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Gragson races his way into Xfinity final 4

Gragson races his way into Xfinity final 4


MARTINSVILLE – On the televised prerace show for Saturday night’s Xfinity Series event at Martinsville Speedway, Noah Gragson all but guaranteed he would win.

They should have asked him for the night’s lottery numbers, too.

With taking the checkered flag his only option to make the Championship 4, Gragson grabbed the lead just ahead of the final caution and survived an overtime challenge from Austin Cindric to win the Dead On Tools 250.

“I love my mom, my dad, my sister, my whole family,” Gragson said as he fought back tears. “I’m getting a little choked up right now, and I know I’m going on and on, but this is Martinsville, baby! We’re going to the final four!”

Gragson will be joined by Cindric, A.J. Allmendinger and Daniel Hemric in racing for the title next week in Phoenix.

Gragson scorched the tires completely off his car during the celebratory burnout, then joined his crew members in climbing the fence that separates the grandstands from the front stretch at this historic half-mile oval.

“I’m trying to catch my breath,” Gragson said. “I’m so thankful. It’s just such an awesome opportunity.

“It’s been a rough season. We got a couple wins there at Darlington and Richmond, and it wasn’t looking good after last weekend. I was pretty fired up. I told my guys we’ve got an opportunity. We’re still in it.”

He said more than that on the prerace show, comparing his car to a snow plow and advising all the other drivers to be ready to be shoved aside. In actuality, though, Gragson took a remarkably clean avenue to the front, including the late move that proved to be the winning one.

Hemric looked like he was heading for his first career Xfinity Series win, leading comfortably over Gragson before a caution flag flew with seven laps remaining – a common occurrence at this track.

“We got lucky there,” Gragson said. “It kind of saved our season.”

“When it came out,” Hemric said, “it wasn’t surprising.”

What was a tad surprising was Gragson’s decision to start on the outside of the front row on the restart. He could have chosen to start on the inside behind Hemric, which would have given him the “snow plow” option to make the pass.

Instead, he trusted that his car would be faster – and it was. Gragson grabbed the lead moments before another caution flag came out to force overtime.

On the ensuing restart, Hemric was left with the same choice Gragson had faced. But with his passageway to the final four looking good on points, he decided to start on the inside and try to save ground rather than risk a chaotic finish from the outside.

“I’ve never points raced before in my career,” Hemric said. “That last decision was a complete points decision that I hated that I had to make.”

The result, though, kept him alive for a championship. Less fortunate was Justin Allgaier, who entered the night nine points above the cutline. He was eliminated despite finishing fifth in the race.

“Just wasn’t enough,” Allgaier said. “We played the safe strategy that we talked about before the race. We felt like it was the smart strategy. We just gave up too many points.”

Justin Haley, Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton also were eliminated. Meanwhile, Gragson went from being the most desperate driver on the track to the one with the most momentum heading into the finale.

“It’s a good time to win,” Gragson said. “This team’s on fire…We won when it matters most. We’ve still got one more weekend, but there’s a lot that comes along with winning.”


Dead On Tools 250


At Martinsville Speedway

Ridgeway, Va.

Lap length: 0.53 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (9) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 257 laps, 54 points.

2. (1) Austin Cindric, Ford, 257, 51.

3. (7) Daniel Hemric, Toyota, 257, 48.

4. (11) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 257, 33.

5. (5) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 257, 40.

6. (8) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 257, 31.

7. (3) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 257, 41.

8. (25) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 257, 29.

9. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 257, 30.

10. (16) Riley Herbst, Ford, 257, 30.

11. (22) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 257, 26.

12. (23) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 257, 25.

13. (12) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 257, 25.

14. (30) Colin Garrett, Toyota, 257, 23.

15. (32) Joe Graf Jr, Chevrolet, 257, 22.

16. (28) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 257, 23.

17. (31) Jade Buford, Chevrolet, 257, 20.

18. (38) Preston Pardus, Chevrolet, 257, 19.

19. (13) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 257, 19.

20. (10) Harrison Burton, Toyota, 257, 26.

21. (37) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 257, 16.

22. (27) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 257, 15.

23. (34) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 257, 14.

24. (36) David Starr, Toyota, 257, 13.

25. (26) Natalie Decker, Chevrolet, 257, 12.

26. (33) Akinori Ogata, Toyota, 257, 0.

27. (2) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 257, 18.

28. (29) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 256, 15.

29. (35) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 255, 8.

30. (39) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 254, 0.

31. (14) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 253, 11.

32. (21) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 249, 5.

33. (4) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, brakes, 222, 4.

34. (24) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 221, 3.

35. (20) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 212, 0.

36. (17) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, accident, 204, 1.

37. (15) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, accident, 194, 8.

38. (6) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, accident, 192, 4.

39. (40) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, overheating, 38, 0.

40. (19) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, reargear, 36, 1.

Race Statistics were not

immediately available.

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.

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