfinity win in his 114th career start, had managed to remain as the leader ahead of Playoff contenders Brandon Jones and Justin Allgaier when the caution flew for a late multi-car wreck involving Harrison Burton. During the cleanup session, the track was beginning to darken and NASCAR eventually made the call for the race to be deemed official six laps shy of the scheduled distance and under caution, thus handing a first career win for the Woodbridge, Virginia, native and his family operated team.
The starting lineup was based on a performance metric formula, weighing the driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Xfinity event, the owner points position and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Playoff contender Justin Allgaier started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Austin Cindric.
Prior to the event, Justin Haley, winner of both Xfinity events at Talladega in 2020, started at the rear of the field due to illegally applied decals that were found on the rear roof of his car during pre-race inspection. In addition, he was forced to serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Allgaier jumped ahead with an early advantage through the first turn until Cindric fought back on the inside lane entering the backstretch.
With the field fanning out to double lanes and running in a tight pack for a full turn, Cindric, who moved in front of Allgaier through the backstretch, led the first lap by a nose over Allgaier. Cindric was the lead car on the inside lane followed by Josh Berry while Allgaier led the outside lane, where he received drafting help from teammate Noah Gragson.
Two laps later, Berry, winner of last weekend’s Xfinity event at Las Vegas, gained a draft on Cindric through the frontstretch and pulled a slingshot move to lead a lap for himself.
Through the first six laps of the event, Cindric, who reassumed the lead two laps earlier, was leading followed by Berry, Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger and Gragson while Brandon Jones, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider and John Hunter Nemechek were in the top 10 as Jeb Burton, winner of the spring Talladega event, was in 11th.
By Lap 10, Allmendinger was leading ahead of Brandon Jones, Cindric and a steaming pack of cars competing in close quarters and double lanes. By then, three different competitors (Allmendinger, Cindric and Berry) had led a lap, comprising of six lead changes.
Five laps later and as the field fanned out to three and four lanes, Brandon Jones, who took over the lead on Lap 13, was leading followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Harrison Burton, Nemechek and Hemric while Allmendinger settled in fifth ahead of teammate Jeb Burton and Myatt Snider.
A lap later, Harrison Burton took the lead after Jones got stalled by Justin Haley in Turn 1, who was trying to remain on the lead lap following his opening lap penalty. Behind, Allgaier and Jeb Burton made contact and nearly wrecked in the middle of the field.
The following lap, Jones shoved Haley out of the draft with the pack, placing him a lap behind the leaders as Harrison Burton continued to lead ahead of the field.
Then through the frontstretch, Harrison Burton was placed in a three-wide battle with teammates Jones and Nemechek before he got shuffled out, which allowed Nemechek to take the lead on Lap 20. By then, the field started to get dicey with multiple competitors fanning out as high as four lanes and trying to formulate a run to the front.
Then on the final lap of the first stage, the caution flew when rookie Sam Mayer got turned out of a four-wide battle with Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and Brett Moffitt before he made hard contact into the outside wall in Turn 3, collecting Allmendinger as both competitors were taken out with demolished race cars.
“I just got hung up there and once you get back [to the field] with the people that you’re racing, there’s a chance of [a wreck] happening,” Allmendinger, who was released from the infield care center, said. “At the end of the day, it’s disappointing, but that’s why you work hard in the regular season, to gain all those bonus points. [It] Doesn’t completely put you in a hole. We’re going to a pretty good race track for us [next weekend]…It is what it is.”
The wreck involving Allmendinger and Mayer ended the first stage scheduled on Lap 25 under caution as Nemechek, who zigged and zagged through the inside and outside lanes to maintain the lead, claimed the stage victory. Jeb Burton settled in second followed by Riley Herbst, Cindric, Harrison Burton, Snider, Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Blaine Perkins and Daniel Hemric. By then, six different competitors led at least one lap.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Herbst, who opted for a two-tire service, left his pit stall with the lead followed by Nemechek, Snider, Cindric and Harrison Burton. Jeb Burton, who was second, got boxed behind Tommy Joe Martins while exiting his stall and came out in 10th.
Not long after, the race was red-flagged for five minutes due to repairs being made on the SAFER barriers in Turn 3 where Mayer and Allmendinger wrecked.
When the red flag lifted and the second stage started on Lap 30, Herbst gained a brief advantage through the first turn until Nemechek fought back on the inside lane. With the field running in close quarters and double lanes through the backstretch and entering the frontstretch, Herbst managed to maintain a brief advantage ahead of Nemechek and Cindric.
By Lap 35, Herbst was leading ahead of Cindric, Hemric, Blaine Perkins and Gragson while Nemechek, Brandon Brown, Brett Moffitt, Jeb Burton and Snider were in the top 10. By then, Haley, who received the free pass under the first stage, was up in 12th behind Allgaier.
Five laps later and with the field running in a long, single file line, Herbst continued to lead followed by Cindric, Hemric, Perkins, Brown and Jeb Burton.
In the closing laps of the second stage, the field started to fan out to multiple lanes and charge to the front as Herbst continued to lead by a narrow margin.
