In the first NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway that featured close-quarters competition from start to finish, including through two overtime attempts, Ty Gibbs used a bold crossover move on Ryan Sieg on the final lap to win the Nalley Cars 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 19.
The 19-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs from Charlotte, North Carolina, survived a chaotic afternoon featuring nine cautions as he only led the final lap and became the first repeat winner of this year’s Xfinity Series season.
The starting lineup for the event was determined through the Performance Metrics formula based on four statistics: drivers’ results, owners’ race and points results and the fastest lap from the previous Cup event. With that, Noah Gragson, winner of last weekend’s Xfinity event at Phoenix Raceway, started on pole position. Joining him on the front row was teammate Josh Berry.
The use of the Performance Metrics formula occurred after rain cancelled all on-track activities on Friday, which resulted with the Xfinity competitors receiving a single practice session on Saturday in place of on-track qualifying.
Prior to the event, Matt Mills, Jeffery Earnhardt, Loris Hezemans, Ryan Sieg and Stefan Parsons dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustment to their respective machines. In addition, Riley Herbst pitted prior to the start due to a tire issue.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Gragson took off with an early advantage followed by teammate Josh Berry, Ty Gibbs, Brandon Jones, Trevor Bayne and Justin Allgaier.
By the fifth lap, Gragson was leading by over Brandon Jones followed by Trevor Bayne, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and the field.
Through the first 10 laps of the event, Gragson continued to lead by more than a tenth of a second over Jones while Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Gibbs were in the top five. Bayne was back in sixth followed by Justin Allgaier, Brandon Brown, Berry and Brett Moffitt were in the top 10.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 20, Gragson fended off Allmendinger to retain the lead and the field. Under the competition caution, some led by Allmendinger pitted while the rest led by Gragson remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Hemric, who initially pitted under the completion caution, pitted again.
On Lap 26, the race restarted under green. At the start, Brandon Jones peaked ahead before Gragson reassumed the lead on the inside lane and when the field returned to the start/finish line.
By Lap 30, Gragson was leading by more than a tenth of a second over Jones followed by Gibbs, Allgaier, Berry and the field.
Shortly after, Berry used the inside lane to his advantage as he challenged Jones for the runner-up spot before teammate Gragson moved to the inside lane to retain the lead. That, however, allowed Jones, who was the lead competitor on the outside lane, to challenge Gragson for the lead.
As the field continued to battle dead even towards the front, Gragson continued to lead followed by Jones and Berry as teammate Sam Mayer joined the battle for the lead.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 40, Berry managed to overtake and edge teammate Gragson to claim the stage victory, which was also his first of the season. Behind Berry and Gragson were teammates Justin Allgaier and Sam Mayer while Trevor Bayne settled in the top five. Austin Hill, Jeb Burton, Brandon Brown, Brandon Jones and Brett Moffitt were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, some led by Allmendinger remained on the track while the rest led by Berry pitted.
The second stage started on Lap 47 as Allmendinger and teammate Landon Cassill occupied the front row. At the start, the Kaulig Racing teammates battled dead even until Allmendinger pulled ahead through the frontstretch. With Allmendinger ahead by a narrow margin, Cassill battled Jade Buford for the runner-up spot followed by rookie Austin Hill and Daniel Hemric.
Just past the Lap 50 mark, Gragson, who was trying to carve his way back to the front, pitted under green after making contact with the outside wall. Not long after, Riley Herbst pitted to address an overheating issue to his Ford.
Back on the track, Allmendinger was leading ahead of teammate Hemric while Jade Buford, Tommy Joe Martins and Sage Karam were in the top five.
On Lap 60, Allmendinger continued to lead by more than a tenth of a second over teammate Hemric followed by Buford, Martins, Karam, Brandon Brown, Bayne, Allgaier, Jeb Burton and rookie Sheldon Creed.
Ten laps later, Allmendinger remained in the lead ahead of teammate Hemric, Buford, Martins, Karam and the field, with the top-15 competitors separated by less than two seconds.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 80, Allmendinger retained the top spot as he claimed his first stage victory of the season. Teammate Hemric settled in second followed by Buford, Martins, Karam, Creed, Brown, Hill, Jeb Burton and Cassill.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted for adjustments as Creed emerged with the top spot.
With 75 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Creed received a push from teammate Hill to lead ahead of Allmendinger while the field jostled for positions.
Five laps later, Creed was leading followed by teammate Hill, Jones, Bayne and Buford while Allmendinger, Mayer, Allgaier, Myatt Snider and Gibbs were in the top 10.
Another six laps later, Bayne stormed to the front followed by Snider and Gibbs while Creed and Hill were left battling with Gragson in the top five. Then, an intense side-by-side battle for the lead ignited between Snider and Bayne while Gibbs, Gragson, Creed and Hill were left battling in the top six.
Under the final 60 laps of the event, the top-15 competitors were separated by a second as Bayne was out in front followed by teammate Gibbs and Gragson.
Then with 57 laps remaining, the caution flew when Jade Buford spun and wrecked in the backstretch as he also collected Jeremy Clements, Jeb Burton and Anthony Alfredo. The incident spoiled Buford’s strong run towards the front as he parked his car in the garage.
Under caution, some led by Bayne remained on the track while others led by Gragson pitted.
With 51 laps remaining, the race restarted under green as Bayne and Hill battled dead even for the lap. Just as the field returned to the start/finish line, the caution returned when Hemric, who battling Joe Graf Jr. and Brandon Brown in a three-wide battle, slid in front of Joe Graf Jr. and made hard contact against the Turn 4 outside wall.
