Gragson rallies from late incident to win at Bristol in overtime

It was not an ideal move that Noah Gragson had in mind when he wrecked his teammate Justin Allgaier for the lead in the closing laps, but it was one that resulted in the Las Vegas native winning the Cheddar’s 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway following an overtime shootout. The victory was Gragson’s second of his NASCAR Xfinity Series career in his 43rd series start, second of this season and his first national touring series win at Bristol. The victory was the 48th in the series for JR Motorsports.

The starting lineup was based on a random draw. Rookie Harrison Burton drew the pole position and was joined on the front row with teammate Brandon Jones. Carson Ware started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.

When the green flag dropped, Burton took the lead followed by Jones. Allgaier, who started 10th, made a bold move on the outside lane to gain positions, but he slipped too high entering Turn 2 and barely touched the wall, though he continued without sustaining any serious damage. The following turn, three other competitors that included Jesse Little nearly made contact with one another but all three continued. 

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The first caution of the race flew on the fifth lap when Ross Chastain, who cut a right-front tire in Turn 3, got loose and made contact with Austin Cindric entering Turn 4, sending Cindric hard against the outside wall as Chastain spun and was clipped by Michael Annett, who had nowhere to go. All three sustained significant damage to their respective cars. Annett and Cindric retired while Chastain, who sustained damage to the rear end of his No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet, was able to continue on the lead lap.

The race restarted on the 16th lap and Burton was able to maintain the lead despite being pressured by Jones. Justin Haley settled in third while Daniel Hemric, Chase Briscoe and Allgaier battled hard for fourth. On Lap 18, Haley made the slightest of contact with Jones in Turn 3, sending Jones up the track and out of the racing groove. The following lap in Turn 3, Jones got loose again and dropped more positions. By Lap 24, Jones fell back to 10th after being passed by Vinnie Miller. The following lap, Chastain pitted for more repairs as he dropped out of the lead lap and out of race-winning contention.

On Lap 27, Haley made a run below Burton for the lead but was stalled by a lapped car which caused him to lose ground on the lead and battle Gragson for second. Despite encountering tight lapped traffic, Burton was able to maintain the lead and Gragson was able to take second from Haley at the time of the competition caution on Lap 35. Under caution, Jones along with Chad Finchum, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Colby Howard and Timmy Hill made a pit stop while the rest of the field remained on track.

When the race restarted on Lap 42, Burton benefitted on the outside lane to maintain his lead. Gragson retained second while Haley, who restarted third, spun his tires and dropped to fifth behind Ryan Sieg and Briscoe. Four laps later, Gragson made his move below the bottom of Turn 2 and took the lead from Burton. By Lap 60, Gragson was able to maintain his advantage by six-tenths of a second over Burton. The second caution of the day flew on Lap 63 due to debris from Joe Nemechek’s car in Turn 3. Under caution, Burton pitted from the runner-up position to have minimal damage he sustained from hitting the debris repaired. Four other competitors pitted while everyone else remained on track.

The following restart on Lap 68, Gragson received a push from teammate Allgaier. The contact allowed Gragson to boost ahead with the lead while Allgaier moved to second over Briscoe. By Lap 75, A.J. Allmendinger, who started 27th in his first Xfinity event of the season, made his way in the top 10, running ninth. From there, Gragson was able to lead the field through the conclusion of the first stage on Lap 85 and win the stage despite encountering lapped traffic. Allgaier settled in second followed by Briscoe, Haley and Hemric. Riley Herbst, Jones, Allmendinger, Sieg and Myatt Snider finished in the top 10.

Under caution, most of the leaders pitted while Burton, who pitted early, remained on track and reassumed the lead. Jones pitted for two tires and was the first off pit road. Jeremy Clements only took fuel and exited fifth behind Allgaier and Briscoe. Gragson suffered a slow pit stop and came out in sixth. Following the pit stops, Hemric was nabbed with a speeding penalty and sent to the rear of the field.

The second stage started on Lap 98 and Briscoe ran into the back of Burton which allowed Burton to boost ahead with the lead. Haley moved to second after Briscoe slipped in Turn 3 and fell back to fifth behind Gragson and Allgaier. Jones, who restarted second with two fresh tires, fell back to sixth. The caution returned three laps later for an incident in Turn 1 involving Hill and Vinnie Miller.

