Just six months ago, Jordan Anderson left Talladega Superspeedway in a helicopter en route to a local hospital after suffering second-degree burns when his truck caught fire in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
Now, he is a winning owner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
In his first season with the team, Jeb Burton outlasted the field in a chaotic Xfinity race at Talladega (April 22) to earn his second career win. But unlike the first one, he was able to celebrate without any rain.
Sheldon Creed came short of his first win, finishing second. Parker Kligerman, Cole Custer and Brennan Poole rounded out a top five filled with underdogs.
Talladega certainly lived up to its ferocious persona. The race featured two red flags for crashes that both included flips. By the end of the race, the local scrapyard was certainly kept busy with cars that were shells of their former selves.
Concern struck Burton’s No. 27 team when he reported that the car felt down on speed early in the event. Those fears were quickly quelled by the speed Burton found the remainder of the race. He scored 57 points on the day, finishing fourth in stage one and winning stage two. When chaos struck several times towards the end of the race, it was Burton who was able to emerge and survive for the victory.
Kligerman continues to prove why he is a constant threat at superspeedways. A former Talladega winner in Trucks, Kligerman had to come from the rear after suffering a flat tire in qualifying. The No. 48 was a threat all day long, and he left Talladega with a 10-point advantage over the playoff cut line.
How about Poole? This is a guy who lost an Xfinity race at Talladega in 2016 despite crossing the start/finish line first. It was determined Elliott Sadler was leading at the time of caution, giving him the win. It has been a roller coaster since then for Poole, but his fifth-place result gives JD Motorsports its first top five since 2019. Poole earned his first series top five since Charlotte in 2017.
In his 28th career series start, Caesar Bacarella finally earned his first top 10. The Alpha Prime Racing co-owner made just his second start of the season with APR, driving from 14th to sixth on the final lap by avoiding a multi-car crash at the finish.
Parker Retzlaff had to overcome not one but two incidents to earn a strong seventh-place finish. Retzlaff was involved in the first crash when contact between Derek Kraus and Parker Chase sent one Parker into the other, collecting Anthony Alfredo in the process. Retzlaff recovered to run back inside the top 10 only to be collected in the Big One that saw Daniel Hemric end on his lid. Despite this, Retzlaff survived just enough to skirt through for his third-career top 10.
Gray Gaulding sliced and diced his way through wrecks all day long only to end the race in style. Gaulding’s No. 08 spun across the start/finish line to end the race, but he still finished eighth in the process. It was his first top 10 since 2020.
There was a constant theme of drivers snapping streaks of finishes outside the top 10. Emerling-Gase Motorsports co-owner Joey Gase went from flames to a top 10 with a ninth-place run, his first series top 10 since 2017. Following the Big One on lap 111, Gase’s No. 35 caught on fire on pit road, unleashing a heap of smoke. It was so bad, Gase had to climb out of his car due to inhaling the smoke. Fortunately, NASCAR allowed him to continue to race, and Gase made the most of it, giving EGM their first top 10.
There was no parking at the start/finish line for Josh Williams this time. Instead, he also crossed it in style, spinning across the line to round out the top 10. It was his first top 10 since Mid-Ohio in 2021. Williams had several close calls throughout the race, including running over a piece of debris following the lap 111 crash. Still, he was able to endure for his first top 10 of the season.
If you look throughout the top 15, the trend of impressive underdog finishes continues. Ryan Ellis capped off a solid day for Alpha Prime Racing in 11th, while Brett Moffitt overcame a spin to finish 12th. CJ McLaughlin earned his best finish since Texas a year ago with a 13th-place run. And Kyle Sieg matched his season-best finish in 15th.
You can dominate several races at superspeedways, but the unpredictability of Talladega will bite you at some point. Such was the case for Austin Hill, who entered the race as the favorite after winning three of the last five superspeedway-style races. Hill led 14 laps on the day but had to constantly overcome adversity, such as a speeding penalty and being mired in traffic at times. It caught up to him on lap 111 when he was involved in the 12-car pileup, ultimately ending any chance he had and leaving him in 18th.
Once again, heartbreak struck Hemric. The Kaulig Racing driver showed speed all race, leading 15 laps, including with just three laps to go. However, he got too far out in front of the field, allowing Creed to close in. Hemric had to throw a block, but it was too late for Creed to react, sending Hemric spinning, into the wall, and eventually on his roof. Fortunately, he was okay. Hemric was scored in 21st.
