KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In what is turning out to be a banner season for Noah Gragson, the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet scored his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the year in Saturday‘s rain-shortened Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Gragson charged from sixth in the running order past cars on older tires — and past the dominant Toyota of Ty Gibbs — to grab the lead after a restart on Lap 76.
A light rain interrupted the proceedings on Lap 82, but Gragson held the top spot in a two-lap shootout at the end of Stage 2. When rain began to fall harder and drenched the track, NASCAR red-flagged the race on Lap 94 and subsequently declared Gragson the winner.
The victory was Gragson‘s second straight, his first at Kansas — the only active Xfinity Series track where he had previously failed to record a top 10 — and the 10th of his career.
“The 54 (Gibbs) was really fast all day,” Gragson said. “The pit crew did a good job all day keeping us in contention. That restart (on Lap 76) was the most important part of the race today. Yeah, it‘s a rain victory, but we came off pit road third behind the 54 and 19 (Brandon Jones).
“They both took the top, and I chose the bottom, third row. I restarted inside the 19, and I could see the 54 pushing the 07 (Brett Moffitt, who along with Ryan Sieg and Austin Hill had stayed out on older tires). He (Moffitt) was spinning his tires pretty bad.
“I got to the lead on those guys, and that kind of was the game-changer on today‘s race. I think we all knew that we were racing to halfway or a little after.”
After the restart with two laps left in the second stage, there was drama right behind Gragson. As Justin Allgaier battled Stage 1 winner Gibbs for the runner-up spot, Allgaier forced Gibbs‘ No. 54 Toyota high into the outside lane.
Gibbs brushed the wall and subsequently turned down and door-slammed Allgaier‘s No. 7 Chevrolet as the cars approached the finish line. Allgaier held second, .670 seconds behind the race winner, with Gibbs finishing third, 1.266 seconds back.
After the race, Gibbs apologized for losing his cool on what proved to be the final lap.
“I came back down, frustrated, and hit the 7,” Gibbs said. “The worst part is, I hurt my day more than it‘s going to hurt anybody else‘s. It‘s just stupid of me to do that. I just think I need to fix those things… It‘s easy for all of us to get angry — me especially. I just didn‘t make the right decision there.
“I apologize to them. I apologize to my group. I should be the one taking the door off the race car, because I hit him.”
Allgaier had mixed feelings about the stoppage. His car was improving with every pit stop, but the damage he suffered during the run-in with Gibbs would have limited his chances to win, had the race resumed.
“If we were to go back green, I think it extremely limited his day and probably was going to limit our day as well,” Allgaier said. “Frustrations get the best of you a lot of times, but I just hate it that we tore up a race car that wasn‘t really torn up before that.”
Pole winner Brandon Jones ran fourth, followed by Ross Chastain. AJ Allmendinger, Josh Berry, Sammy Smith, Sam Mayer and Moffitt completed the top 10. Mayer and 16th-place finisher Riley Herbst clinched Playoffs spots on points with one race left before the cutoff.
The Xfinity Series’ regular-season finale is scheduled Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM) at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Note: NASCAR officials reported no issues with post-race technical inspection in the Xfinity Series garage, confirming Gragson as the race winner. Officials indicated that eight cars would be taken to the NASCAR Research & Development Center for further review. Those teams (in numerical order): No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Nos. 7 and 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolets, No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, No. 39 RSS Racing Ford, No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet, No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet, No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Contributing: Staff reports