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DAVIDSON: Jeb Burton lucks out to win rain-shortened Talladega Xfinity Race

Talladega, AL , Apr 24/21 (by John Davidson): Mother Nature toyed with the track all day, starting with heavy rains that threatened to delay the start of the ARCA preliminary race, but the sun came out, drying the vast 2.66-mile superspeedway and allowing both the ARCA race won by Corey Heim to start and finish on time and the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 to start as scheduled. Then, after completing the first two Stages without a caution, during a yellow for a seven-car incident on the back straight which came near the mid-point of the final Stage, a heavy rain shower gave a very emotional Jeb Burton his first career series win.

At the start of the race, Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric led the Xfinity race to the green flag, with the field holding its two-wide formation until Hemric dropped down in front of Cindric after two laps with Cindric pulling in behind him. The inside line, headed by Alex Haley, slowly lost cars as they moved to the outside pack, and dropped back gradually.

Then, a few more cars dropped to the inside queue, headed by Noah Gragson, and gave Gragson the lead for a lap.

With six laps left in the first Stage, Cindric dove low and took the lead from Hemric, with the inside line of Chevys moving ahead, giving the lead to Gragson as an inside line started forming up, taking any advantage away from the outside line with Haley winning the first Stage for his fifth career Stage capture. Haley went on to take the second Stage with Noah Gragson heading the field to start the final Stage with Snider then taking the lead briefly until Cindric swept around into the first position.

A round of green-flag pit stops started just before the mid-point of the final Stage with a total of 70 laps on the board; most callers taking only fuel. Talladega is not a track where fresh tires make a significant difference. Jeffrey Earnhardt spun on the apron entering the pits but recovered and no caution resulted. Josh Berry had a tire shed the tread, spinning in the fourth turn and causing the first incident yellow flag on lap 75 of the 113 scheduled laps.

After the restart, Jeb Burton took the lead with Cindric moving up through the field into second before a multi-car crash on the back straight with 29 laps to go began with Joe Graf's car losing a tire and moving up into the outer lane, starting the melee.

But, before the race could restart, a small rain squall which turned into hard rain brought the field down pit road to stop under a red flag. Jeb Burton sitting in his car in the front position; teammate AJ Allmendinger was the first to notify Burton that the race was over and that he had been declared the winner.

Noah Gragson won the Dash for Cash bonus of $100,000 in finishing sixth, the best finishing candidate for the bonus. "$100,000 is nice, but I race for wins," Gragson said in a pit road interview.

"I'm trying not to cry," said the visibly emotional Burton in Victory Lane. "These guys, they deserved to win," he added about the Kaulig Racing crew. "To get out at this track in Victory Lane is awesome," he added. "It's unbelievable."

Second-place finisher Austin Cindric commented that he was surprised at the rapid decision to call the race: "I do feel like it was called fairly quick, but it is a pretty big racetrack and obviously they have a schedule to keep and no lights, so it's up to NASCAR. I don't even know what time of day it is, but we knew the rain was coming. We knew it was gonna be a challenge throughout the whole day. I'm glad we didn't have to stay a couple extra days and I just wish we maybe would have had a few more laps there."

• Click HERE for the Race Results


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