In what is shaping up to be a breakout season for Noah Gragson, the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet earned his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the year in Saturday’s rain-shortened Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Gragson moved up from sixth in the running order, passing cars on older tires and the dominant Toyota of Ty Gibbs, to take the lead after a lap 76 restart.
A light rain interrupted proceedings on lap 82, but Gragson took the lead in a two-lap shootout at the end of Stage 2. As the rain began to come down harder and drenched the track, NASCAR brought out the flag. race red on lap 94 and subsequently declared Gragson the winner.
The victory was Gragson’s second in a row, the first at Kansas, the only active Xfinity Series track where he had not previously posted a top-10 finish, and the 10th of his career.
“No. 54 (Gibbs) was really fast all day,” Gragson said. “The pit crew did a good job all day keeping us in contention. That restart (on lap 76) was the most important part of today’s race. Yes, it’s a win in the rain, but we came third off pit road behind No. 54 and No. 19 (Brandon Jones).
“Both of them took the upper part and I chose the lower one, the third row. I restarted inside the No. 19, and could see the No. 54 pushing the No. 07 (Brett Moffitt, who along with Ryan Sieg and Austin Hill had stayed out on older tires). He (Moffitt) was spinning his wheels pretty bad.
“I got to the lead on those guys, and that was the game changer in today’s race. I think we all knew we were running in the middle or a bit after.”
After the restart with two laps remaining in stage two, there was drama just behind Gragson. As Justin Allgaier battled Stage 1 winner Gibbs for second place, Allgaier forced Gibbs’ No. 54 Toyota into the outside lane.
Gibbs brushed the wall and subsequently turned and slammed the door of Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet as the cars neared the finish line. Allgaier took second place, 0.670 seconds behind the race winner, with Gibbs finishing third, 1.266 seconds behind.
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After the race, Gibbs apologized for losing his cool on what turned out to be the last lap.
“I went back down, frustrated, and hit No. 7,” Gibbs said. “The worst part is that I messed up my day more than I would mess up anyone else’s. It’s stupid of me to do that. I just think I need to fix those things… It’s easy for everyone to get angry, especially me. I just didn’t make the right decision there.
“I apologize. I apologize to my group. I should be the one to remove the door from the race car, because I hit it.”
Allgaier had mixed feelings about the walkout. His car was improving with each pit stop, but the damage he suffered during the encounter with Gibbs would have limited his chances of winning had the race resumed.
“If we went green again, I think it would extremely limit their day and probably limit ours as well,” Allgaier said. “Frustrations get the best of you a lot of times, but I hate that we wrecked a race car that wasn’t really wrecked before that.”
Polesitter Brandon Jones was fourth, followed by Ross Chastain. AJ Allmendinger, Josh Berry, Sammy Smith, Sam Mayer and Moffitt rounded out the top 10. Mayer and 16th-place finisher Riley Herbst clinched the Playoff spots on points with one race remaining before the cutoff.