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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|9||26||John Hunter Nemechek||Toyota||147||2:03'01.622||3.070||0.656|
|26||36||Josh Williams||Chevrolet||146||2:02'56.373||1 Lap||1 Lap|
|27||6||Ryan Vargas||Chevrolet||146||2:03'13.082||1 Lap||16.709|
|28||31||Myatt Snider||Chevrolet||145||2:02'52.557||2 Laps||1 Lap|
|29||78||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||Brennan Poole||Chevrolet||86||1:50'05.963||61 Laps||59 Laps|
|32||66||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||Riley Herbst||Ford||56||44'12.441||91 Laps||5 Laps|
|35||02||Ty Dillon||Chevrolet||55||39'38.888||92 Laps||1 Lap|
|36||68||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||Tommy Joe Martins||Chevrolet||44||24'52.370||103 Laps||7 Laps|
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