Noah Gragson claims Game 1 of Xfinity Texas playoffs, pads take four-way winning streak
FORT WORTH, Texas — Noah Gragson parked his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at the start line, emerged through the roof flap of his car, and raised his arms in triumph, enjoying cheers from the stands at Texas Motor Speedway as that he was celebrating a historic fourth straight NASCAR Xfinity Series win on Saturday afternoon in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300.
It was a series-best and career-high seventh win of the season for the 24-year-old Las Vegas native and automatically reserves his spot in the next round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs. . This fourth consecutive victory is also historically significant – equaling one of the long-standing records, set in 1983 – by Sam Ard.
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Although it was a tumultuous playoff opener for many championship contenders, Gragson was out front often and eventually when needed. He didn’t win a stage, but led a record 85 laps out of 200 and held back fellow 2022 Qualifier contenders Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs by 1.238 seconds to claim the big trophy – and even more momentum at the right time of the calendar.
“This No. 9 team, man, they’re on fire and you all you fans keep us motivated,” Gragson told the excited stands. “We will come back and win more races for you. You are awesome and we appreciate you. Thanks for coming.
“Just this team, I mean the pit crew was great and our car was as fast as Xfinity Internet all day and I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
“Such a relief,” he continued. “We lost that race in 2020 and we just ran a great race [today].”
Eight playoff cars finished in the top 10. Riley Herbst of Stewart-Haas Racing finished fifth, followed by playoff driver Josh Berry (JR Motorsports), Sheldon Creed, playoff drivers Sam Mayer (JR Motorsports) and Ryan Sieg (Ryan Sieg Racing). CJ McLaughlin finished 10th – the first top 10 of his career.
Compared to its nearest competitors, Gragson’s day was more about maintaining service. Several other race contenders and playoff contenders have had busier survival days and the power of positive thinking.
Gibbs, who finished third and regular season champion AJ Allmendinger, who finished fourth, had to rally to those final positions. Gibbs started from the back of the pack after unapproved pre-race adjustments. And the two-time regular season champion Allmendinger? He’s just had a hectic afternoon overcoming racing setbacks.
Two multi-car crashes during the mid-race restarts eliminated the winning opportunity for multiple playoff drivers, putting them in single-race catch-up mode in the playoff push.
Eight cars were involved in an accident on lap 110, including Allmendinger, whose No.16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet – just a few laps from the Stage 2 victory – was damaged. Quick repairs got him back on track and the positions he lost in the pitstop proved advantageous as he missed the next crash in the lead after returning to the race.
It was a similar scene on the reboot that followed, only this time the crash started at the front. John Hunter Nemechek, who had led the 60 fastest laps of the race – at that time – broke away at the front of the pack, his Toyota colliding with Justin Allgaier’s Chevy.
The hard contact sent them both hard into the wall and caused another chain reaction crash that ended up collecting nine cars in all – including playoff drivers Brandon Jones, race poleman and the 2021 series champion Daniel Hemric (who won Stage 1) in addition to Allgaier.
As with that playoff trio, it was the end of the day for Nemechek, a post-season NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver who drove the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in Texas as part of the championship pursuit of the owner.
“The 7 (Allgaier) picked the peak behind me, and I didn’t see the replay of it, but the 7 picked the peak behind me and started pushing,” Nemechek said. “The 21 (Austin Hill) went three wide on the 9 (Gragson) and I was three wide at the top so I could be in the race and I think we ended up four wide at some point , which really does work aero-wise in the pack. The resin was there too and I don’t know. It sucks.
“I thought we were going to have a chance to win the race and repeat last year. It did not work. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. »
MORE: Nemechek, Allgaier crash | Allmendinger Wrecks
With two more races remaining in this first elimination round – at Talladega (Alabama) Superspeedway and the Charlotte Roval road course – Gragson’s victory is an automatic spot for the next elimination round. Allmendinger and Gibbs are second and third in the standings, 26 and 27 points respectively, behind Gragson.
Eight of the 12 Playoff drivers will qualify after the Roval race.
Riley Herbst (-1), Hemric (-8), Jones (-13) and Jeremy Clements (-29) whose car retired early with an engine problem, now find themselves in the bottom four of the playoff standings at Talladega.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the second event of the playoffs, the Sparks 300 on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Brandon Brown is the defending winner of the race.
To note: Meet officials reported no issues during post-race inspection, confirming Gragson as the winner.