Gragson out-duels Gibbs for Pocono Xfinity win
Noah Gragson emerged victorious in a wild side-by-side battle with Ty Gibbs to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway.
Gragson passed JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry for the lead with 21 of 90 laps remaining but Ty Gibbs took over second and began his tough challenge to run down Gragson, who had fresher tires.
Still, with five laps to go, Gibbs managed to getting to the inside of Gragson. Gragson fought off the first challenge after the two made brief contact.
On the final lap, Gibbs got inside of Gragson again in Turn 3, but again Gragson was able to hold position on the outside and took the checkered flag ahead of Gibbs by 0.281 seconds.
The win is the third this season for Gragson, 24, and eighth of his career.
“It was probably the best I’ve ever driven there. I’m worn out,” Gragson said after he and his team climbed the fence to celebrate.
“It wasn’t that hard of a race, just I was working my ass off to keep (Gibbs) back. He’s pretty fast. My team did an incredible job coming off pit road (first) there and put four tires on. I had to work for it.
“I was getting tight, tight, tight. With 15 to go, I didn’t know if I could hold him off but we just kept digging. This team is unbelievable.”
Gibbs said he was definitely at a disadvantage on tires.
“I was still surprised to be able to hang with (Gragson) when he was on (four new tires),” Gibbs said. “I had a great car. I felt on my part, I made some mistakes but we’ll come back at it next weekend.”
Berry ended up third, A.J. Allmendinger fourth and Sheldon Creed rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier, Austin Hill, Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, most of the lead-lap cars pit with Gragson first off pit road.
Austin Hill stayed out and inherited the lead. On the restart on Lap 46, Austin Hill was followed by Myatt Snider, Gragson and Brandon Jones.
On Lap 47, Santino Ferrucci spun in Turn 3 in the middle of the field, which sent cars scurrying in all directions.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. caught part of the wreck and was knocked toward the pit road wall, where he collided with Jeb Burton who was traveling right in front of it after avoiding the wreck.
The awkward collision sent Burton’s No. 27 into the air and it landed upside on the frontstretch. The race was immediately red-flagged. Burton quickly indicated over his team radio that he was OK and was extracted from the car after several minutes.
Jeremy Clements and Ronnie Bassett Jr. was also collected in the accident.
After a nearly nine minute stoppage, the race returned to yellow but the lead-lap cars elected not to pit. Gragson led the way on the restart on Lap 51.
Gibbs moved into the lead on the restart for the first time in the race.
Sammy Smith wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 53 after contact with Landon Cassill to bring out the fifth caution of the race.
Several lead-lap cars elected to pit with Gibbs first off pit road. Allgaier was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
On the restart on Lap 57, Brett Moffitt – among those who stayed out – led the way followed by Riley Herbst, Brandon Brown and Gibbs.
Herbst powered past Moffitt on the restart to move into the lead.
Berry ran down Herbst on Lap 60 to grab the lead for the first time in the race as Herbst dropped to second and Creed ran third.
Gragson moved into second on Lap 63 and Gibbs took over third as Berry maintained about a 1-second lead.
Gragson finally worked his way around Berry on Lap 69 to reclaim the lead.
With 15 laps remaining, Gragson held about a half-second lead over Gibbs as Berry ran third and Allmendinger fourth.
With five laps to go, Gragson and Gibbs ended up side-by-side battling for the lead but Gragson was able to fend off the charge.
Gragson took the Stage 2 win by 1.9 seconds over Gibbs – the seventh stage win for Gragson this season.
Jones was third, Creed fourth and Berry was fifth.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most of the lead-lap cars pit with Jones first off pit road. Clements had to restart from the rear of the field for a crew member over the wall too soon on his stop.
On the restart on Lap 26, Anthony Alfredo – who stayed out – led the way, followed by Jones, Creed, Gragson and Allmendinger.
Gragson quickly powered to the lead on the restart as Gibbs moved to second.
With five laps remaining in the stage, Gragson was working hard to fight off a challenge from Gibbs for the lead, while Jones ran third.
Allgaier easily held off Jones by 1.3 seconds to take the Stage 1 win, his sixth of the 2022 season.
Allmendinger was third, Gibbs fourth and Creed rounded out the top-five.
Allgaier started on the pole and led the way until Alex Labbe and Rajah Caruth wrecked on the frontstretch on Lap 3 to put the race under caution.
The resumed on Lap 8 with Allgaier out front followed by Gibbs and Jones.
With five laps remaining in the stage, Allgaier had built a 1.6-second lead over Jones, with Allmendinger in third.
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