The NASCAR Xfinity Series returned to action on Saturday afternoon with the AG-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway. There were several drivers in contention for the win and crucial playoff points, but one benefited from the weather. Driver Jeb Burton led the field as the rain began to fall, making him the winner.
Given that the race was in its third stage, it became official after reaching the halfway point. NASCAR determined that there would not be enough time to dry the track before sunset even if the rain stopped. Officials informed the drivers that the race was over and awarded the win to Burton.
The race did not end with a waving checkered flag, but it represented a special moment for Burton. He competed in 50 Xfinity Series races prior to winning his first, and he became the fourth driver to secure his first career win in 2021. Burton showed the emotion of the moment during an interview with Regan Smith, breaking down in tears multiple times.
The first stage featured several late lead changes
There were several drivers pushing to reach the front of the pack during Stage 1 of Saturday’s race. Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, and multiple others contributed to five lead changes over the first 30 laps. The No. 9 of Gragson reached the front with fewer than five laps remaining, but he could not hold on.
The final lead change of the stage took place with two laps remaining. Gragson saw Cindric in his mirror and moved to block him. However, Haley started a run and drove past the No. 9 to take the lead. He continued to hold the top spot during the final laps, winning the stage. Gragson finished third overall.
While he could not take the first stage, Gragson rebounded in the second. He followed Cindric with one lap remaining before the race became “official,” but he made a move at the right time with some help from teammate Justin Allgaier. Gragson moved past Cindric’s No. 22 Ford and held a narrow lead until the green and white checkered flag waved.
The drivers avoided caution flags early while competing for stage wins
The ARCA Menards Series race on Saturday started cleanly without any cautions, but multiple incidents occurred in the waning laps. The Xfinity Series race followed a similar path. There were no cautions during the first two stages, with the exception of the stage breaks.
The situation changed after Gragson took the green and white checkered flag. JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry spun out after having a rear tire issue, bringing out the first incident-related caution. However, he simply had to go to pit road for some quick repairs before returning to the track.
The “big one” occurred with fewer than 30 laps remaining in the race. Joe Graf Jr. drifted up the track after seemingly have a tire go flat. He appeared to tap the back of Michael Annett’s Chevrolet, sending him into a slide. The chain reaction continued as Annett hit the front of Ty Dillon’s Toyota, sending him into the side of the No. 26. Dillon slid back up the track and slammed into the front of Brandon Jones’s Toyota, sending it violently into the wall.
One of the Dash 4 Cash drivers, Jones saw his car suffer the most damage, to the point that track crews had to tow the No. 19 to the garage. Following the collision, Jones went to the infield medical center for evaluation. The medical personnel examined and released him so he could conduct interviews.
The drivers continued circling Talladega on laps under caution, but they never saw the green flag. The skies opened and rain began pouring onto the track, forcing officials to throw the red flag. The race then came to an end with Burton as the winner.
With the Talladega race complete, the Xfinity Series schedule will continue with a trip to Darlington Raceway. The drivers will compete in the Steakhouse Elite 200 as part of Throwback Weekend. The race will air on Fox Sports 1.