DARLINGTON, S.C. — On paper, a 20th-place finish might not have looked like anything to write home about Saturday at Darlington Raceway, but for 24-year-old Brandon Brown it was a massive accomplishment at one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR XFINITY Series circuit.
Brown wrestled a Junie Donlavey-inspired, black and teal No. 90 Coastal Carolina Chevrolet to a solid result in the Sport Clips Haircuts-VFW 200, at times looking like a threat for much more after running among the top 15 for much of the afternoon.
Midway through the race, Brown found himself knocking on the door of the front dozen, landing 14th at the end of stage one after a hard battle with XFINITY title contenders Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed and Cole Custer, as well as playoff hopeful Brendan Gaughan.
Though he faded to 17th at the second stage break and ultimately finished 20th, Brown said Saturday’s overall performance was “like a win” to his small, family-run team.
“We were competing against the heavyweights today,” said Brown, whose run Saturday was his second-highest finish of the season. “They’re here week in and week out. They’ve got multiple cars and tons of infrastructure, and we’ve got three or four cars that we cycle in and out every week. We’re doing everything we can to make it to the track as much as we can … so to have a day like this is amazing and really shows what we’re made of as a team.”
Brown has competed part-time on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2014, but Saturday marked just his 11th-career XFINITY start and was his eighth appearance this year.
In another sign of the young Virginian’s progress, the Darlington race was his first lead-lap finish in the XFINITY Series, something Brown was proud of after climbing from his car.
“That’s just another step in the right direction, another goal checked off,” Brown said. “I can’t say how proud I am of this team for doing what they do and what we’ve done today. They put a lot of effort into giving me an animal (of a car) out on track and I think we really showed what we can do as a team this week.”
Saturday was Brown’s first appearance at Darlington, a track that isn’t traditionally kind to rookie drivers.
“Having never been here before, I’m super stoked that we got to play with ‘The Lady In Black’ and came away relatively unscathed,” Brown emphasized. “I got my Darlington stripe, my little initiation there during the race … and honestly I’m super excited about it!” he laughed.
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