Even with an overwhelming superiority, JR Motorsports comes up short in NASCAR Xfinity Championship race

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 05: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, and Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

It was a David verses Goliath battle with the three cars of JR Motorsports taking the giants’ role, and Ty Gibbs throwing the stone.

JR Motorsports had three-quarters of the Championship 4 field in their Chevrolets, but in the end, Joe Gibbs Racing was able to take the NASCAR Xfinity title with driver Ty Gibbs in a single Toyota.

But for two of the three cars of the JR Motorsports, it wasn’t for lack of effort.

Gibbs was the dominate car, especially early on. He led 125 of the 200 laps run and swept both Stages. But for much of the 200 laps all 4 Championship drivers were in the top five. In the final quarter chinks began to show in Gibbs’ armor as Noah Gragson was able to wrest the lead from Gibbs on lap 117 and held it until lap 147 when his teammate Justin Allgaier took over the point.

From there it was a battle between Allgaier and Gibbs as they swapped the point with Gibbs taking the top spot for the final time with 20 to go and holding it until the end.

The third JRM car, Josh Berry ran as high as fifth but hit the wall on a restart on lap 171 and was never a factor ending the Championship race in 13th.

“We rebounded well,” Berry said. “We got up there, but just got too high on that restart and just screwed that one up, I guess. We were behind all day trying to get up there and race with these guys. We finally got up there, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Several slow pit stops sent both Gragson and Allgaier backwards forcing them to battle back into contention on a couple of occasions. During one of those battles at the end, Allgaier’ s Chevy sustained began to show smoke for the final laps as he held on for third.

Allgaier ran most of the race with no gauges and said he thought his car’s engine might be blowing up towards the end.

“We just got a little too free when we needed to be tighter,” Allgaier said. “When the sun was going down, we were just trying to tighten the car up. We just didn’t quite take a big enough swing at it.

“I drove it for all I had. The track obviously changed a lot; the lines changed a lot.”

Gragson made one final effort in the final 10 laps but came up short and had to settle for second. He said the slow pit stops weren’t the issue.

“Because we came off pit road, we were in eighth, it was what it was,” Gragson said. “We still had laps left, and we still had opportunity. We weren’t wrecked. We weren’t in the garage. We still had opportunity.

“Just got beat there at the end. Started getting tight, probably needed to be a little freer.

“But really proud of everyone’s efforts all year long. That’s why I’m mad at the result a little bit, but I’m not. I don’t know. I felt like last year I was way more mad just because — I don’t know, I think this year I did my absolute best, like I can lay my head down after restarting eighth with 25, 30 to go and getting up to second and almost having a shot to win the race.

“I’m content with that. I don’t think the driver a year ago, two years ago, three years ago would be able to do that…I did my absolute best. I drove my ass off. I tried my best and gave it everything I had. Just got beat.

“I can’t really hang my head after the season that we’ve had. Eight wins led a lot of laps. How many laps did we lead, do you know?”

In the end Ty Gibbs and the JGR team executed perfect pit stops, had no mechanical issues, and when it was over celebrated the biggest prize in the NASCAR Xfinity series.



Greg Engle