Sometimes, when it comes to professional sports, things seem to play out in the most ironic fashion imaginable, as in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
So naturally, as the race entered its closing stages, it made complete sense that the battle for the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series title came down to Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs, especially after the events of the last seven days.
Between the last-lap move at Martinsville – which drew significant criticism for the 20-year-old – and the blunt disdain that Gragson showed towards him leading up to the season finale, it left many wondering if things would get messy to end the 200-lap event.
Luckily, things remained clean between Gibbs and Gragson in the closing laps, and even Justin Allgaier, who was in the thick of the championship battle until his JR Motorsports entry faded in the race’s closing laps.
After finally getting the lead of the race – and the championship – away from Allgaier with just over 20 laps remaining, Gibbs was able to cushion his gap to nearly one second over Gragson, allowing the Monster Energy-sponsored driver to maneuver his way through lap traffic.
When the checkered flag flew, Gragson, despite making an enormous lunge into the final corner, wasn’t quite able to get to the rear bumper of the Joe Gibbs Racing entry, netting Ty Gibbs his first NASCAR National Series championship in his first full-time year.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded a season in which he recorded seven victories, including the final two races of the year, as well as 16 top-five and 22 top-10 results throughout the course of the season while leading 990 laps.
Gibbs’ triumph on Saturday marks the second straight NASCAR Xfinity Series title for Joe Gibbs Racing, after winning the title with Daniel Hemric and the No. 18 team last season.
Gragson recorded a runner-up finish in Saturday’s event, which netted him a runner-up spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings. Allgaier, Gragson’s teammate, finished third, coming short of another Xfinity Series title.
Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger, teammates at Kaulig Racing, completed the top-five, earning a rare double top-five in the Xfinity Series this season. Sheldon Creed, Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric, Austin Hill, and Sammy Smith completed the top-10.
The rebound for Sammy Smith is impressive after he was involved in a pair of accidents in the middle portion of the race, forcing him to drive through the field with a damaged car.
Josh Berry, the fourth of the championship-eligible drivers, finished a disappointing 13th, after getting high and brushing the outside wall on a late-race restart, costing him a great deal of track position.
AJ Allmendinger earned a top-five position in NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings, with Austin Hill, Sam Mayer, Brandon Jones, Daniel Hemric, and Riley Herbst completing the top-10 ins series standings.
With the conclusion of Saturday’s event, both Zane Smith and Ty Gibbs have been crowned NASCAR National Series champions, after starting their respective races on pole.
Tomorrow, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, and Christopher Bell will battle it out for the NASCAR Cup Series title.