Taking control of the race in the final stage, Ty Gibbs sped to his NASCAR Xfinity Series-best fifth victory of the season in Saturday‘s New Holland 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
The tenor of the race changed markedly near the end of the second stage when pole winner Noah Gragson opted to stay on the track and compete for the stage win on the high-speed 2-mile track.
Gibbs had pitted under caution on Lap 55 and inherited the lead when Gragson and others who had stayed out until the completion of the stage came to pit road during the stage break.
The race ran caution-free from the final restart Lap 68 to the finish on Lap 125, and Gibbs beat runner-up Justin Allgaier to the stripe by 1.160 seconds. Gragson worked his way up to third but trailed Gibbs by 2.472 seconds at the finish.
“I think this type of racing shows the strategy in the pit stops,” said Gibbs, who led twice for a race-high 54 laps, matching the number of his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “My guys did such a great job. I work out with them during the week, so I see how hard they work. They do a great job—every one of them.
“So I’m very thankful and glad to be part of the organization that motivates me like that week in and week out — not motivates, because that’s temporary — but being relentless, and I feel like that’s what they showed me.”
The victory was Gibbs’ first at Michigan and the ninth in 39 Xfinity Series starts for a remarkable winning percentage of 23.08.
Allgaier opted for the same strategy as Gibbs, but a slow green-flag pit stop on Lap 100 cost him a chance to compete for the win.
“I pitted to try and get clear of some lapped cars, and, unfortunately, we merged back on the race track right behind those same lapped cars, right before they made their pit stops,” Allgaier said. “So not only did we have to contend with getting by them, as soon as we got by them, they all pitted.
“Second place is tough, but my daughter‘s birthday‘s on Monday, so we‘ll celebrate, even though it‘s second.”
Gragson‘s No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet arguably was the fastest car in the race, but strategy and the absence of cautions in the final stage doomed his prospects.
“We won the first stage and then had a caution with about five to go in the second stage and opted to stay out, won the second stage (by .035 seconds of AJ Allmendinger),” Gragson said. “Then just flipped.
“Restarted the third stage 12th, and that kind of hurt us there at the end, but overall good day for our Bass Pro Shops, Black Rifle Camaro. We were running him down—just needed more laps there at the end.”
Brandon Jones and Austin Hill finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Josh Berry, Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric, Riley Herbst and Landon Cassill completed the top 10.
The caution flag waved just twice for on-track incidents Saturday. The first came at Lap 41 when CJ McLaughlin contacted the outside wall and Matt Mills spun behind him, with the other waving at Lap 53 for an incident involving David Starr and Dillon Bassett in Turn 2. The latter crash set up the dash to the finish of Stage 2 and altered pit strategy for the race’s frontrunners.
Gibbs is also competing in the Cup Series race on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in Kurt Busch’s No. 45 Toyota as Busch recovers from concussion-like symptoms. He will start 11th in the Cup race alongside Gragson, who will pilot the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet from 12th. Hill will make his Cup debut in the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing starting 31st.
NOTE: Inspection in the Xfinity Series garage is complete with no issues, confirming the No. 54 as the race winner.
Contributing: Staff reports