Six laps later, the race restarted with Burton maintaining the lead. During the restart, Allgaier used the outside lane to move into second over Haley. Gragson fell to fifth while battling Ryan Sieg and Briscoe for position. By Lap 119, Gragson moved back to fourth after passing Jones, who was battling loose conditions. Two laps later, the caution flew when Sieg made contact with Allmendinger in Turn 3 while battling for seventh. The contact resulted in Allmendinger sliding below the apron, but he was able to proceed without sustaining damage. He and Hill pitted while the rest of the field remained on track.

When the race restarted on Lap 128, Allgaier mounted a challenge for the lead below Burton and was able to take it. On Lap 137, Tommy Joe Martins made contact with the outside wall but the race proceeded under green. Four laps later, just as Gragson moved Burton out of the racing groove in Turn 1 to move back to second, the caution returned when Patrick Emerling wrecked through Turns 2 and 3 following contact with Bayley Currey. The race was red-flagged for nine and a half minutes to give the safety officials time to clean the fluid from Emerling’s No. 02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet from the bottom of Turn 2 through the high groove in Turn 3. When the red flag was lifted, the majority of the field remained on track while Sieg, Clements and Miller pitted.

When the green flag returned on Lap 148, Allgaier made the bottom lane work to his advantage as he powered away with the lead followed by Gragson. A lap later, Haley used the outside lane to take third from Burton. By Lap 155, Allgaier and Gragson gapped third-place Haley by more than a second. Meanwhile, Josh Williams engaged in a battle with Allmendinger for a top-10 spot while Hemric rallied from his penalty to race in eighth while battling Snider. 

Despite encountering lapped traffic, which included Joe Graf Jr., Allgaier was able to hold off teammate Gragson to win the second stage. Haley and Burton finish third and fourth while Briscoe was able to pass Jones following a bump-and-run move to finish fifth. Jones, Hemric, Snider, Herbst and Allmendinger finished in the top 10.

Under caution, nearly the entire field pitted and Allgaier was able to barely avoid making contact on pit road with Gragson, who was exiting his pit stall, to maintain the lead. Gragson, Jones, Haley and Briscoe followed pursuit. During the pit stops, Sieg and Miller remained on track to inherit the front row for the start of the final stage.

With the final stage starting on Lap 182, Allgaier used the high lane to reassume the lead. A lap later, Sieg challenged Allgaier on the bottom lane for one circuit before Allgaier moved up the track in Turn 3 and allowed Gragson to move to second from Sieg. By Lap 190, Sieg, battling on old tires on the high lane, fell back to ninth. 

With 100 laps remaining, Allgaier’s lead over Gragson was less than half a second. Haley moved to third followed by Jones, Hemric and Briscoe. Five laps later, Allgaier was able to extend his advantage by nearly a second over Gragson. By then, Allmendinger was eighth following his late spin and Burton was back in 10th.

With 81 laps remaining, Haley passed Gragson in Turn 2 to move into second and started pursuing Allgaier for the lead. At this time, however, his teammate, Allmendinger, made an unscheduled pit stop to have the right-side tires of his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet changed. The late misfortune cost him multiple laps behind the leaders.

As the laps dwindled, Allgaier started to approach lapped traffic but he was able to maintain the lead despite Haley gaining more ground for the lead. With less than 60 to go, Haley caught Allgaier for the lead when Allgaier was experiencing difficulties trying to lap Clements and Brandon Brown. Just as the lead between the two Justins intensified, the caution flew with 52 to go when Martins spun in Turn 4. Under caution, the leaders pitted. Herbst exited pit road first after taking two tires followed by Allgaier, Gragson, Haley and Hemric.

When the race restarted with 45 to go, Allgaier took advantage of the high lane to lead the field through Turn 2. At the same time, the caution quickly returned when Herbst and Haley made contact that resulted in Herbst being turned in Turn 2 and slapping the outside wall. Herbst pitted, but ended his day due to the damage while Haley remained on track in third despite sustaining cosmetic damage to his No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

The next restart came with 36 to go. Allgaier maintained his lead while Jones, who restarted fourth, rocketed to second. Gragson used the high lane to take second and Haley forced his way underneath Jones to move to third and Jones fell to the clutches of Briscoe for fourth. With approximately 20 to go, Haley, who was trying to pursue Gragson for second, slipped high in Turn 1 and scrubbed the wall, causing him to fall off the pace. He was able to nurse his car back to pit but the incident cost him multiple laps and his hopes of winning his first Xfinity race.

