Gragson hold off Haley for emotional Xfinity win at Richmond
RICHMOND (VA) — Noah Gragson, who led with seven laps remaining in the restart, held on to the lead and beat Justin Haley to win his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
Gragson was in the race together with Dale Earnhardt Jr. He now has momentum to the playoffs with his second win of the season and fourth career race.
Just one race remains before the field is set for the 12-driver postseason.
“We are starting to get momentum in the right time,” said Gragson, an emotional commentator. He added that the day was about remembering the victims of the September 11 terror attack and the heroes who fought it. 20- Year anniversary.
“Today’s focus is not on this team or this win. He said that it was about all those who died 20 many years ago. You got a lot on your shoulders. At least in America, we can come together on this day … but it’s an it’s emotional day.”
Haley held on for second, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Gragson teammate Justin Allgaier and Riley Herbst with just one race left before the 10-race playoffs begin.
” We turned a bad day into a good day, gambled with the strategy, and made it okay,” stated Haley. His team chose not to pit at the last laps of the leaders, and was able rally. “I think that’s a championship caliber effort that we put forth.”
Nemechek, a regular in the NASCAR truck series, was driving for Sam Hunt Racing, a team owned by VCU graduate and former racer Sam Hunt, a native of Midlothian, about 15 miles from the track.
” “I don’t think that we had enough car to win there but we certainly made the most of the day,” Nemechek said. He is the truck series regular leader with five wins this season. “It’s nice to know that this is his home track and we were able to run really well.”
Earnhardt, making his annual lone start in the series, rose to as high as third by gambling on old tires with about 60 laps to go, but quickly faded to 21st because most of the race leaders had fresher tires. He and others got the caution they needed with just over 20 laps to go, but Earnhardt was caught speeding in pit road and only was able to rally for a 14th-place finish.
” We didn’t have the car that I wanted and maybe I couldn’t get it around the track,” Earnhardt stated before he headed to change to be part of the broadcast team at the Cup Series race.
” “I hope I haven’t lost any credibility being 14th this morning,” he stated.
Defending series champion Austin Cindric began the day trailing A.J. Allmendinger was ahead by one point, with two races remaining in regular season. Both were in the lead almost throughout the day, but they were shuffled back by a series late cautions.
Cindric was 16th. Allmendinger 18th was next, but he still increased his lead to five over Cindric. They are one of nine full-time drivers who have secured a postseason berth. Three spots are still available.
The loud cheers began when Dale Earnhardt Jr. walked out of the driver introduction tunnel with his 3-year-old daughter Isla. Earnhardt ran Richmond’s one-race for the year for the second time since his retirement.
He was in the top five for each of his previous one race seasons. This included a fourth at Richmond in 2018..
The series wraps up its 26-race regular season, and sets the 12-driver field for the 10-race playoffs, on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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