“You‘re a superstar.”
Family members congratulated Brandon Brown on FaceTime as he waited inside the media center at Bristol Motor Speedway. In his second full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series season, the 27-year-old from Woodbridge, Virginia, qualified for the playoffs. Brown clinched the 12th and final spot with his 12th-place finish in Friday‘s regular-season finale.
“They‘re just over the moon,” Brown said on the post-race Zoom. “I‘m ecstatic. It‘s so great to make them happy and bring an opportunity like this to our family team. It‘s a dream come true.”
RELATED: Official results
Brown drives the No. 68 Chevrolet for Brandonbilt Motorsports, whose shop is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Like Brown, Brandonbilt Motorsports is in its second full-time season. Brown drove for the team last year in its No. 86 entry to one top 10, an average finish of 19.7 and a 15th place in the final standings.
This year, in 26 starts, Brown has four top 10s and averages a 16.5 finish. He‘ll already top last season‘s ranking since he‘s in the 12-driver postseason field.
“I mean, realistically, I think we‘re really going to try and fight to get through this first round,” Brown said. “I want to see us get into the second round. I have full faith in all of our guys to be able to make that happen.”
The Round of 12 starts next Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the Alsco 300 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Brown came in 17th and 16th in last year‘s spring and fall events, respectively. Then, the series will take on Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course — two wild cards.
“The plan is now that we‘ve secured a spot in the playoffs, we‘re going try and pick select races for some lease motor programs to really get ourselves competitive, starting with Las Vegas,” Brown said. “I think this just gave a little emphasis to a couple of the partners that are going to come out to help us get a little better equipment. But we‘re definitely going to try and give it our all for this playoff run.”
Brown entered the Bristol event one spot above the cutline, safe by 49 points. He is in that same 12th spot now, just two spots below the eventual 10-driver cutoff in three weeks.
Ross Chastain, the runner-up at Bristol, was the top driver without a win. He took the green flag in the eighth playoff spot with a large 523-point advantage. He remains the eighth seed for the postseason since a repeat winner (Chase Briscoe) took the checkered flag.
“Yeah, we thought we were going to make the playoffs three months ago,” Chastain said. “But I know what Brandon went through, trying to get here, grinding it out and just focusing on not wrecking, not having big points losses to his next guy. Just enjoy this week.”
That’s the plan. It was Brown who originally gave that enjoyment advice anyway.
Perspective is key, too.
“If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season if we are a playoff team, I would have said we‘re going to be one that‘s competitive for it; I wouldn‘t have guaranteed you we‘d be in,” Brown said. “In our five-year plan, we‘ll call it, we‘re definitely ahead of schedule being a playoff-contending team and one I feel can really fight to get to the second round of those playoffs. This was the mark we needed to hit so everything ahead of us is going to be above and beyond, which is really where we like to strive to be.”