By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – There must be something in the water this weekend at Talladega.
Hours after Tate Fogleman scored his first career win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Brandon Brown became the second first-time winner of the day when his No. 68 Chevrolet was out front as darkness descended on the 2.66-mile superspeedway and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race was called six laps from the scheduled finish due to visibility issues.
“Oh my God, this is a dream come true,” the journeyman racer exclaimed after emerging from his car following a celebratory burnout. “Wow, Talladega?! Oh my God, Dad. We did it! Let’s go!
“This is everything we’ve hoped and dreamed for. Everything I’ve ever wanted to do is take the trophy home to Mom and Dad…Thank you to all of our partners. It’s just such an unbelievable moment.”
Brown had managed to avoid the multi-car crashes and attrition that took several other drivers out of the race, finding his way to the front in the closing laps with help from fellow underdog driver Jordan Anderson.
As the field ran three-wide, with Brown and Anderson on the bottom, Justin Allgaier in the middle, and Brandon Jones on the outside, Harrison Burton got turned in front of the field, collecting numerous cars in the process.
Brown was out front at the moment of caution and was able to hold on as the sun faded and darkness encroached upon the track, allowing him to be in the right place at the right time to be declared the winner.
“We saw our moment and we seized it,” Brown said of the move to the front that in turn scored him the win. “I’m just so proud of Brandonbilt Motorsports. I’m so proud of everybody on our team, here and at home. Everybody that has worked on our team since the beginning. We did it. We did it. We did it.”
While Brown was ecstatic with the call to end the race early, the second and third-place finishers on the day, Jones and Allgaier, noted that they were happy to see Brown win, but would have liked the chance to race it out to the finish.
“[If] you look at the whole day and all the scenarios that happened and this is probably the best option without us winning is to have the 68 (Brandon Brown) win,” said Jones. “I think it doesn’t impact the points too bad there. I don’t know how we missed the big one early on there in the day. I was pretty much committed to the point that I knew I was going to hit it and somehow we made it through. A lot of positives and we’re close, we’re close. It’s tough to swallow.”
“It’s disappointing to get that close and then not even be able to race for it right there, but congrats to Brandon,” Allgaier added. “Those guys work really, really hard and it’s cool to see a first-time winner. Obviously, they did what they needed to do there at the end. I had to go across the apron in that one big wreck and tore up the splitter a little bit. I think that was the big difference for us at the end. We just didn’t have the speed we wanted.”
Following the trio of Brown, Jones, and Allgaier to the finish was Daniel Hemric, Anderson, Justin Haley, Jeb Burton, Austin Cindric, Josh Berry, and Joe Graf Jr.
The race was slowed by multi-car crashes three times during the 107-lap race, starting with a hard crash involving AJ Allmendinger and Sam Mayer at the end of Stage 1, which necessitated a red flag lasting five minutes, 38 seconds to repair the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3.
Lap 90 saw another hard hit when Brett Moffitt was turned off the front bumper of Jeb Burton’s car, causing him to spin into the right-rear quarter panel of Noah Gragson’s car in the low line of the track, which in turn spun him head-on into the outside wall, collecting seven cars by the time the wreck was done.
The final multi-car crash, which pushed the race into darkness, broke out on lap 103, involving another seven cars in Turn 4.
The Xfinity Series now heads to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval next weekend, where the series’ first elimination race will take place. Though no Playoff drivers have won a race, Austin Cindric has locked himself in on points and will be safe on the treacherous road course.
“As far as I understand we’ve advanced onto the next round, so it’s kind of job accomplished for the day,” Cindric said. “I felt like there were an equal amount of good moves and moves I shouldn’t have made today. I was just trying to be aggressive and gain track position. The track raced a little different today than it usually does, but Riley (Herbst) and I were able to work well through a lot of the day. A lot of that work together is paying off, so, overall a solid day.
“I think it’s probably one of the fastest speedway cars I’ve had to be honest, so thanks to Roush Yates and obviously the Penske guys. This car has won Daytona, was second here in the spring race and advanced us into the next round of the playoffs, so it’s a pretty good car.”
After his third-place finish Saturday, Allgaier is also in a fairly safe position for Charlotte, leaving with a 55-point advantage over the cut-off line.
“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 Roval next week and have some fun,” Allgaier said.