Burton storms to an upset win at Homestead

In a thrilling two-lap shootout, Harrison Burton overtook Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric with a three-wide pass to win the Hooters 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was his second NASCAR Xfinity Series win of his career and the second this season. With his second win coming in his 18th series start, Burton became the third Xfinity competitor to notch multiple victories this season as Joe Gibbs Racing claimed its fourth series win of the 2020 season. In addition, Burton became the 20th different driver to win an Xfinity event at Homestead in Miami, a list that includes his father, Jeff.

The starting lineup was based on a random draw. Burton drew the pole position for the second time in the last three Xfinity races and was joined on the front row by Gragson.

During the pace laps, a piece of ballast fell off of Chase Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang and NASCAR called Briscoe to pit road, where his crew went to work to complete the repairs needed for the fallen part along with changing a right-rear tire. Briscoe was unable to return to the track in time to take the green flag with the field. By the time he returned to the track, he was in 36th, six laps behind the leaders. To make matters worse, he was also assessed a pass-through penalty for having too many crew members over the pit wall.

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When the green flag dropped, Gragson, who started on the inside lane, jumped to the lead followed by Ross Chastain as Burton was shuffled back to third. For the opening 10 laps, Gragson maintained a half-second advantage over Chastain, but on Lap 14, Chastain was able to cut the deficit to nearly a tenth of a second. Though he was able to draw himself to the rear bumper of Gragson through the corners, he was unable to navigate his way around for the lead entering the straightaways.

The competition caution flew on Lap 20 as Gragson maintained the lead by nearly two seconds over Chastain. At the time of caution, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley, who started ninth and 10th, were in third and fourth while Burton was back to fifth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in seventh after starting 12th, Jeremy Clements was in 10th after starting 23rd and Anthony Alfredo was in 13th after starting 21st. Under caution, the majority of the front runners remained on track while Ryan Sieg led a bevy of competitors to pit road for early adjustments. Following the pit stops, Timmy Hill was assessed a pit road penalty for an uncontrolled tire violation.

When the race returned to green on Lap 25, Chastain received a bump from Cindric on the bottom lane to take the lead past the start/finish line while Cindric and Gragson battled for the runner-up position. Four laps later, Sieg, who restarted 20th on fresh tires, rocketed his way to the lead and was able to cruise away from Chastain, Cindric and Gragson. Two laps after taking the lead, Sieg was ahead by more than two seconds over Chastain. During this time, Quebec’s Alex Labbe, who pitted with Sieg under the competition caution, worked his way up to fifth and was battling Cindric for more spots while Earnhardt Jr. was in sixth. As the run to the first stage’s conclusion progressed, Kyle Weatherman and Colin Garrett, both of whom also pitted with Sieg under the competition caution, were in eighth and 10th.

The second caution of the race flew on Lap 38 when smoke billowed out of the No. 52 Chevrolet of Kody Vanderwal entering Turn 1. The caution led to the conclusion of the first stage on Lap 40, where Sieg won the stage. Chastain, Gragson, Cindric and Labbe finished in the top five followed by Weatherman, Earnhardt Jr., Haley, Jones and Joe Graf Jr.

Under the stage break, nearly the entire field pitted and Gragson exited pit road first followed by Chastain, Cindric, Earnhardt Jr. and Haley while Sieg dropped to sixth. Following the stops, Hill was penalized for another uncontrolled tire violation. During the caution, Briscoe took the wave around and gained some of his fallen laps back, leaving him three laps behind the leaders.  

At the start of the second stage on Lap 45, Gragson and Chastain battled against one another through Turn 2 before Chastain slid in front of Gragson to take the lead in Turn 3. A lap later, Cindric took the lead entering Turn 1 while Chastain was locked in a heated battle with Gragson for the runner-up spot. Behind the top three, Earnhardt Jr. and Sieg battled for fourth.

The third caution flew on Lap 57 when Vinnie Miller turned right across the front nose of Brett Moffitt, sending both cars to slap the outside wall in Turn 3. At the time of caution, Cindric was ahead by less than two seconds over Earnhardt Jr., who had passed teammate Gragson and Chastain for position. Under caution, nearly the entire field remained on track, but Justin Allgaier, who was running 10th, was one of four competitors who elected to pit.

