NASCAR Notebook: VA’s Brown Cashes As 40-1 Dog, Hamlin Still Alive, ’22 Race Dates

Posted on October 4, 2021

It turns out Brandon Brown has some impeccable timing, as well as a sense of humor. Both came in handy for the first-time NASCAR winner.

On Saturday the Virginia native claimed a NASCAR checkered flag for the first time in his scrappy career as a professional race car driver.

Brown, a Woodbridge native whose team is based in Fredericksburg, won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Sparks 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.

After a breakout year with a number of personal milestones, the PlayVirginia.com-sponsored driver can now add “NASCAR winner” to the list. But Brown also made some headlines for reasons that were totally out of his control.

Brandon Brown won with 40-1 odds

He had already set career Xfinity Series highs in top 10s and top 5s before Brandon Brown won Saturday’s darkness-shortened race. It was his 114th career start in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

It also came just a few weeks after PlayVirginia.com joined Brown’s Brandonbilt Motorsports team as an associate sponsor. As part of that sponsorship for the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway, we helped promote a Caesars Sportsbook Odds Boost for Brown. Then, with some late-race dramatics, Brown passed approximately 10 cars in the final couple laps to finish eighth. With his spectacular finish, Brown backers earned a +900 payout on his top-10 finish.

But his cash this past weekend was even greater. The pre-race odds had Brown as +4000 to win the Oct. 2 race in Talladega, Ala.

Brown was racing both his fellow drivers and the setting sun. Ultimately, he was in first place when officials were forced to call the race with just six laps to go. He edged Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, and Jordan Anderson to get the win.

As Brown said after the race:

“Oh my God, Dad, we did it! Everything we hoped and dreamed for. Everything I wanted to do is take the trophy home to Mom and Dad.”

Brown’s victory made headlines for other reasons. As Brown did post-fight interviews, some attendees chanted “F Joe Biden.” An NBCSN interviewer suggested they were chanting “Let’s go, Brandon,” possibly to fool any censors and to take the focus off the foul language and political posturing.

The dubious claim didn’t go unnoticed by Brown, who poked fun at the situation:

VA’s Denny Hamlin among ’21 championship favorites

Brandon Brown won this past weekend in the Xfinith Series, but he narrowly missed the cutoff for the postseason. However, another Virginia notable is still alive in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

In fact, Denny Hamlin is one of the odds-on favorites to win the season championship of NASCAR’s top level. With five scheduled races remaining, Hamlin is +420 to win the 2021 season championship at FanDuel. He trails only Kyle Larson (+220) at the Virginia sportsbook.

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Hamlin, who grew up in Chesterfield, went 27 races without a win to begin the 2021 season. However, he then won twice in a four-race span, and he’s now atop the Cup Series standings.

Larson, though, remains hot on his trail, and Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Blaney are right behind them.

Hamlin has put together a remarkable racing career with many notable achievements. It includes 46 career wins, three Daytona 500 checkered flags, and a Rookie of the Year award.

However, Hamlin is searching for his first NASCAR Cup Series season championship. His closest finish came in 2010, when he was runner-up to Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR returns to Virginia in 2022

Local NASCAR fans will again have an opportunity to watch races close to home in 2022.

Officials recently released the 2022 Cup Series schedule. The 39-race lineup includes three dates in Virginia, as well as some other nearby locations.

After the Clash at L.A. Memorial Coliseum (Feb. 6) and the Duel at Daytona (Feb. 17), the 2021 Cup Series season formally kicks off on Feb. 20. As usual, it features the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

In Virginia, Richmond Raceway will host races on April 3 and Aug. 14. Martinsville Raceway, meanwhile, hosts races on April 9 and Oct. 30 (a playoff race and second-to-last race of the year).

Just outside of Virginia, Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee will again host a dirt race in 2022. The Food City Dirt Race takes place on Easter night, April 17. The iconic TN racing venue will also host the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, which is part of the playoffs, on the regular track on Sept. 17.

Bristol dirt race

In North Carolina, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts races on May 29 and Oct. 9 (on the Charlotte Roval infield road course).

As for the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ 2022 schedule, Richmond hosts races on April 2 and Oct. 29 (playoff race).

Other Xfinity Series stops include Martinsville (April 8), Charlotte (May 28), and Bristol (Sept. 16).

The 2022 NASCAR Truck Series schedule includes visits to Martinsville (April 7), Richmond (Aug. 13 playoff race), Bristol (April 16 dirt race and Sept. 15 playoff race), and Charlotte (May 27).

Photo by AP / John Amis
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, MLB.com and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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