Gragson clinches Championship 4 spot with dominant Xfinity victory at Homestead

Noah Gragson’s dream 2022 season has been elevated to another high note after the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro clinched a Championship 4 berth with a late dominant victory in the Contender Boats 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, October 22.

The 24-year-old Gragson from Las Vegas, Nevada, led six times for a race-high 127 of 200-scheduled laps and was initially on his way to claim a dominant victory with a large advantage when a caution with 13 laps remaining due to an on-track incident briefly stalled his run. Despite the caution, Gragson’s pit crew capitalized late by giving him the final fresh of sticker tires needed for a short run with the lead. During a five-lap dash to the finish, he executed at the start to fend off his fellow Playoff rivals to score his unprecedented eighth victory of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

Above all, Gragson became the second Playoff competitor to punch his ticket into the Championship 4 round at Phoenix Raceway in November alongside teammate Josh Berry, where he will contend for his first Xfinity Series championship.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, Trevor Bayne secured his second pole position of the 2022 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 166.667 mph in 32.400 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff competitor Noah Gragson, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 165.731 mph in 32.583 seconds.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Bayne and Gragson dueled for the lead in Turn 1 and again in Turn 3 until Bayne managed to pull ahead and lead the first lap while the field behind jostled early for positions. As Bayne retained the top spot, Gragson was being challenged early for the runner-up spot by Ty Gibbs and Daniel Hemric while Sam Mayer was in fifth.

On the third lap, the first caution of the event flew when Jeb Burton made contact with JJ Yeley and sent Yeley up the track as he squeezed Riley Herbst into the outside wall in the backstretch.

During the following restart on the seventh lap, Bayne and Gragson dueled for the lead again until Bayne pulled ahead to retain the lead. Behind, Gragson was left to battle Gibbs for second place while Mayer, who was trying to overtake Hemric for fourth place, got loose entering Turn 3. Mayer’s minor slip-up, which nearly collected Hemric, allowed Hemric to retain fourth followed by Brandon Jones, Kyle Weatherman and AJ Allmendinger while Mayer fell back to eighth in front of Austin Hill.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Bayne was leading ahead of teammate Gibbs, Gragson, Brandon Jones and a hard-charging Weatherman while Hemric, Allmendinger, Mayer, Hill and Chandler Smith occupied the top 10. By then, Josh Berry, a Championship 4 finalist after winning last weekend’s event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, was in 12th while teammate Justin Allgaier was back in 14th.

Thirteen laps later, Gragson battled and overtook Bayne to become the second different leader of the day. By then, Gibbs, Hill and Allmendinger were scored in the top five followed by Landon Cassill, Hemric, Weatherman, Allgaier and Berry while Mayer and Brandon Jones fell back to 11th and 12th. In addition, Sheldon Creed made an unscheduled pit stop under green after cutting a right-rear tire.

At the Lap 35 mark, Gragson retained the lead by more than four seconds over Gibbs while Cassill muscled his No. 10 Voyager Chevrolet Camaro into third place. Bayne, meanwhile, fell back to fourth in front of Hill and Allmendinger while Hemric, Mayer, Allgaier and Weatherman were running in the top 10.

Six laps later, the second caution of the event flew when Mason Massey had fallen off the pace in Turn 2 after getting into the wall. At the same time, CJ McLaughlin spun from the top to the bottom and below the apron through the backstretch as his car came to a stop. The incident was enough for the first stage scheduled on Lap 45 to conclude under caution as Gragson captured his 15th stage victory of the 2022 season. Cassill settled in second followed by Gibbs, Bayne, Allmendinger, Hill, Hemric, Mayer, Weatherman and Allgaier. By then, six of eight Playoff competitors were running in the top 10 while the remaining two which included Berry and Brandon Jones were scored in 11th and 12th, respectively.

Under the stage break, the leaders led by Gragson pitted for four fresh tires and fuel. Following the pit stops, Cassill emerged with the lead followed by Gibbs, Gragson and Hill. During the pit stops, Nick Sanchez, the 2022 ARCA Menards Series champion, missed his pit stall and had to cycle around the circuit for a second time for service.

