Saturday September 17, 2022 by Julie Bouchard
Three in a row! Noah Gragson is the star driver at the end of the regular season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. After winning at Darlington and Kansas City the last two weeks, the driver of the JR Motorsports No.9 Chevrolet won yesterday evening at Bristol Motor Speedway (Tennessee). Gragson thus appears as the star driver of the series when the end-of-season playoffs begin for the last seven races of 2022.
On tires 90 laps old (out of 300 in the race), Gragson held off Brandon Jones, the driver of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No.19 Toyota but who will seat in the No.9 Chevrolet next year, while the last 20 laps were run under the green flag. The win is also Gragson’s sixth of the 2022 season, and his 11th career Xfinity win.
Austin Hill (Chevrolet/Richard Childress Racing) finished third, followed by Sam Mayer (Chevrolet/JR Motorsports) and Riley Herbst (Ford/Stewart-Haas Racing). AJ Allmendinger (Chevrolet/Kaulig Racing) clinched his second consecutive regular season championship, finishing sixth last night. Josh Berry, Stefan Parsons, Justin Allgaier and Sieg complete the Top 10.
This run also settled the playoff picture. Despite power steering problems, Daniel Hemric clinched one of the last two places available in the field of 12 drivers who will now challenge for the title in the series, thanks to a 20th place. Ryan Sieg took the final qualifying spot, finishing 10th. It was his first Top 10 in 16 starts at Bristol, while brake problems sent Landon Cassill to the garage for 112 laps and relegated him to 35th out of 38 starters.
When JJ Yeley hit the inside wall after light contact with race leader Justin Allgaier on lap 271, Gragson and crew chief Luke Lambert opted to stay on the track while all the other cars on the lap of head went into the pits for new tires.
After the restart on lap 281, Gragson took a one-second lead before Jones started closing the gap on his new tyres. Jones eventually came into contact with Gragson’s bumper on the last lap but he couldn’t find a way past his rival who crossed the finish line 145 thousandths of a second ahead.
Allgaier led a record 148 laps during this race, compared to 89 for Ty Gibbs, 34 for Sheldon Creed and 25 for Gragson. The latter also played a decisive role in the change in the face of the race in the middle of stage 2. Holder of pole position and leader until then, Gibbs (Toyota / Joe Gibbs Racing) had won the first stage by leading from end to end, but on lap 129, with Gibbs and Creed (Chevrolet/Richard Childress racing) battling for the lead, Gragson sent Gibbs’ Toyota into Creed’s Chevrolet and both drivers ran into the outside wall . Gibbs and Creed were eliminated from the race.
After two races away, Quebecer Alex Labbé returned to the wheel of the Camaro No.36 of DGM Racing during this event. Qualified 25th, Labbé finished 26th 3 laps behind the leaders. “3 laps from the end of stage 1, I had a puncture which forced me to enter the pits. It cost me 3 laps and put me out of sequence for the rest of the race” confides Alex, who adds: “a difficult race. I don’t understand how the puncture could have happened on the front right but one thing is certain, it’s frustrating and it’s this problem that ruined our race”.
The Xfinity Series playoffs begin next Saturday, September 24, at Texas Motor Speedway (starts around 3:30 p.m.)… For the full standings from last night’s event in Bristol, click here. For the best video moments, see below.