Noah Gragson isn‘t in the business of wrecking teammates for victories, but he‘s also not going to let a chance at victory slip away without a fight.
Gragson was in the second position lined up alongside JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier for a restart with seven laps remaining in the scheduled distance of Monday night‘s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Allgaier charged out to a slight lead over Gragson as the laps dwindled, but a minor slip-up by Allgaier allowed Gragson to mount a final challenge.
That‘s when the plot thickened, as Gragson powered to the bottom lane to push past Allgaier. The pair raced side by side for a half lap before Gragson‘s No. 9 Chevrolet broke loose into Turn 1, sliding up to make contact with Allgaier‘s No. 7 Chevrolet. Allgaier went up the 36-degree banking, hitting the outside wall before sliding back down and spinning hard into the inside fence on the backstretch.
RELATED: Official race results
From Gragson‘s perspective, it was an opportunity he couldn‘t pass up despite the risk of upsetting a counterpart.
“(Allgaier) slipped up in 1 and 2 when I was running him down and that allowed me to get inside of him,” Gragson said. “I wouldn‘t have gotten to him if he didn‘t slip up. Got into him going into 1 and 2 and just got loose underneath him.
“I don‘t make excuses. I take responsibility. I apologize for the 7 car, but I‘m here to win races for the No. 9 team and they put in way too much effort for me to ride around and finish second.”
While Gragson hung on for his second triumph of the 2020 season after an overtime restart, Allgaier was unable to finish the race despite leading a race-high 156 laps, placing 18th. The veteran JRM driver admitted to his mistake, but it didn‘t change the fact he left the .533-mile Tennessee track frustrated.
“The team did a great job getting us track position we needed,” Allgaier told PRN after the incident. “I‘m more mad at myself for making a mistake and getting off the bottom, but yeah, we got wrecked.”
Gragson passed by Allgaier after his victory celebration.
“I saw him and he said he would talk to me later,” Gragson said. “We are a family over at JR Motorsports and that‘s not my goal is to tear up race cars, but I had the opportunity. The opportunity is there. The opportunity can slip away and I want to damn well take advantage of it.
“I don‘t know what‘s going to happen in the future. I take full responsibility for getting loose underneath him, that‘s a fact. One thing you can‘t say is I‘m not aggressive and I‘m not going to try. I‘m sure he probably owes me one, but you don‘t slip up the lap before and I don‘t get to you and you drive off to victory. Don‘t mess up, I guess.”
While Gragson showed some remorse for ending his teammate‘s night early, he didn‘t back down from his stance on leaving it all out on the track, noting he’d be unable to look his crew members in the eyes if he didn‘t make the aggressive effort.
“I have a lot of respect for Justin and the No. 7 team,” Gragson said. “All of us drivers are on the limits and I don‘t know if it‘s a mistake or whatnot, but it ended bad for him unfortunately, but still a tremendous amount of respect for him. He‘ll probably race me differently, but time will tell, that‘s why everyone should keep watching.
“I don‘t like wrecking people. I don‘t like wrecking teammates, that‘s not how I race. I‘m an aggressive race-car driver, and when you‘re battling for wins, I guess (expletive) happens. … I leave it all out on the track, and it is what it is.”