Following an extensive clean-up session, the race restarted under green with 41 laps remaining. At the start, Hill battled for the lead on the inside lane, but Bayne used the outside lane to fight back on the outside lane.
During the following lap, Bayne received a push from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Gibbs and Brandon Jones to storm clear with the lead as Brandon Brown moved into fourth place while Hill was left battling Allmendinger for fifth place.
A few laps later, Hill slipped back to eighth place in front of teammate Sheldon Creed as the front-runners settled in a long single-file line towards the outside wall. By then, Bayne remained as the leader followed by teammates Gibbs and Jones.
Then with 34 laps remaining, the caution flew when Sam Mayer spun across the frontstretch and near the pit road entrance.
Four laps later and with darkness looming over the track, the race restarted under green. At the start, Bayne rocketed with the lead followed by teammates Gibbs and Jones. Soon after, Brown moved up to fourth followed by Hill while Allmendinger launched a challenge as the lead competitor on the inside lane. Hill, however, moved to the inside lane as he then made a bid for the lead against Bayne.
With 25 laps remaining, the caution flew when Brandon Brown spun in Turn 1 after making contact with Creed, which Brown barely clipped Berry before he spun below the apron. At the moment of caution, Hill emerged with the lead over Bayne. During the caution period, Allgaier pitted while the rest of the field pitted.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, the race restarted under green as Hill and Gibbs occupied the front row. At the start, Bayne gave Hill a shove for the latter to lead and clear the field.
With 15 laps remaining, the top-nine competitors were separated under a second as Hill was leading ahead of Allmendinger, Cassill, Berry, Gibbs, Brandon Jones, Kyle Weatherman, Bayne and Ryan Sieg.
Then with 11 laps remaining, Bayne, who was trying to overtake Hill for the lead on the outside lane, made contact with the outside wall in Turn 1. With the field scrambling and moving to the inside lane, Bayne made contact with Berry in Turn 2, which sent Berry and teammate Gragson around as a multi-car wreck ensued. Among those involved included Allgaier, Mayer, Jeb Burton, Alex Labbe, Martins, Karam, Gibbs and Parsons.
Following another extensive clean-up period, the race restarted with three laps remaining. Just as Hill started to peak ahead of Snider with drafting help from Ryan Sieg, the caution flew and the race was sent into overtime when Riley Herbst clipped and turned Myatt Snider in Turn 1.
During the first overtime attempt, Sieg briefly battled against Hill for the lead when the caution flew due to a three-car wreck that involved Matt Mills, Stefan Parsons and Tommy Joe Martins. The wreck placed the competition in a red flag period before the competitors were sent into a second overtime attempt.
At the start of the second overtime attempt, Hill and Sieg battled dead even through the first two turns and the backstretch before Sieg pulled ahead in Turn 3.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Sieg was out in front until a strong crossover move by Gibbs enabled the No. 54 Sport Clips Toyota Supra to storm to the lead entering Turn 1. Meanwhile, Sieg was being overtaken by the field as he received no drafting help to return back to the lead. As the battles continued behind him, Gibbs was gone as he returned to the finish line uncontested and claimed his second checkered flag of this season.
In addition to claiming his second victory of the 2022 Xfinity season, Gibbs recorded his first win in his first NASCAR national touring series start at Atlanta and his sixth career victory in his 23rd series start.
“First of all, I wanna say all glory to God!” Gibbs exclaimed on FS1. “I wanna say thank you for letting Him be able to get me in these moments. Second of all, I wanna say thank you to my team. What the heck? Oh my gosh. I did not expect this at all. That was one of those where I learned a big lesson. Just never give up. Let’s go!”
Hill, who notched his first Xfinity career win at Daytona International Speedway in February, settled in second place followed by AJ Allmendinger while Herbst and Landon Cassill finished in the top five.
Mason Massey, a 25-year-old native from Douglasville, Georgia, notched his first top-10 career result in sixth place while Brandon Jones, Kyle Weatherman, Creed and Sieg completed the top 10 on the track.
There were 11 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured 10 cautions for 56 laps.
Despite finishing 26th, Gragson retains the lead in the regular season standings by 19 points over Ty Gibbs and AJ Allmendinger with Justin Allgaier trailing by 51, Josh Berry by 59 and Brandon Jones over 70.
1. Ty Gibbs, one lap led
2. Austin Hill, 27 laps led
3. AJ Allmendinger, 41 laps led
4. Riley Herbst
5. Landon Cassill
6. Mason Massey
7. Brandon Jones, one lap led
8. Kyle Weatherman
9. Sheldon Creed, 15 laps led
10. Ryan Sieg, six laps led
11. JJ Yeley
12. Ryan Vargas
13. Jeffrey Earnhardt
14. Brett Moffitt
15. Jeb Burton
16. Anthony Alfredo
17. Shane Lee
18. Brandon Brown
19. Alex Labbe
20. Tommy Joe Maartins
21. Sam Mayer
22. Josh Williams
23. Joe Graf Jr.
24. Kyle Sieg
25. Stefan Parsons
26. Noah Gragson, 38 laps led
27. Jesse Iwuji
28. Trevor Bayne, 38 laps led
29. Bayley Currey
30. Myatt Snider, one lap down, two laps led
31. Matt Mills – OUT, Accident
32. Sage Karem – OUT, Accident
33. Josh Berry – OUT, Accident, three laps led
34. Justin Allgaier – OUT, Accident
35. Daniel Hemric – OUT, Accident
36. Loris Hezemans – OUT, Accident
37. Jeremy Clements – OUT, Accident
38. Jade Buford – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ second trip to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The event is scheduled to occur on Saturday, March 26, at 4:30 p.m ET on FS1.