South Carolina may be-re-opening, but, unfortunately, so were the skies over Darlington Raceway, as rain drenched the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track and forced postponement of Tuesday’s Toyota 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the first scheduled event since the coronavirus pandemic brought the NASCAR season to a halt in March.
Lucky lottery winner Noah Gragson, who drew the pole position in lieu of qualifying, will have to wait until Thursday to lead the field to the green flag, with the race rescheduled for 12 noon and set to be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The winner of the Xfinity season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Gragson will start beside JR Motorsports teammate Michael Annett, who drew the second position. Series leader Harrison Burton, the 19-year-old who picked up his first career victory at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) before the hiatus in the schedule, will start 12th, to the outside of the driver who trails him by three points in the standings—Las Vegas winner Chase Briscoe.
Despite starting 26th, Kyle Busch is the heavy favorite to win the Toyota 200 and add to his series record total of 96 victories. Busch has opted to run all seven races in the first installment of NASCAR’s revised 2020 schedule: two NASCAR Cup and one Xfinity event at Darlington, followed by two Cup, one Xfinity and one Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The reigning Cup champion, Busch is the only title contender from NASCAR’s premier division who is competing in the Xfinity race at the Track Too Tough to Tame.
After participating in iRacing during the 10-week break, Justin Allgaier is looking forward to the return to competition on real asphalt.
“It’s good to be back,” said Allgaier, who has finished in the top 10 in the series standings for the past 10 years. “Watching the (Cup) race (on Sunday), it was hard not to get your blood pumping and excited.
“As we’ve started to try and prepare, there are a lot of things that go into it. Number one, past races. I’ve done a lot of video review—looking at past races at Darlington. But also, two, some of the things that we’ve worked on this year—trying to figure those out.
“And then the iRacing side of things. We’ve all been on iRacing a lot. It’s a great tool to try and get that muscle memory back, to look at these race tracks and visually see what’s going on and just get an idea what you’re going to be up against when you go back to the race track.”
Unlike Sunday', Allgaier hopes the Xfinity Series drivers can escape the early jitters that led to a first-lap crash in the Cup race.
“There are two things that are really unique to this format and what we’re doing,” Allgaier said. “I know there are a few Xfinity Series guys that have never been to Darlington before and that’s a very unique situation. Darlington is far and above one of the most difficult race tracks you’ll ever race at—period—hands down. The fact that you’re going to make your first laps in competition at a track that’s extremely difficult, as the green flag drops, that’s just crazy to me.
"I think halfway--although our race is going to be shorter--is where everyone will get comfortable, get used to what they're doing. The teams will have time to make an adjustment or two. I think it will be like that the next two weeks. You get to the halfway stage and then you'll go from there and battle it out."
Joe Graf Jr., and Kody Vanderwal will start the race at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.