As the NASCAR Xfinity Series enters its seven-race Playoff, Noah Gragson made his third consecutive win to continue his impressive momentum at Bristol.
Noah Gragson held off Brandon Jones to win his third straight Xfinity Series race as AJ Allmendinger won the regular season championship with Ryan Sieg driving his way into the playoffs at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night.
With 25 laps remaining, Gragson was the only car that didn’t pit and took over the lead. Jones, who will drive Gragson’s car for JR Motorsports next year, made a ferocious challenge, but he was held off from taking the lead once again.
The victory marked Gragson’s third straight triumph in the series, sixth of the year, and eleventh overall.
The race also determined who would advance to the playoffs. Daniel Hemric’s 20th-place finish in the 12-driver Playoff field allowed him to secure one of the two open berths despite power-steering troubles.
After Landon Cassill’s 35th-place finish and 112-lap garage stint due to brake problems, Ryan Sieg took the final position, finishing 10th—his first top-10 finish in 16 Bristol races.
With a sixth-place finish, AJ Allmendinger successfully defended his title as regular season champion.
Gragson and his crew chose to stay on the track while all the other lead-lap cars pitted for new tires on Lap 271, after Justin Allgaier and J.J. Yeley made a small contact that caused Yeley to slam into the inside wall.
Gragson had a one-second lead after the restart on lap 281 before Jones started to cut the distance on fresh tires. Jones approached Gragson’s Chevy Camaro but was unable to go around the No. 9. Gragson beat Jones’ No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota across the finish line by 0.145 seconds.
“That last caution came out, and I knew if I could ring the top, it was going to be hard for them to get there,” said Gragson, who will graduate to a full-time NASCAR Cup Series ride with Petty GMS in 2023.
“I appreciate Brandon Jones racing us clean. He gave us the bumper with two [laps] to go, and I was hanging on, scrubbing the fence.”
“We won here in Bristol in 2020 and there were no fans here [because of the coronavirus pandemic]… What a great opportunity to race here in front of fans and have the opportunity to win the race.”
“Our car was fast all day. We got to the top and we were rolling. I had a blast.”
Justin Allgaier, a teammate of Gragson’s from JR Motorsports, was not in the leading group for the finish. When Gragson stayed out, Allgaier guided the lead-lap cars in a line to pit road, but he was penalized for speeding and had to start last on the final restart.
“I know what happened; I didn’t really think I was speeding, but obviously I was,” said Allgaier, who has led 791 laps in his last seven Bristol races without winning.
“I just hate it for everybody. It was cool for [Noah] to get the win. I cannot believe that they were able to stay out there and still run the speed they were.”
“I love to hate this place. I’m close to 1,000 career laps led here and only one win, and that was over 10 years ago… So, I’ve just got to do a better job next time.”
Allgaier led a record-breaking 148 laps, followed by Ty Gibbs with 89, Sheldon Creed with 34, and Gragson with 25. Mid stage two, Gragson also had a significant role in altering the race’s dynamic. Gibbs, the pole-sitter, had won the first stage comfortably, but on lap 129, while Gibbs and Creed were battling for the lead, a contact from Gragson’s Chevrolet caused Gibbs’ Toyota to collide with Creed’s Camaro.
Gibbs and Creed suffered terrible crashes with the outer wall and were eliminated from the race.
Austin Hill finished third, followed by Sam Mayer and Riley Herbst in fourth and fifth place respectively. Allmendinger, Josh Berry, Stefan Parsons, Allgaier and Sieg rounded out the top 10.