The second stage started on Lap 50 as Cassill and Gragson occupied the front row. At the start and amid a brief stack-up towards the front, Gibbs muscled his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Supra into the lead until Gragson rocketed his No. 9 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro back into the lead through the backstretch and back to the frontstretch. Shortly after, a three-car battle for the lead intensified between Gragson, Gibbs and Hill while Allmendinger was in fourth ahead of Cassill, Mayer and a bevy of competitors vying for positions.

By Lap 55, Hill led a lap for himself and he retained the top spot ahead of Gragson and Gibbs while Allmendinger, Mayer, Cassill, Berry, Bayne, Allgaier and Hemric were running in the top 10. By then, all but one of eight Playoff competitors were running in the top 10 as Brandon Jones was mired in 14th.

Fifteen laps later, Hill retained the lead by a tenth of a second over Gragson followed by Allmendinger, Bayne and Gibbs while Allgaier, Mayer, Cassill, Hemric and Chandler Smith were running in the top 10. By then, Berry made an unscheduled pit stop under green after making contact with the outside wall.

Another lap later, Gragson reassumed the lead over Hill as Allmendinger started to close in on the two leaders. While Bayne and Gibbs stabilized themselves in the top five, a three-car battle for sixth place occurred between Cassill, Allgaier and Mayer. Not long after, Creed made another pit stop under green after getting into the wall and cutting a right-rear tire.

By Lap 80, Gragson was leading by more than a second over Allmendinger, who overtook Hill for the runner-up spot, while Bayne and Gibbs remained in the top five. A few laps later, Weatherman, who was having a strong run toward the front, pitted under green after making contact with the wall. Soon after, Ryan Sieg was off the pace while running in the access road with flat tires while Allgaier made a pit stop under green with a flat right-front tire.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 90, Gragson captured his 16th stage victory of the 2022 season and the second of the day. Allmendinger settled in second followed by Hill, Bayne, Mayer, Gibbs, Cassill, Hemric, Chandler Smith and Stefan Parsons. By then, five of eight Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 while the remaining Playoff competitors that included Brandon Jones, Berry and Allgaier were scored in 11th, 19th and 24th, respectively.

Under the stage break, the leaders led by Gragson pitted and Gragson retained the lead after exiting pit road first and by a hair over Hill, Allmendinger, Bayne and Mayer.

With 104 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Gragson and Hill dueled for the lead until Gragson cleared the field and pulled away through the backstretch followed by Bayne. During the following lap and as the field behind jostled for positions, Hill overtook Gragson through Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead while Bayne was running third place in front of a side-by-side battle between Mayer and Allmendinger. Brandon Jones soon joined the battle toward the front along with Gibbs, Hemric and Cassill.

At the halfway mark on Lap 100, Hill and Bayne battled dead even for the lead, with the latter returning to the lead, while Gragson, Allmendinger and Brandon Jones were running in the top five. Behind, Hemric, Gibbs, Mayer, Cassill and Berry scrambled within the top 10 while Chandler Smith, Herbst, Parsons, Sanchez and Parker Retzlaff were running in the top 15 ahead of Bayley Currey, Anthony Alfredo, Jeb Burton, Brennan Poole, Myatt Snider and Allgaier. 

Ten laps later, Bayne was out in front by more than a second over Hill while Allmendinger, Gragson, Berry, Cassill, Gibbs, Brandon Jones, Hemric and Chandler Smith were scored in the top 10. By then, six of eight Playoff competitors were running in the top 10 while the remaining two that included Mayer and Allgaier were in 11th and 16th.

Another 15 laps later and with a series of spots being swapped towards the front, Gragson, who overtook Hill three laps earlier and was starting to reel in on Bayne for the lead, executed a bold move beneath Bayne entering the first turn to reassume the lead. Not long after taking the lead, Gragson extended his advantage to more than a second while Bayne was starting to be challenged by Allmendinger and Hill for the runner-up spot. 