Then on the final lap of the second stage, Blaine Perkins challenged Herbst for the top spot through the backstretch. Despite the field gaining a run on him through the frontstretch, Perkins managed to claim the stage 2 victory on Lap 50. Moffitt settled in second followed by Nemechek, Herbst, Allgaier, Jeb Burton, Harrison Burton, Haley, Cindric and Gragson. By then, the race featured nine different leaders for 14 lead changes.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Herbst reassumed the lead followed by Haley. During the pit stops, names like Joe Graf Jr., Bayley Currey, Ryan Vargas and Mason Massey remained on the track, though all pitted prior to the restart.
With 59 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Herbst and Haley started on the front row. At the start, Herbst jumped ahead of Haley followed by Allgaier before Allgaier moved to the lead the following lap. With Allgaier leading, he was followed by Cindric and Harrison Burton.
The following lap, Cindric moved to the front followed by Herbst, Allgaier, Harrison Burton and the field.
Down to the final 50 laps of the event, Allgaier was leading ahead of Moffitt, Gragson, Jeb Burton and Berry while Hemric, Haley, Perkins, Cindric and Herbst were in the top 10. Harrison Burton was in 11th while teammate John Hunter Nemechek was in 13th.
A lap later, Moffitt moved into the lead. Another two laps later, Jeb Burton led a lap for himself before Cindric re-took the top spot.
Shortly after, Moffitt joined Berry, Allgaier and Gragson in pitting under green. A few laps later, names like Cindric, Harrison Burton, Herbst, Hemric and Nemechek pitted under green. While most of the Toyota competitors pitted, Brandon Jones failed to dive on to pit road with his teammates.
Soon after, names like Jeb Burton, Haley, Jones, Jade Buford, Snider, Jordan Anderson and others pitted under green.
With 40 laps remaining, names like Mason Massey, Kyle Weatherman, CJ McLaughlin and Jason White had yet to pit while the first 10 competitors, running in a single file line on fresh tires and full fuel led by Herbst, were trailing by 20 seconds.
Just then, the caution flew when Bayley Currey stalled his car on pit road. Under caution, names like Massey, Weatherman, McLaughlin, White and Moffitt pitted while the rest led by Herbst and Cindric remained on the track. Playoff contender Jeremy Clements also pitted due to experiencing cylinder issues in his car.
With 34 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Herbst received a push from Allgaier to jump ahead with the lead and in front of Cindric. Then through the backstretch, Herbst and Cindric moved up to the outside lane as Gragson challenged for the lead on the inside lane.
As Gragson took the lead, Herbst challenged on the outside lane followed by Cindric and Allgaier while Josh Berry closed in on teammate Gragson’s rear bumper.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event and with the field fanning out to multiple lanes in a pack, Gragson was leading ahead of teammate Berry, Moffitt, Jeb Burton, Snider, Brandon Jones, Cindric, Jordan Anderson, Haley and Herbst. Allgaier was in 12th, Henric was in 14th and Harrison Burton was in 17th in front of teammate John Hunter Nemechek.
Five laps later, Moffitt and Gragson challenged in a side-by-side battle for the lead. Then, the caution flew for a vicious crash that started when Jeb Burton and Moffitt made contact in Turn 3, which sent Moffitt turning into Gragson as Gragson pounded into the outside wall and was hit by Myatt Snider. As more cars wrecked behind, Gragson received another vicious hit by McLaughlin and Caesar Bacarella before his battered No. 9 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro came to a rest below the apron. Among those involved included Jeb Burton, Moffitt, Berry, Brandon Jones, Bacarella, Vargas, Garrett Smithley, McLaughlin, Santino Ferrucci, Ryan Sieg and Mason Massey. The wreck was enough to pause the race for more than 15 minutes as all competitors, including Gragson, were okay.
Following an extensive cleanup period and with the skies darkening as rain was being reported near the superspeedway, the race restarted with 20 laps remaining as Jeb Burton and Brandon Jones occupied the front row.
At the start, Brandon Jones jumped to the lead followed by Allgaier, Hemric and Haley while Jeb Burton was falling behind on the outside lane.
The following lap, Jeffrey Earnhardt made contact with the outside wall near the pit entrance and spun, but he was able to nurse his car to pit road as the race remained running in green.
Back on the track, Jones continued to lead followed by Allgaier, Hemric, Haley, Brown, Jade Buford, Jeb Burton, Harrison Burton, Jordan Anderson and Austin Cindric.
With 15 laps remaining, Brandon Jones was leading a long single-file line ahead of Allgaier, Hemric, Haley and Brown as Jeb Burton led a charge on the outside lane. Burton’s momentum, though, stalled was the leaders moved up the outside lane.
A few laps later, the field fanned out to multiple lanes and in a tight pack as Brandon Brown and Jordan Anderson challenged for the lead alongside Brandon Jones.
Then with 11 laps remaining, the caution returned when Harrison Burton got sideways entering Turn 3 and turned back across the track and into the Turn 3 outside wall, where he collected Nemechek, Moffitt, Herbst, Josh Williams, Alex Labbe, Jason White and Jeb Burton, who bumper cover got clipped off. At the time of caution, NASCAR ruled that Brown was the leader ahead of Brandon Jones and Allgaier.
