Admit it, you thought Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR Xfinity Series team would struggle in 2020.
With Christopher Bell heading to the NASCAR Cup Series and being replaced by rookie Harrison Burton coupled with JGR turning it’s all star No. 18 Xfinity Series team into a testing ground for another rookie contender, Riley Herbst, it seemed like a logical bet that there would be some regression.
You thought wrong.
Led by Burton, 19, who has been nothing short of remarkable and has not even come close to resembling a rookie through the first 10 races of the year, JGR looks like their Xfinity program hasn’t skipped a beat.
In fact, the North Carolina-native comes into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Unhinged 300 at Talladega Superspeedway with a brand spanking new rookie record 10-consecutive top-10 finishes to start the year. Burton surpassed Carl Edwards’ 2005 record of nine with an impressive comeback rally from a lap down late in the Contender Boats 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to finish eighth on Sunday.
Burton’s overall Xfinity Series top-10 streak actually stretches farther back than 10 races as he ended a nine-race NXS campaign in 2019 with two top-10s to close the season out.
The youngster is third in points and has a mind boggling average finish of 4.6.
While the goal initially was rookie of the year, the new goal in mind has to be to capture the overall 2020 NXS driver championship as Burton holds a 134-point lead in the rookie standings already.
While Burton has been incredible, his leadership and performance has seemingly had a positive influence on his teammates as well.
Brandon Jones, who had just one-career win in the Series through his first 137 starts, already has a win this year. Jones took an eye-opening win at Phoenix earlier in the season as he bested Kyle Busch to take the victory.
Jones is six spots higher in the points this year (6th) than where he was at the 10-race point of the 2019 season (12th).
While Herbst is the lowest driver on the totem pole, currently, he’s still a respectable 11th in the championship standings and he has finished inside the top-10 in half of the races this year.
Overall, the entire organization is much more impressive than many expected on paper in the offseason, and Burton has been a big reason.
Expect Burton to once again lead an impressive charge for the JGR trio at Talladega on Saturday. Burton flashed a penchant for running up front in superspeedway races, as he finished runner-up in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. Can the rookie snag his third win of the year?
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.