In a breathtaking display of talent and tenacity, Noah Gragson prevailed over Sheldon Creed and Kyle Larson to capture his fourth win of the season at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200.
With only three laps to go, Creed was leading with Gragson in second place. But Larson, in third, passed Gragson and set his sights on Creed. Then, on the last lap, Creed brushed the wall which damaged his right front tire and Larson got loose beneath him.
Gragson seized the opportunity and had just enough time to drive his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to the front and score his ninth career victory in the series and his second win at Darlington.
It was JR Motorsports’ 10th trip to Victory Lane this year and the most in a single season for the organization.
The dramatic finish came after a rain delay that lasted 2 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds. The wait, however, was quickly forgotten as Gragson, Creed and Larson had fans on their feet while the three drivers battled for the top spot.
“All you fans, was that cool — did we put on a show for you guys?” Gragson yelled after climbing out of his car.
He shared his perspective and his winning strategy as the race wound down.
“Sheldon Creed was really fast. I watched, during that rain delay, him running the top in 1 and 2, and I knew there was a lot of speed there. So I went up there and I found something, and Sheldon pinched me off, and the 17 (Larson) got by me when it was like three to go, and I was like, ‘Oh, they’re going to get into each other — they’re racing too hard.’ (Sheldon’s) got nothing to lose. He’s racing his tail off, and Kyle’s going for a win.”
Creed had to settle for second place and saw the chance to grab his first win in the series and advance to the Playoffs slip away with only two races left in the regular season.
We were all racing really hard there at the end, “Creed said. “I was hoping they were going to get racing behind me and that would kind of let me go but it didn’t happen. I just had to race Kyle (Larson) really hard there; I wasn’t going to give up.
“I’m just happy we had a really fast race car. The guys showed up with a really good car this weekend and it was exactly what we needed, everyone was on it. We stayed in it the whole time and just raced really hard for the win, and I can’t really ask for more in a situation like that. I’m proud of my team and I’m looking forward to Kansas Speedway next weekend to finish one spot better.”
Larson lost some momentum and had to settle for a fifth-place finish, behind Justin Allgaier in third and AJ Allmendinger in fourth.
Ty Gibbs, Christopher Bell, Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Hill rounded out the top 10 finishers at Darlington. AJ Allmendinger currently leads the point standings by 51 points over Ty Gibbs.
The Xfinity Series heads to Kansas Speedway next weekend for the Kansas Lottery 300 at 3 p.m. on the USA network.