By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – After a year away from NASCAR, James Davison returned with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. A top-five finish matched Davison’s career best and kept the No. 18 Rich Mar Florist Toyota Supra.
Davison lined up just inside the top-10 with 15 to go in the scheduled distanced of the Drive for the Cure 250. He worked his way by his teammate Brandon Jones for position.
Though the move momentarily endangered Jones’ NASCAR Playoffs bid, it kept the No. 18 in the Owner Playoffs. Davison padded the gap between his No. 18 and Jones’ No. 19, working his way by Alex Labbe and Justin Allgaier.
With each caution and each successive overtime, Davison moved up the running order. The Australian moved into the top-five on the final restart. However, he ran out of time, taking the checkered flag in fourth.
“Joe Gibbs Racing, they’re the best organization that I’ve been privileged to be a part of, and I needed to make the most of today,” Davison admitted. “It was my first day back in a stock car in a year. I was rusty, to be honest. I was learning a lot. It probably took me at least half to two-thirds of the race to get where I needed to be.
“The team obviously gave me a good car. We made the most of the restarts, made a couple of mistakes here and that’s to be expected. Just got to thank our sponsors Rich Mar, everyone that made this possible.”
Davison’s last start in the Xfinity Series prior to the Drive for the Cure 250 was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course last year. His last Cup start was last season’s Talladega Superspeedway playoff race.
Since then, the strength of field in the Xfinity Series, along with the talent, has increased exponentially. All three of the drivers that finished ahead of Davison, A.J. Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, and Noah Gragson, will move up to the Cup Series next season.
“The talent in the Xfinity field I think is the best that there’s ever been,” Davison observed. “The guys that are finishing ahead of me are all going to be Cup drivers next year. Obviously, Ty’s proving to be the Max Verstappen of NASCAR and Allmendinger’s the new Jeff Gordon. I needed to be realistic as much as you want to believe in yourself.
“These guys are the best in the sport and so to just finish behind them was about all that we could have hoped for. I’m just really over the moon for everyone and again grateful to Joe Gibbs Racing.”
While the fourth-place finish tied Davison’s career best from the 2017 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, also with Joe Gibbs Racing, the finish bumped the No. 19 out of the Owner Playoffs. Jones advanced to the next round in the Driver Playoffs.
Despite the split between the two teams, Gibbs appeared to be happy about the result. The NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner congratulated Davison post-race.
“When I got out of the car, Joe said to me, ‘let’s go do this again,’” Davison explained. “Obviously that’s whatyou want to hear, and funding is always the challenge for everyone. We’ll just see what happens.”
The fourth-place finish was Davison’s second career top-five and third top-10 finish in his sixth career Xfinity start.
Next for the Xfinity Series is the Alsco Uniforms 302 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, October 15 at 3:00 p.m. on NBC. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.