On a Lap 62 restart, Chastain muscled his way from the inside lane to reassume the lead, but Cindric pulled a crossover move to remain dead even with Chastain. Behind, Gragson battled Earnhardt Jr. for third. Three laps later, a three-car battle for the lead brewed as Chastain, Cindric and Earnhardt Jr. were separated by less than three-tenths of a second. Two laps later, the three-car battle for the lead became a four-car battle as Gragson caught the front runners and moved into second before settling behind Chastain. On Lap 72, Gragson returned to the lead as he was able to stabilize his advantage above half a second while Earnhardt Jr. was locked in a heated battled with Chastain and Cindric for second. Behind the top four, Jones and Haley started to close within the leaders. 

For the final three laps of the second stage, Chastain, Earnhardt Jr. and Cindric used every lane and every groove of the track from the corners and the straightaways to battle one another for second. Their intense battle was all Gragson needed as the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet drove away to win the second stage on Lap 80. Cindric held off Chastain and Earnhardt Jr. to finish second while Jones and Haley finished fifth and sixth. Burton, Alfredo, Sieg and Allgaier finished in the top 10. 

Under the stage break, the field pitted and Earnhardt Jr. exited first followed by Chastain and Cindric while Gragson, who had issues exiting his pit stall, fell back to fourth. Following the stops, Riley Herbst was sent to the rear of the field due to his crew members jumping over the pit wall too early along with Sieg, who was speeding on pit road. During this time, Briscoe was able to gain another lap from the leaders, which left him one lap behind for the final stage. 

When the final stage started with 80 laps remaining, Chastain jumped to the lead on the inside lane and Earnhardt Jr. was quickly overtaken by Jones and Cindric in Turn 1. By Turn 2, he settled in fourth while engaged in a battle with Burton for position. Gragson, who spun his tires at the restart and was nearly turned, was in sixth.

With 73 laps remaining, as the laps continued to dwindle, an intense battle for the lead started brewing once again between Chastain and Cindric. Cindric made a move to lead a lap, but was overtaken by Chastain. Four laps later, Earnhardt Jr. threw himself back into the picture and made it a three-car battle between the trio again. 

With 67 to go, Cindric reassumed the lead and was followed by Earnhardt Jr. while Chastain fell to third. Six laps later, Gragson made his way back to second. With 59 to go, Gragson stormed back into the lead followed by Cindric and Earnhardt Jr. while Chastain slipped to fifth behind Burton and in front of Jones. Nine laps later, Gragson extended his advantage to above three seconds over Cindric and nearly six seconds over Earnhardt Jr.

While the battle for the lead settled into a stable lead for Gragson, his teammate, Allgaier, who pitted earlier after making contact with the wall, took his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to the garage due to mechanical issues with 48 to go. Two laps later, green-flag pit stops commenced with the leaders making their final planned stop of the day. During the stops, teammates Chastain and Haley served pass-through penalties on pit road due to uncontrolled tire violations, which cost both Kaulig Racing teammates one lap. When the field cycled through the green-flag stops, Sieg was the leader. Because Sieg was initially a lap behind prior to the green-flag pit stops, he needed to pit soon, but he was wanting a caution to cycle back on the lead lap with the field. Gragson was in second followed by Briscoe, who was also on the same strategy play as Sieg. Cindric and Earnhardt Jr. followed in pursuit.

By the time the race was 31 laps away from the finish, Gragson made his way back to the lead after passing Sieg, who would surrender his track position to pit three laps later. Sieg’s moved allowed Earnhardt Jr. to move into second as he was behind Gragson by more than two seconds. Briscoe was still running in sixth. 

With 20 to go, Gragson extended his advantage to five seconds over Earnhardt Jr, 10 seconds over Cindric and 11 seconds over Burton. Three laps later, Briscoe surrendered his track position to pit.

