DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Coming to the end of Friday’s turned Saturday morning’s Wawa 250 at the Daytona International Speedway, heavy hitter after heavy hitter was taken out via on track incidents. 32 of 38 NASCAR Xfinity Series cars that had taken the green flag at 10:51 p.m. ET had collected some sort of crash damage by time they finished the messy race in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
20 of those 38 cars even saw the checkered flag that was displayed next to the yellow flag at 1:29 a.m. ET. Most of the big names came through the infield care center on their ways out of the World Center of Racing instead of climbing through their window nets.
That allowed some of the smaller teams of the sport to thrive. Just scan through the top 6 of the finishing order – Jeremy Clements Racing, MBM Motorsports, Brandonbuilt Motorsports, Alpine Prime Racing and JD Motorsports were each found.
However, for 2 of the teams, their feelings were on the opposite end of the spectrum when the dust settled.
Jeremy Clements needed a win to make the playoffs. He entered this weekend’s race 17th in points. Brandon Brown however needed a win to ensure his future was intact.
The two drivers driving for family owned teams experienced varying emotions at the end of it. Both were crying however 1 of them was for tears of joy and the other of stress and anxiety of what his future might hold.
On the final restart, AJ Allmendinger ran out of fuel. He had to pit and would come back out on track outside the top 10. That allowed Clements to move up to the front row for the restart. Brown would line up in outside in Row 5. Brown was held up by Austin Hill who’s car wouldn’t go. He had electrical problems. Clements got a mega push from Sage Karam and off they went. The problem being, their lead was too big. Brown had drafting help from Allmendinger and they were closing the gap quickly.
It was now a five horse race for the lead with these four and Timmy Hill. Allmendinger went low to make a move on Karam and Brown. Clements moved to block the runs. They crossed the finish line for the white flag. A crash would ensue behind.
Clements was declared the winner. Brown was 4th at the time the race was called.
“What the hell happened? We won?” Clements asked. “What the hell?”
Won he did. The race was his. 5 years to the date of his first and only other Xfinity Series win, Brown on Aug. 27 was doing donuts on the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval after win No. 2.
“I’m speechless, man,” Clements said. “I don’t even know what to say. That’s incredible, man. I just can’t. I’m sorry. I’m a little speechless.
“We survived that big wreck back there – it was like a ‘Days of Thunder’ wreck and I thought if we can just keep up with these guys, it’ll be a good day. A top-five and car in one piece – that’s a good day.
“Wow – this is incredible. Thank you to everyone for sticking around. I know it’s late as hell. It’s time to drink a beer!”
A playoff berth was now his which is massive for a team of Clements’.
“We have nothing to lose, man,” he said. “We’re going to give these big teams all they can stand.”
He got his beer – an ice cold can of Busch Light. The 37-year old sipped that blue can while sitting on the media center podium addressing the media.
“Frickin’ phenomenal,” he said when he had some time to settle down a digest what just happened in the media center about an hour after the checkered flag few. “Maybe I can give you some better words another day after I think about it and really realize it. It’s just incredible and thrilled beyond belief.”
On the opposite side, Brown should have been relieved to net a top five in his No. 68 Chevrolet. The thing is, he wasn’t. He couldn’t be. Less than a year ago, following his first and only Xfinity Series win at Talladega last fall, a chant rang down from the grandstands while he was being interviewed from NBC Sports at the start finish line. That’s customary these days you see. Being interviewed at the start finish line in front of the fans. It’s to show the fans the raw emotion of the winning driver.
That didn’t used to happen. Now it does. Brown couldn’t control what the fans were chanting. Neither could TV. With headseats on, the interviewer thought the fans were chanting “lets go Brandon.” They unfortunately weren’t.
Brown became a rallying cry in this country and he had no way of stopping it. Even with pleads to keep his name out of it, it still occurred on a regular basis. Most people having no clue on who Brandon Brown even was.
“Lets go Brandon” would echo in a lot of places but to Brown’s dismay, it was his name but had nothing to do with his name. Those people didn’t know how much harm and damage that they were doing each time that phrase left their mouths.
It wasn’t funny. Now for Brown. Each time his name was chanted with that, it was another sponsor not returning a phone call or email.
Sponsors distanced themselves from him. It wasn’t a good look and not good PR to have their colors and their company name on Brown’s car. For a small family owned team in a sport to where these teams are fueled by sponsorship money, they were struggling to find enough to keep this team afloat.
Despite his dad owning the team, they were forced to look at drivers who had some money to come drive this car if things didn’t change soon. Unfortunately it wasn’t.
Daytona was 1 last gasp for Brown to get a win and to help improve his image and gain enough sponsorship money to finish out the season. They brought the car that they had won Talladega with. The sponsor even came back for 1 more go at it.
Brown finished 3 spots behind where he needed to and now his future isn’t on solid ground. The team his father built may have to have another driver without the last name of “Brown” in the car next Saturday in Darlington.
The team is named “Brandonbilt” anyways and now “Brandon” may be out of a job because of a chant that he had no control over.
That’s why tears of disappointment rolled down his cheeks despite netting his 6th career top 5….