Gragson beats Creed, Larson in Darlington Xfinity thriller

The leader had a tire go down on the final lap and the second-place car hit the wall, but Noah Gragson made it to the finish line first and claimed the NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Darlington.

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As the laps wound down in Saturday’s race, Sheldon Creed held tight to the lead in looking for his first win of the 2022 season and a trip to the playoffs.

Kyle Larson briefly got around Gragson for second and raced side-by-side with Creed for the lead in the closing laps. The two made contact which sent Creed into the wall.

Gragson caught them both on the white flag lap and moved back to second. It looked like Creed may hang on for the win, but his tire finally let go from the previous. Moment later, however, Gragson hit the wall.

With both out of shape exiting Turn 4, Gragson ended up getting to the checkered flag 0.794 seconds ahead of Creed to claim the win.

 

The win is the fourth of the season for Gragson and the ninth of his career. It’s also his second win at Darlington Raceway.

“What a hell of a job by everyone on my team,” Gragson said. “Sheldon Creed was really fast. Kyle came on strong there at the end. I watched during the rain delay him running the top (lane) in (Turns) 1 and 2 and I went up there and I found something.

“Sheldon pinched me off and (Larson) got by me and I was thinking they were going to get into each other racing too hard. What a job by everyone at JR Motorsports. The Hendrick power was awesome today.

“I’m just so excited. We won this race here last year and today we put on one hell of a show for the fans.”

A.J. Allmendinger ended up third, Justin Allgaier fourth and Larson completed the top-five.

Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, the lead-lap cars all pit with Austin Hill first off pit road.

On the restart on Lap 98, Hill was followed by Allgaier, Gragson and Brandon Jones.

Allgaier quickly moved into the lead on the restart only to see Creed power into the top spot to lead Lap 98.

With 30 laps remaining, Creed maintained about a 1-second lead over Gragson, as Allgaier ran third.

Jones, running ninth at the time, spun off Turn 4 on Lap 128 to bring out the fifth caution of the race.

 

All the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Creed first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 134, Creed was followed by Gragson, Ty Gibbs and Allmendinger.

With 10 laps to go, Creed remained out front with a small lead over Gragson but Larson had moved to third and was charging to the front.

Stage 2

Allgaier took the Stage 2 win under caution when J.J. Yeley’s car blew an engine with two laps remaining.

Gragson was second, Christopher Bell third, Jones fourth and Hill rounded out the top-five.

Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, the lead-lap cars all pit with Gragson first off pit road. John Hunter Nemechek and Riley Herbst were penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.

Before the race resumed, resumed Anthony Alfredo plowed into the back of Nemechek, which delayed the restart.

 

On the restart on Lap 54, Gragson was followed by Jones, Gibbs and Allgaier.

Herbst, Myatt Snider and Kris Wright got collected in a wreck on the backstretch on Lap 56 to bring out the caution.

Landon Cassill (loose wheel) was among a handful of cars that pit. On the restart on Lap 62, Gragson remained out front followed by Allgaier, Jones and Bell.

NASCAR was forced to display a caution on Lap 65 as rain began falling around the track. Shortly afterward NASCAR displayed the red flag and brought the race to a halt after 67 laps.

Following a more than 2½-hour delay, the red flag was lifted. Most of the cars remained on track and Gragson led the way on the restart on Lap 78.

With 10 laps remaining in the stage, Allgaier had closed to Gragson’s rear bumper and was challenging for the lead.

Allgaier got around Gragson on Lap 83 to take the lead for the first time in the race.

On Lap 88, it appeared the No. 66 of Yeley blew an engine entering Turn 3 and fire began to pour out from underneath, which brought out the caution.

Stage 1

Gragson held off Jones in heavy lapped traffic to take the Stage 1 win, his 12th stage victory of the 2022 season.

Gibbs was third, Allgaier fourth and Creed rounded out the top-five.

Jones started on the pole and led the first three laps until Gragson passed him on the outside on the frontstretch to move out front on Lap 4.