With 10 to go, Gragson, who was rim-riding toward the outside wall despite sustaining minimal damage to the right side of his car after making contact with the wall, was ahead by 11 seconds over Earnhardt Jr. Cindric has fallen to fifth and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Burton and Jones move into third and fourth. Three laps later, Gragson’s lead of nearly 13 seconds all but evaporated along with a 75-lap run under green when Sieg spun in Turn 1.

Under caution, the leaders pitted and Gragson retained the lead while Burton moved into second over Earnhardt Jr. Jones exited fourth, but was tabbed with a speeding penalty and sent to the rear of the field.

The green flag returned with two laps remaining and while Gragson received a decent restart to maintain the lead, Burton and Cindric went three-wide with Gragson for the lead in Turn 2. In Turn 3, Cindric slipped beneath Gragson while trying to clear him for the lead, which allowed Burton to race back to the bottom as he, Cindric and Gragson went three wide in Turn 4 for the start of the final lap. Burton then managed to clear Cindric for the lead on the bottom lane through Turns 1 and 2 and hold off Cindric through two final corners to win. 

With the win, the 19-year-old rookie from Huntersville, North Carolina, remains the only Xfinity competitor to finish in the top 10 through the series’ first nine races of the 2020 season. He has also finished in the top 10 in his last 11 starts in the series.

“I’m so excited!” Burton exclaimed. “That’s so awesome! I gave away the lead on the first restart in the same position. I didn’t really want to do that again. I knew [Gragson] was gonna drive it real deep and slide up. [I] felt good about that. I’m proud of my guys. We worked on this thing so hard…every run and made it better and better. What a day to get this Dex Imaging Supra in victory lane. What a race. This track is so much fun. [It] Really puts it in the driver’s hands, especially in the end there. I’m just ready to go again tomorrow. I want to get two [wins].”

Cindric finished second for the second time this season followed by Gragson, who led a race-high 83 of the event’s 167-scheduled laps and fell short of another win this season. 

“[Today] was tough,” Gragson said. “The PUBG Mobile Camaro was really, really good. Our No. 9 guys at JR Motorsports had really good pit stops all day. Restarts were just the biggest struggle. I was really proud of my restarts last year and just couldn’t get’em going. I thought we were be able to come home with the win today, running the top [lane]. That was so much fun. Just, overall, so thankful to be running here in the Xfinity Series.”

Alfredo notched a career-best finish in fourth and Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth in his lone Xfinity Series start of this season. Annett, Briscoe, Jones, Chastain and Herbst finished in the top 10 as 14 competitors finished on the lead lap.

There were 18 lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 25 laps.

With his third-place result, Gragson leads the Xfinity Series regular-season standings by 18 points over Briscoe and 36 over Burton.

Results.

1. Harrison Burton, two laps led

2. Austin Cindric, 24 laps led

3. Noah Gragson, 83 laps led, Stage 2 winner

4. Anthony Alfredo

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., four laps led

6. Michael Annett

7. Chase Briscoe

8. Brandon Jones, one lap led

9. Ross Chastain, 26 laps led

10. Riley Herbst

11. J.J. Yeley

12. Jeremy Clements

13. Justin Haley

14. Brandon Brown

15. Myatt Snider, one lap down

16. Joe Graf Jr., one lap down

17. Colby Howard, one lap down

18. Jesse Little, one lap down

19. Jeffrey Earnhardt, one lap down

20. Josh Williams, one lap down

21. Colin Garrett, one lap down

22. Stefan Parsons, two laps down

23. Timmy Hill, two laps down

24. Bayley Currey, two laps down

25. Alex Labbe, two laps down

26. B.J. McLeod, two laps down

27. Matt Mills, two laps down

28. Ryan Sieg, two laps down, 27 laps led, Stage 1 winner

29. Caesar Bacarella, four laps down

30. Chad Finchum – OUT, Power steering

31. Tommy Joe Martins, 19 laps down

32. Justin Allgaier, 21 laps down

33. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Transmission

34. Vinnie Miller – OUT, DVP

35. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Crash

36. Stephen Leicht – OUT, Handling

37. Kody Vanderwal – OUT, Engine

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will return for its second race of a doubleheader weekend at Homestead the following day, June 14. The race will air at noon ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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