HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Noah Gragson has led plenty of laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway with three top-10 finishes in his four starts before this weekend. And Saturday night — at long last — Gragson earned the Xfinity Series winner‘s trophy to go with all his statistical success at the South Florida track.
The 23-year-old Las Vegas native led a dominating 127 of the 200 laps — at one point his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevy was out front by more than nine seconds. Ultimately it took a strong restart with five laps remaining for Gragson to ensure the victory — just .550 seconds over fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series championship challenger Ty Gibbs.
The win is Gragson‘s automatic ticket to the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway in two weeks — a fitting placement for the young driver who leads the series with eight wins, more than doubling his previous best single-season win tally.
“I wanted this one so bad,‘‘ Gragson said, raising his hand in celebration with the cheering crowd. “The last three years. … Words can‘t describe how thankful I am for everybody at JR Motorsports.”
The Xfinity Series race wrapped up a huge NASCAR doubleheader Saturday with the dominating Gragson victory. He won both stages, giving him 16 stage wins on the season — more than twice as many as any other driver.
Gragson now joins his JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry — last week‘s winner at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — with an automatic Championship 4 berth with two final-four positions still to be decided.
Gibbs‘ runner-up finish places him third in the championship standings. He‘s a healthy 30 points ahead of fourth place, Kaulig Racing‘s AJ Allmendinger, with next week‘s Martinsville (Va.) Speedway race settling which four drivers will be racing for the title at Phoenix on Nov. 5.
“We were just battling our race car all day, we made great adjustments and my guys never gave up,‘‘ said the 20-year-old Gibbs, who was making his Homestead-Miami Speedway debut.
“We‘ll move on to Martinsville. I feel like that‘s a place we were really fast at earlier this year and probably had a shot to win it so I‘m excited to go back there.”
JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier, who had an eventful day, finished 10th coming back from being a lap down. He now trails Allmendinger by only five points for that final Playoff berth. Richard Childress Racing‘s Austin Hill sits seven points below the cutoff line with a ninth-place Homestead finish.
JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer, who finished fifth Saturday, is now 28 points behind Allmendinger, and Joe Gibbs Racing‘s Brandon Jones is 28 points back after finishing 15th.
Gibbs and Allmendinger were among the seven race leaders on the day. If not for a late-race caution for a frontstretch incident on Lap 187, it looked like a sure Gragson runaway.
Allmendinger finished third with his Kaulig Racing teammate Daniel Hemric fourth. Mayer was fifth. Trevor Bayne finished sixth — his 46 laps led in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota were second only to Gragson‘s high mark — and contended before a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 144 hindered his victory bid.
Chandler Smith, who hours earlier at Homestead earned a Championship 4 position in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, finished seventh. Riley Herbst, Hill and Allgaier rounded out the top 10.
The Xfinity Series’ next race is scheduled for next Saturday, Oct. 29 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, MRN, SiriusXM) at Martinsville Speedway. The Dead On Tools 250 will be the last of three races in the postseason’s Round of 8, and the remaining slots in the Championship 4 field will be decided after the 250-lap event. Gragson is the defending winner of this playoff race. Jones won at Martinsville this spring.
Contributing: Staff reports