With less than 70 laps remaining, Allmendinger moved his way into the runner-up spot over Hill following a heated between Hill while Gragson continued to extend his advantage to more than four seconds. Behind, Berry was in fourth ahead of Bayne while Gibbs, Cassill, Hemric, Smith and Mayer were in the top 10.

Then with less than 65 laps remaining, Allgaier, who was running in 17th, pitted under green but endured a slow stop from his crew due to a jack issue.

With 60 laps remaining, pit stops under green commenced as Hill pitted followed by the leader Gragson, Bayne, Brandon Jones, Gibbs, Mayer and others. Following the pit stops, Bayne was penalized for speeding while entering pit road. Under the final 55 scheduled laps and with the cycle of green flag pit stops complete, Gragson cycled his way back into the lead followed by a hard-charging Hill while Allmendinger, Gibbs and Cassill were scored in the top five. 

Five laps later, Gragson’s advantage decreased to a tenth of a second over Hill, who continued to close in on Gragson despite radioing concerns about a vibration to his No. 21 United Rentals Chevrolet Camaro. Another three laps later, Hill surrendered the runner-up spot to pit under green to have the vibration issue addressed as he dropped out of the lead lap category.

Back on the track and with 45 laps remaining, Gragson was leading by more than five seconds over runner-up Allmendinger and by more than nine seconds over third-place Berry while Cassill and Gibbs were in the top five.

Two laps later, Cassill, who was running towards the top five, pitted under green for four fresh tires and fuel while Gragson retained the lead by more than six seconds over Allmendinger.

With 30 laps remaining, Gragson stabilized his advantage to more than six seconds over Allmendinger while Berry, Hemric and Gibbs were scored in the top five. By then, seven of eight Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 while the remaining Playoff competitor, Allgaier, was in 12th. In addition, 13 competitors were scored on the lead lap.

Down to the final 20 laps of the event and with a handful of competitors making contact against one another and towards the wall, Gragson extended his advantage to nearly eight seconds over Allmendinger while third-place Berry trailed by more than eight seconds. While Hemric and Gibbs remained in the top five, Chandler Smith was up in sixth while Mayer, Hill, Allgaier and Herbst were in the top 10. 

Then with 13 laps remaining, the caution flew when Stefan Parsons spun in Turn 1 with damage to his entry. By then, Nick Sanchez had fallen off the pace below the apron with flat right-side tires after making contact with the wall earlier as his strong night towards the front was spoiled. Parsons’ incident erased Gragson’s advantage of more than eight seconds over teammate Berry.

Under caution, the leaders led by Gragson pitted and Gragson exited with the lead still in his possession followed by Allmendinger, Hemric, Gibbs and Hill.

Down to the final five laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Gragson launched away with the lead following a strong start while Allmendinger was left to fend off Gibbs for second place. Through the backstretch, however, Allmendinger and Gibbs gained ground on Gragson, who continued to lead as he returned to the frontstretch. As the laps dwindled, Gragson slightly extended his advantage to nearly half a second over Allmendinger while Gibbs kept Allmendinger close in front of him.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Gragson remained as the leader by half a second over Gibbs while Allmendinger was back in third. Having no late challenges mounting behind him, Gragson muscled his way back to the frontstretch under full power and streaked across the finish line for his unprecedented eighth victory of the 2022 season and to claim a second spot in the championship finale.

In addition, Gragson recorded his 13th career victory in the Xfinity Series and his first at Homestead after dominating the previous three Xfinity events in Miami before falling short of the victory. Gragson’s victory was also the 15th of the season for JR Motorsports, which marked the 73rd overall Xfinity victory for JRM, and the 23rd of the season for Chevrolet, which clinched the manufacturer’s title a week ago.

