Throwback Weekend rolls on early Saturday afternoon as the NASCAR Xfinity Series sports their best nods to racing’s past at Darlington Raceway. It will mark the ninth round in the Xfinity Series and the penultimate Dash 4 Cash event where Noah Gragson, Talladega winner Jeb Burton, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric will duke it out for a $100,000 bonus.
“The Lady In Black” provided two of the best races in the 2020 season. When NASCAR got back going after a two-month suspension, Kyle Busch and Chase Briscoe battled hard in the closing laps with Briscoe coming out the victor. In the Fall, Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain nearly totaled their cars in the final 10 laps for victory, which led to Brandon Jones capitalizing off their aggressive racing to steal the win.
Sporting his 2014 Watkins Glen scheme, Allmendinger will lead the field to green Saturday. He is locked into the playoffs after earning a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. This will be Allmendinger’s Xfinity debut at the track that is “Too Tough To Tame”, but he made 11 starts at Darlington in the Cup Series where he had an average finish of 26.1 and a best finish of 15th back in 2014.
Cindric will join Allmendinger on the front row. He leads the Xfinity Series field in wins (2), top fives (6), top 10’s (7), laps led (312) and stage wins (4). All the numbers are lining up for Cindric to be the second-consecutive back-to-back champion in the series, but he will need to carry his blazing start to the season at a track that has produced mixed results for him. Last season, Cindric scored a top five, but finished outside the top 10 in the fall race.
While perfect timing led to the feat, no one can take away Burton’s rain-shortened victory at Talladega. He will start third Saturday in his Xfinity debut at Darlington. Burton currently runs fourth in overall points with four top fives and six top-10 finishes.
His cousin, Harrison, has yet to win in 2021, but currently sits five points ahead of Jeb in the points standings. Harrison hasn’t been in contention to win races this year, but is putting together quality runs to remain high in the standings and in good position for when the playoffs start in September. Burton will start eighth.
Harrison’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate in Daniel Hemric sits second in points and will start seventh Saturday. He’s been putting up similar stat lines to Cindric, but is missing the key wins. At Darlington last season, Hemric finished sixth in the spring race, but DNF’d in the fall race.
The small, independent teams of Jeremy Clements and Brandon Brown continue to shine as both sit inside the top 12 in points. Clements sits eighth with three top-10 finishes and Brown has one top five and four top 10’s.
While Darlington hasn’t been favorable to either driver, their 2021 seasons so far could lead to more surprising results Saturday. Brown will start ninth, while Clements starts 12th.
Stages for the Steakhouse Elite 200 end on lap 45, lap 90 and the finish on lap 147. There will be a competition caution on lap 20. TV coverage will begin at 1:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1. The Motor Racing Network will provide your auditory needs.
Pit stall assignments:
Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/05/04/goodyear-fast-facts-darlington-4/