With 25 laps remaining in the stage, Gragson had moved out to a 1-second lead over Jones as Larson ran third.

Jones got into the wall with about 15 laps to go but remained in second, 1.4-seconds behind Gragson.

On Lap 43, Larson fell off the pace with a flat tire and had to make a green-flag pit stop.

Bell had to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Laps Time Gap Interval Laps Led
1 9 United States Noah Gragson Chevrolet 147 2:02'58.552     82
2 2 United States Sheldon Creed Chevrolet 147 2:02'59.346 0.794 0.794 47
3 16 United States A.J. Allmendinger Chevrolet 147 2:02'59.497 0.945 0.151  
4 7 United States Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 147 2:02'59.808 1.256 0.311 12
5 17 United States Kyle Larson Chevrolet 147 2:02'59.850 1.298 0.042 1
6 54 Ty Gibbs Toyota 147 2:03'00.170 1.618 0.320  
7 18 United States Christopher Bell Toyota 147 2:03'00.355 1.803 0.185  
8 8 Josh Berry Chevrolet 147 2:03'00.966 2.414 0.611  
9 26 United States John Hunter Nemechek Toyota 147 2:03'01.622 3.070 0.656  
10 21 United States Austin Hill Chevrolet 147 2:03'02.325 3.773 0.703 2
11 1 Sam Mayer Chevrolet 147 2:03'02.965 4.413 0.640  
12 10 United States Landon Cassill Chevrolet 147 2:03'03.207 4.655 0.242  
13 11 United States Daniel Hemric Chevrolet 147 2:03'03.772 5.220 0.565  
14 19 United States Brandon Jones Toyota 147 2:03'03.915 5.363 0.143 3
15 48 United States Ross Chastain Chevrolet 147 2:03'05.311 6.759 1.396  
16 34 United States Kyle Weatherman Chevrolet 147 2:03'06.256 7.704 0.945  
17 45 United States Stefan Parsons Chevrolet 147 2:03'07.805 9.253 1.549  
18 39 United States Ryan Sieg Ford 147 2:03'09.071 10.519 1.266  
19 4 United States Bayley Currey Chevrolet 147 2:03'09.701 11.149 0.630  
20 91 Mason Massey Chevrolet 147 2:03'10.058 11.506 0.357  
21 51 United States Jeremy Clements Chevrolet 147 2:03'11.037 12.485 0.979  
22 44 United States Ryan Ellis Chevrolet 147 2:03'11.278 12.726 0.241  
23 38 Kyle Sieg Ford 147 2:03'11.396 12.844 0.118  
24 27 United States Jeb Burton Chevrolet 147 2:03'11.960 13.408 0.564  
25 08 United States David Starr Ford 147 2:03'12.132 13.580 0.172  
26 36 United States Josh Williams Chevrolet 146 2:02'56.373 1 Lap 1 Lap  
27 6 United States Ryan Vargas Chevrolet 146 2:03'13.082 1 Lap 16.709  
28 31 United States Myatt Snider Chevrolet 145 2:02'52.557 2 Laps 1 Lap  
29 78 United States Brandon Brown Chevrolet 145 2:02'55.389 2 Laps 2.832  
30 35 Dawson Cram Toyota 145 2:03'06.122 2 Laps 10.733  
31 47 United States Brennan Poole Chevrolet 86 1:50'05.963 61 Laps 59 Laps  
32 66 United States J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 83 1:16'17.260 64 Laps 3 Laps  
33 07 Joe Jr. Ford 61 48'09.830 86 Laps 22 Laps  
34 98 United States Riley Herbst Ford 56 44'12.441 91 Laps 5 Laps  
35 02 United States Ty Dillon Chevrolet 55 39'38.888 92 Laps 1 Lap  
36 68 United States Kris Wright Chevrolet 55 41'53.799 92 Laps 2'14.911  
37 23 Anthony Alfredo Chevrolet 51 33'47.111 96 Laps 4 Laps  
38 5 United States Tommy Joe Martins Chevrolet 44 24'52.370 103 Laps 7 Laps  
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