By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Halloween madness beckoned the penultimate Xfinity Series race at Martinsville Speedway with three Championship 4 spots on the line.
When the dust and even mud settled, the main story was non-playoff driver Harrison Burton scoring the victory in Saturday’s Draft Top 250, keeping his hot streak going at a track that’s meant so much to him.
That’s because Martinsville is the site of his father Jeff Burton’s maiden NXS win 30 years ago where he became the youngest winner at the track until his son broke it today at 22 years and 22 days.
.@HBurtonRacing breaks his dad's record!
Harrison Burton becomes the youngest @XfinityRacing driver to win at @MartinsvilleSwy! pic.twitter.com/gqXzVKP1cO
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 31, 2020
“It was a really fun race. Martinsville is one of those places that’s really cool to win at. For me in particular because my family is from here,” said Burton. “It’s amazing to win here at what is one of my home tracks I would say and do what my dad did. I think it was his first Xfinity win was here.”
Aside from Burton’s monumental win, your typical Martinsville moments was relatively light where things didn’t spice up until the final stage where all of my main takeaways come from.
As for the playoffs, it’ll come down to Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Justin Allagier and Justin Haley next Saturday at Phoenix Raceway (5:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
The four who’ll miss out at championship glory are Noah Gragson, Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones and Ryan Sieg.
Let’s dive into the those moments that unfolded in the final stage.
Dinger Got Ding’d
It was a solid race for several part-time drivers, who are either looking to continue their solid NXS seasons or simply needing a superb result to have a future in the sport.
The main subject of interest is A.J. Allmendinger, who further proved that no matter the type of race track, he’s going to be a legit contender for the win. That all changed before the race came down to the final 50 laps as a result of a simple battle for the lead with Harrison Burton going haywire.
They made contact in Turn 4 which caused Allmendinger’s left rear tire to go down and make a costly unscheduled pit stop. Consequently, that particular moment dashed his hopes of a third Xfinity Series win of 2020 as he lost two laps and wound up 26th.
That’s a shame because those two were set to put on a show and steal the thunder from the eight playoff contenders. Nobody at fault honestly, it’s just a racing battle that didn’t pan out to good for the Atlanta and ROVAL winner.
Burton’s Double Victory
It wasn’t as chaotic like last Saturday’s win, but it was even sweeter for Burton because he went back-to-back on what’s been quite the roller coaster rookie campaign.
Due to television time constraints, the post-race interview was done by none other than Harrison’s father, Jeff Burton. Which in my eye is such an incredible father-son moment because Martinsville means so much to the entire family as I’ve said earlier in this column.
Funny how over the radio, Harrison was told to wait on the frontstretch for a NBCSN post-race interview, he replied that he’s already done it. I don’t blame him, one TV interview is enough.
"What's up dad? That was pretty awesome."
Another cool father-son moment between @HBurtonRacing and @JeffBurton, as Harrison breaks his dad's record as the youngest @XfinityRacing winner at @MartinsvilleSwy. pic.twitter.com/NtARb7RsPU
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 31, 2020
Had it not been for the skid he’s had for the past two or so months, I’d say Burton is the guy who can dethrone Briscoe and Cindric for the championship. A title isn’t meant to be this year, but if he can carry that momentum going into next season, there’s no doubt he’ll be a heavy favorite for the title.
For now, a cowboy hat and a grandfather clock the past two Saturdays aren’t terrible consolation prizes.
Who Can Dethrone Ford?
The million dollar question going into the finale is certainly who’ll stop Ford’s dynamic duo of Briscoe and Cindric?
No question in my eye it’ll come down between those two at the end of the day, but the two Justin’s (Allgaier and Haley) could and certainly hope to spoil the “Blue Oval” parade.
Between the two, I’ll have to go for Allgaier who is the greatest threat to stop the Ford camp because he’s been such strong at Phoenix and if he can pull off another November victory, that elusive championship is his.
See you in @phoenixraceway for the championship! Way to go @J_Allgaier and the No. 7 team. pic.twitter.com/hZKtlgMGku
— JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) October 31, 2020
As a matter of fact, Allgaier is the only one I genuinely see winning the title if it’s not Briscoe or Cindric, but as he said in the post-race video conference, he must put himself in contention. Otherwise, he’ll be the series bridesmaid once more which will sting for the entire No. 7 JR Motorsports squad.
For now, he’s just thrilled to get a respectable runner-up finish to give him a shot at another title.
It was a calm Martinsville race, which Allgaier said it best during the post-race call. At least it wasn’t such a crap shoot like last night’s Truck Series race where one issue led to four more in a matter of seconds.
One thing was certain, the day belonged to the non-playoff guys which is a good site because next Saturday, it’s all about the Championship 4 contenders.
As great as this season has been, it’s such weird thinking that we’re now in the finale. Between the three national touring series, Xfinity has been the A-show and there’s nothing that’ll change my mind.
Let’s hope the title chase is another barn burner where the champion rightfully earned it.
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