“I wanted this one so bad the last three years,” Gragson said on USA Network. “Words can’t describe how thankful I am for everybody at JR Motorsports. Unbelievable. Thank you, Bass Pro Shops. Man, I’m worn out. It takes a lot of focus to run the fence like that. Pit crew did a great job. Really grateful.”

Ty Gibbs posted his fourth runner-up result of the season and left Homestead with a 30-point advantage above the top-four cutline to transfer to the Championship 4 round while Allmendinger, who came into the event 16 points below the cutline, moved back into the cutline with a five-point advantage with his sixth third-place finish of this season.

“We were just battling our race car, I feel like, all day,” Gibbs said. “We made great adjustments and my guys never gave up. Thank you to my whole Monster Energy Toyota GR Supra No. 54 group. We’ll move on to Martinsville. I feel like that’s a place we were really fast earlier this year and probably had a shot to win at, so I’m excited to go back there. To come out with a P2 finish is, I feel like, pretty good. We’re plus 30 [in the Playoff standings], so I think that’s really strong.”

“[I’m] Really proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing,” Allmendinger said. “Our Action Industries Chevy was pretty damn good. It was probably still better than the driver. Overall, we made up a lot of points there and we at least have a shot down at Martinsville.”

Hemric and Mayer finished fourth and fifth while Bayne, Chandler Smith, Herbst, Hill and Allgaier, who rallied from an eventful run from the rear towards the front, completed the top 10 on the track.

“I’m glad [today’s] over,” Allgaier, who is five points below the cutline, said. “Our team, definitely, had some adversity tonight. The only saving grace, I think, was about a 70-lap run there. We were able to drive away from [Gragson] and keep on the lead lap or tail end of the lead lap. I felt like we definitely made good strides over the course of the day to get our BRANDT Foundation Camaro up where we needed to be. The jack [issue] hurt us the most. That green flag stop, just losing all that track position, and I just tried to push it as hard as I could to get back up there. Ultimately, it worked out. We got back on the lead lap and were able to score some points there. We’re below the cut. We’ll go [to Martinsville] and we can lay it all on the line. Five points [deficit] is nothing. We can go there and have a good weekend. We’ll lock our way into Phoenix.”   

There were 13 lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 24 laps.

Results.

1. Noah Gragson, 127 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

2. Ty Gibbs, one lap led

3. AJ Allmendinger, one lap led

4. Daniel Hemric

5. Sam Mayer

6. Trevor Bayne, 46 laps led

7. Chandler Smith

8. Riley Herbst

9. Austin Hill, 19 laps led

10. Justin Allgaier

11. Josh Berry, three laps led

12. Landon Cassill, three laps led

13. Bayley Currey

14. Brennan Poole

15. Brandon Jones, one lap down 

16. Parker Retzlaff, one lap down

17. Sheldon Creed, one lap down

18. Anthony Alfredo, one lap down

19. Jeb Burton, one lap down

20. Kyle Weatherman, two laps down

21. David Starr, two laps down

22. Myatt Snider, two laps down

23. Patrick Emerling, two laps down

24. Joe Graf Jr., two laps down

25. Nicholas Sanchez, two laps down

26. Jeremy Clements, three laps down

27. Kris Wright, four laps down

28. Julia Landauer, four laps down

29. Timmy Hill, five laps down

30. Josh Williams, five laps down

31. CJ McLaughlin, five laps down

32. Matt Mills, five laps down

33. Ryan Sieg, 10 laps down

34. Stefan Parsons – OUT, Accident

35. Kyle Sieg – OUT, Accident

36. BJ McLeod – OUT, Electrical

37. Mason Massey – OUT, Engine

38. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident

*Bold indicates Playoff contenders

Playoff standings

1. Noah Gragson – Advanced

2. Josh Berry – Advanced

3. Ty Gibbs +30

4. AJ Allmendinger +5

5. Justin Allgaier -5

6. Austin Hill -7

7. Sam Mayer -28

8. Brandon Jones -38

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ return to Martinsville Speedway, where the Championship 4 field will be determined. The event is scheduled to occur on Saturday, October 29, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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