Series of Talladega wrecks divides Xfinity playoff field come checkered flag

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Series of Talladega wrecks divides Xfinity playoff field come checkered flag
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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs field wound up split at Talladega Superspeedway.

Half of the Round of 12 finished within the top 10 when the race was called early with six laps remaining in the 113-lap event due to darkness. The other half was recorded a lap down, and then five of those six wrecked out and didn‘t even see the end of the Sparks 300.

That shook up the postseason picture, as the series prepares for its elimination race next Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“If you‘re below — and how much below — it changes a lot,” said Harrison Burton, whose day ended prematurely on Lap 103. “If you‘re above, it‘s always nerve-wracking because you just have to beat a certain guy and keep him behind you.

“I don‘t know. There are some other guys that had some tough days today, too, that are in the playoffs. I just don‘t know where we shake out really.”

RELATED: Xfinity Series playoff standings

Burton is now ranked eighth, safe from elimination by eight points. Cousin Jeb Burton, who finished seventh, is on the flip side, eight points out. Myatt Snider is 10th (minus-24) after a 31st-place result. Riley Herbst‘s 27th-place run left him 11th (minus-32). Jeremy Clements was the second driver not on the lead lap but still running at the end, and he remains last (minus-48).

From the top down in the standings: Austin Cindric (finished eighth; plus-77), Justin Allgaier (third; plus-55), Daniel Hemric (fourth; plus-41), AJ Allmendinger (39th; plus-33), Justin Haley (sixth; plus-24), Brandon Jones (second; plus-21) and Noah Gragson (30th; plus-18).

“We‘re fine,” Gragson said. “We just can‘t wreck at the Roval, and we‘ll be all good. I feel confident we can run in the top five. It‘s obviously a tricky track, so just racing the race track and not getting ahead of our skis.”

Allmendinger is the defending race winner, having won the past two Roval races. He is the only active NASCAR Xfinity Series driver with a win on the 2.32-mile road course. Chase Briscoe, who‘s now full time in the NASCAR Cup Series, won the inaugural event in 2018.

The only 2021 title contender locked into the Round of 8 is Cindric. He clinched his spot on points before action was stopped.

RELATED: ‘Dinger out early after Stage 1 crash | Round of 12 finale at Roval

“Mission accomplished,” Cindric said. “There‘s really only one race that I need to win this year and feel like I should try to win — I got to get there first — and that‘s in Phoenix. Otherwise, if we point our way in or win out way in, that‘s what we want to do.”

Cindric has two third-place finishes and sixth-place results in his three Roval starts. His 4.0 average finish is third-best in the series. Allmendinger is first with a 1.0 mark, and Gragson‘s 3.5 falls second.

The Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is set for Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. ET (NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Four drivers will be eliminated.

“I obviously have to get better,” Harrison Burton said. “Cindric and AJ, those guys are kind of beating everyone‘s butt right now. But I feel confident with my team‘s work ethic and my work ethic, I think we can do it. I really don‘t know what we have to do, but whatever it is, we‘ll figure it out and go do it.”