Just when the race appeared to have been sealed by Allgaier, the caution flew with 13 to go when Colby Howard blew a left-front tire and stopped in Turn 2. The leaders remained on track under caution. When the race restarted with seven to go, Allgaier maintained the lead, but Gragson made his move to challenge for the lead a lap later. He moved below his teammate in Turn 2 and raced side by side with him through Turn 3 before edging out with the lead in Turn 4. Then, he ran into the side of his teammate in Turn 1, causing Allgaier to slip into the outside wall before spinning and making hard contact into the Turn 2 inside wall, drawing a caution with five to go. Gragson was able to continue with the lead followed by Briscoe, Burton, Jones and Snider. Allgaier drove his damaged No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet back to pit road but the damage was enough to end Allgaier’s strong race in his pit stall.

The incident between the two JR Motorsports teammates sent the race into overtime. In the first overtime attempt, Gragson led the field through Turn 1. In Turn 2, Jones attempted to split Gragson and Briscoe through the middle, but was unable to make enough room for himself to make the move occur. By the time the field returned to Turn 4 for the start of the final lap, Gragson managed to clear Briscoe and was able to fend off Briscoe for one final circuit to claim the checkered flag first.

“Really, [I] apologize to Justin and the No. 7 team,” Gragson said on FOX Sports 1. “That’s not how I want to race, but I saw the position open up. He, kind of, slipped off the bottom the lap before and I tried to get to the bottom and I just got too loose. All of us top-five guys – really everybody on the field – this track’s like ice out there right now. We were slippin’ and slidin’. What a heck of a night for this No. 9 team. It’s Bristol, baby! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I sucked here. My crew chief believed in me and he wanted me to come back and run with them. Dave Elenz is the man.”

“The team did a great job getting us track position we needed,” Allgaier said on PRN radio. “I’m more mad at myself for making a mistake and slippin’ off the bottom, but yeah we got wrecked. We had the car to beat all night and unfortunately, we don’t have anything to show for it. I hate it for my guys. We’ll rebound and we’ll come back next weekend.”

Briscoe finished second followed by Jones and Burton as the trio will join Gragson in battling for the first Dash 4 Cash bonus this upcoming weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Myatt Snider edged Hemric to finish fifth for his first career top-five finish in the Xfinity Series. Hemric rallied in sixth while Brandon Brown, Clements, Josh Williams and Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.

There were 10 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured 12 cautions for 85 laps.

Briscoe continues to lead the Xfinity Series regular-season standings by nine points over Gragson and 26 over Burton.

Results.

1. Noah Gragson, 55 laps led, Stage 1 winner

2. Chase Briscoe

3. Brandon Jones

4. Harrison Burton, 81 laps led

5. Myatt Snider

6. Daniel Hemric

7. Brandon Brown

8. Jeremy Clements

9. Josh Williams

10. A.J. Allmendinger

11. B.J. McLeod 

12. Vinnie Miller

13. Joe Graf Jr.

14. Timmy Hill

15. Jeffrey Earnhardt, two laps down

16. Ryan Sieg, three laps down, six laps led

17. Justin Haley, four laps down, one lap led

18. Justin Allgaier – OUT, 156 laps led, Stage 2 winner

19. Colby Howard, seven laps down

20. Bayley Currey, eight laps down

21. Kody Vanderwal, 10 laps down

22. Carson Ware, 14 laps down

23. Tommy Joe Martins, 19 laps down

24. Chad Finchum, 26 laps down

25. Matt Mills – OUT, Clutch

26. Jesse Little, 43 laps down

27. Riley Herbst – OUT, Accident, four laps led

28. Ross Chastain, 48 laps down

29. Patrick Emerling – OUT, Accident

30. Mason Massey, 192 laps down

31. Ronnie Bassett Jr. – OUT, Engine

32. Joe Nemechek – OUT, Accident

33. Alex Labbe – OUT, Overheating

34. Stephen Leicht – OUT, Suspension

35. Jeff Green – OUT, Ignition

36. Austin Cindric – OUT, Accident

37. Michael Annett – OUT, Accident

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will travel to Hampton, Georgia, and race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 6. The race will air at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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