For the third race in a row, trouble struck Riley Herbst. Herbst got tagged and sent into the wall on lap 75, but recovered to put himself back in contention. But like many others, he was a victim of the lap 111 crash, leaving him in 23rd, his third consecutive finish of 23rd or worse.
Mark JR Motorsports down in this category. Despite his own damage, Brandon Jones was the only one to finish the race. On lap 101, Sam Mayer got turned by teammate Josh Berry into his other teammate, Justin Allgaier. All three drivers piled into the crash, leaving them in 28th, 29th and 30th, respectively. It was Mayer’s second consecutive DNF and third finish outside the top 15.
The day wasn’t much better for Joe Gibbs Racing. On lap 64, Sammy Smith received contact from Jones, sending his No. 18 nose-first into the inside wall. Smith DNF’d in 33rd, his worst finish of the season. Seventeen laps later, last week’s winner John Hunter Nemechek got loose while moving to the high line. Nemechek went for a spin and smacked the inside the wall, breaking the track bar. The 25-year-old finished in 32nd and suffered his first DNF of the season.
Scheme of the Week
Fuel for Thought
It can’t be stressed enough how important the safety advancements NASCAR has made are. They deserve a load of credit for those efforts, especially after seeing many of the crashes today.
Litter control had to work overtime during this race, as several cars splintered to shreds following wild wrecks. But as much carnage and debris as these wrecks caused, the destruction was actually beneficial.
Rather than taking hits that don’t hurt the car but put the driver at risk like what we saw from the Cup Next Gen car at times, each piece flying off was energy dissipating during the crash. Such energy loss was crucial to help drivers like Blaine Perkins and Hemric during their heart-stopping incidents.
Where to Next?
From one monster of a track to the monster itself, the series meets Miles the Monster next weekend at Dover Motor Speedway. Defending winner Berry will look to do it again in the A-Game 200 on April 29 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
About the author
Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over "The Underdog House" column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-karts, and helping at his high school alma mater.
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If you enjoy super speedway racing, it tells me one thing. You’ve probably never owned a racecar. Never had to open your checkbook to fund repairs, & never had to work your day job, then work in your shop till the wee hours to get the car ready for the next week.
Not saying that’s a bad thing, but having done it, gives me a different perspective.
I just hate to see a race turn into a destruction derby, & with Atlanta, & Dega, the Xfinity series has now had 2 of them.
A lot of these cars are underfunded, & under sponsored, & I hate it for the owners, who have to take the financial, & points hits, & the drivers who take the hits literally.
The TV partners, & NASCAR love them because they give then plenty of “action” for the highlight reels, but they still seem to be reluctant to pony up a fair share of the TV $$ to the owners. Hopefully they’ll reach a settlement everyone can live with.
That’s one very good reason to hate pack racing. I can think of a few more:
1) A driver yesterday being taken to the hospital after his car landed on its roof. A car flying into the catchfence and injuring spectators some years ago. And one of the sport’s most beloved stars’ life ending because of the insanity of cars racing inches apart at the same dangerous speed.
2) The winner of the race, and all of the finishing positions for that matter, being determined entirely by attrition and luck. There is no skill involved in pack racing; you only need a competent spotter and hopefully a car that does well in the draft. That Michael Waltrip had four wins in 700+ starts and every one of his wins came at Daytona and Talladega tells you all you need to know about the driver skill required in plate racing.
3) NASCAR and TV love the highlight reels and it shows how willing they are to appeal to the lowest common denominator in people. I notice they never show the fatal Earnhardt wreck though, I guess it wasn’t violent enough.
As my non-racing fan wife said when I tried to explain plate racing to her, “How can they race if they’re all going the same speed?” I would love for someone at NASCAR to answer that question.
While I agree with you and Kurt, what’s NASCAR to do? You really don’t want the speeds that would come from losing the r/p’s. NASCAR certainly isn’t gonna shutter either of those racetracks. The only other option I can think of is track reconfigurations, and that’s a hard sell. So as long as no one else is killed, it’s status quo.
I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness for a long time. And I know that nothing’s going to change. But what I’d like to see is for both Daytona, & Talladega, to cut the banking down enough that no restrictor is needed & put the race back in the drivers hands.
If they can raise the banking at Atlanta in the off season, they can lower it at Daytona and Talladega. They’ve just shown it can be done in the opposite direction.
Have to say that Burton drove one hell of a race yesterday. Showed a mastery of being able to drive through the field. Got shuffled back a few times but came back through to the front in an orderly controlled fashion. Didn’t get the airtime he should have for his performance. He and 21 at end could have been interesting.
The restriction plate: NASCAR’s temporary solution since 1988.