The season of frustration for Noah Gragson has really flipped it’s script in a hurry over the last two weeks. In Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway, Gragson held off Justin Haley — who had fresh tires — to score his second-consecutive victory in NXS competition.
Following the win, Gragson credited several late-race cautions to helping him hold off the fresher tires in the closing laps, but he was just emotional about this race being on the 20th-anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“Yeah, I knew they had tires, but the thing that really kept us alive were those two cautions at the end,” Gragson said. “Today is not about this team or this win, it’s about everyone who lost their lives 20-years ago. We have a lot of heavy hearts. At least in America, we can come together on this day.”
Heading into Darlington Raceway last weekend, Gragson hadn’t scored a win at all in 2021. Now, two weeks later, he has two wins. Saturday’s win marks the fourth triumph for Gragson in his NXS career.
Haley was upset about not pulling out the victory, but he said if he could have gotten to the bumper of Gragson, he was willing to do whatever it took to win the race.
“It’s just frustrating, you know?” Haley said. “I think maybe if the frontstretch was on the other end of the field here, we would have been okay. Or if one of those late cautions didn’t come out. I was fully prepared to do anything it took to win. We had better tires, we were so fast.”
John Hunter Nemechek came home in third behind Gragson and Haley in the No. 26 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota Supra. Justin Allgaier came home fourth and Riley Herbst finished an impressive fifth after utilizing a similar strategy that Haley had with tires.
Daniel Hemric, Ty Gibbs, Brandon Brown, Harrison Burton and Jeb Burton rounded out the top-10 finishers in Saturday’s race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had fresh tires at the end, but made a pit road speeding error on the final pit stop of the day, clawed his way back to a 14th-place finish in his lone NASCAR Xfinity Series start of 2021.
AJ Allmendinger’s team opted to keep him on the track during the late-race caution, which ultimately doomed his chance to win the race. Allmendinger was stuck with his hot old tires, while the other cars behind him, that didn’t have fresh tires, pitted for colder scuffed tires.
As a result, Allmendinger fell to a 16th-place finish.
2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Standings (1 race until Playoffs)
- Austin Cindric, 34 Playoff Points (5 wins, locked in)
- AJ Allmendinger, 24 Playoff Points (3 wins, locked in)
- Noah Gragson, 13 Playoff Points (2 wins, locked in)
- Justin Allgaier, 11 Playoff Points (2 wins, locked in)
- Justin Haley, 10 Playoff Points (1 win, locked in)
- Jeb Burton, 6 Playoff Points (1 win, locked in)
- Daniel Hemric, 6 Playoff Points (Locked in on points)
- Myatt Snider, 5 Playoff Points (1 win, locked in)
- Harrison Burton, 2 Playoff Points (Locked in on points)
- Jeremy Clements, +74 points
- Brandon Jones, +67
- Riley Herbst, +66
- Michael Annett, -66
- Ryan Sieg, -93
- Brandon Brown, -109
- Josh Williams, -198
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.