Following the cleanup, the field continued to run behind the pace car and under caution as darkness began to overshadow the track. With darkness looming and beginning to cover the superspeedway, NASCAR then decided to declare the race official six laps shy of the finish. The decision handed the victory to Brandon Brown, who crossed the finish line under cautious pace with the lead.
With his victory, Brown became the 169th different competitor to win in the Xfinity Series. He also became the fifth first-time Xfinity winner of 2021 and the sixth to do so at Talladega.
While celebrating on the frontstretch amid a chorus of cheers from the crowd, Brown dedicated the win to his family operated organization, Brandonbilt Motorsports.
“Oh my God!” Brown, who celebrated on the frontstretch, exclaimed. “This is a dream come true! Wow, Talladega, winner in NASCAR! Oh my God! Dad, we did it! Let’s go! This is everything we hoped and dreamed for. Everything I’ve wanted to do was to take the trophy home for mom and dad. Oh my God. Thank you so much. Thank you to all our partners. It’s just such an unbelievable moment. We saw our moment and we seized it. I’m just so proud of Brandonbilt Motorsports, so proud of everybody on our team, here and at home. Everybody that’s worked on our team since the beginning. We did it, we did it, we did it.”
Brandon Jones was the highest-finishing Playoff competitor in second place while Justin Allgaier ended up in third place.
“First off, let me just say how grateful I am to have Menards on our Supra,” Jones said. “It’s a big day for us. You look at the whole day and all the scenarios that happened. I think that’s probably the best option without us winning, to have [Brown] win. Good for him. Also, I think that it obviously doesn’t affect the point too bad for us. [I] Had some solid moments there. Don’t know how we missed the Big One there in [Turns] 3 and 4 early on in the day. Lot of positives, but we’re close. It’s tough to swallow.”
“It’s disappointing to get that close and not being able to race for [the win],” Allgaier said. “Congrats to Brandon. Those guys worked really, really hard. It’s cool to see a first-time winner. Obviously, they did what they needed to do there at the end. Really proud of my team. The BRANDT Professional Agricultural Camaro was really good. We did what we needed to do. We come out of here with a good points gap. We didn’t lock our way into the next round, but we can go to the [Charlotte] Roval next week, have some fun and hopefully, go for it. “
Daniel Hemric ended up in fourth for his 11th top-five result of the season while Jordan Anderson emerged with his first top-five result in the Xfinity Series by finishing fifth.
Haley, teammate Jeb Burton, Cindric, Berry and Joe Graf Jr. completed the top 10 on the track.
Cindric’s eighth-place result was enough for him to clinch his spot in the Playoff’s Round of 8 based on points as he continues his pursuit to defend his series title. Meanwhile, names like Jeb Burton, Myatt Snider, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements are below the top-eight cutline entering next weekend’s Playoff elimination event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
There were 33 lead changes for 17 different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 21 laps.
1. Brandon Brown, eight laps led
2. Brandon Jones, 12 laps led
3. Justin Allgaier, seven laps led
4. Daniel Hemric
5. Jordan Anderson
6. Justin Haley
7. Jeb Burton, seven laps led
8. Austin Cindric, 10 laps led
9. Josh Berry, three laps led
10. Joe Graf Jr., one lap led
11. Ryan Sieg
12. Jade Buford
13. Blaine Perkins, two laps led, Stage 2 winner
14. Josh Williams
15. Joey Gase
16. JJ Yeley
17. Santino Ferrucci
18. Tommy Joe Martins
19. Garrett Smithley
20. Kyle Weatherman
21. Alex Labbe
22. John Hunter Nemechek, eight laps led, Stage 1 winner
23. Matt Mills, one lap down
24. Jeremy Clements, three laps down
25. Harrison Burton -OUT, Accident, two laps led
26. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Accident, three laps led
27. Riley Herbst – OUT, Accident, 26 laps led
28. Jason White – OUT, Accident
29. Jeffrey Earnhardt – OUT, Accident
30. Noah Gragson – OUT, Accident, eight laps led
31. Myatt Snider – OUT, Accident
32. Caesar Bacarella – OUT, Accident
33. Ryan Vargas – OUT, Accident
34. CJ McLaaughlin – OUT, Accident
35. Mason Massey – OUT, Accident, four laps led
36. Bayley Currey – OUT, Drifeshaft, two laps led
37. Landon Cassill – OUT, Engine
38. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident
39. AJ Allmendinger – OUT, Accident, three laps led
40. David Starr – OUT, Engine
Bold indicates Playoff contenders.
- Austin Cindric – Advanced
- Justin Allgaier, +55
- Daniel Hemric, +41
- AJ Allmendinger, +33
- Justin Haley, +24
- Brandon Jones, +21
- Noah Gragson, +18
- Harrison Burton, +8
- Jeb Burton, -8
- Myatt Snider, -24
- Riley Herbst, -32
- Jeremy Clements, -48
The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs will continue next weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course venue, where the Round of 8 field will also be determined. The event is scheduled to occur on Saturday, October 9, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.