Noah Gragson Holds Off a Hard-Charging Earnhardt at Talladega

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 23: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, and Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #3 ForeverLawn Chevrolet, race to the finish of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, 2022 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Combined, Earnhardts have won 16 races on the high banks of Talladega, with 10- and 6-wins respectively placing Dale Sr. first and Dale Jr. second on the all-time track wins list. So it’s nothing new to see an Earnhardt charging down the frontstretch at Talladega, least of all in the iconic 3 Chevy with famous crew chief Larry McReynolds. But it was another Earnhardt who found victory lane: Dale Jr., but as a team owner for Noah Gragson in the 9 car who held off Jeffrey Earnhardt in the Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 on Saturday. 

Gragson grabbed the lead when his teammate ran out of fuel and lead the field from the green flag of triple overtime to the checkered flag. What started out as a relatively calm race quickly intensified late, as most of the day’s ten cautions came out in the closing laps. Gragson found his seventh career win in the chaos and his first at Talladega. 

This team at Jr. Motorsports, they never quit,” Gragson said after climbing the catch fence with his team. “We’ve had a kind of a rough last month, just not getting the finishes that we wanted.” He said he was “so thankful for everybody at Jr Motorsports” for sticking with it.”

“I couldn’t make moves on the top there very much at the beginning of the race,” Gragson elaborated, “so I just kept running the bottom—running the bottom—and we’d get shuffled back and keep moving back up.” But he’s already planning his celebration: “I’ve got to run in the Cup race [Sunday], but the Talladaga Boulevard [infield] looks a lot more enchanting right now and inviting, so we’re going to go out and celebrate on the boulevard.”

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – APRIL 23: Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #3 ForeverLawn Chevrolet, and Landon Cassill, driver of the #10 Voyager Crypto Debit Card Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, 2022 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Earnhardt charged through the field during the Overtime attempts to finish within .131 seconds of Gragson, but couldn’t make the final pass. His crew chief, Larry McReynolds, was back in the box for the first time since 2000, just a week after seeing his daughter marry a rival team owner.

“I’m living the dream here—I’m just so thankful to get this opportunity,” said Earnhardt. “Thanks to RCR for building this amazing race car. We were fast all weekend long. We just fell a little short there, but congrats to Noah. He’s good at plate races.”

AJ Allmendinger may have finished third, but he was all smiles getting out of his car with the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus his run netted him. 

“I thought I crashed about seven times on the last lap,” Allmendinger said with a smile. “I really appreciate what Xfinity and Comcast do to allow us to race for 100 grand at these four races. This Chevy handled really well. We just lacked kind of the top-end speed, so they could get to my bumper, then basically boot me out of the way. I was just hanging on there.”

Ryan Sieg and Landon Cassill rounded out the top five after the series’ last superspeedway winner, Austin Hill (who won at Daytona earlier this year), was wrecked out by Sam Mayer with four laps to go. 

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – APRIL 23: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, and team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. pose for photos in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, 2022 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Photos: NASCAR at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday Apr. 23, 2022

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results 31st Annual Ag-Pro 300
Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega, Alabama
Saturday, April 23, 2022

(19) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 124.
(1) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 124.
(13) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 124.
(10) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 124.
(6) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 124.
(12) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 124.
(20) Riley Herbst, Ford, 124.
(24) Joe Graf Jr, Ford, 124.
(31) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 124.
(18) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 124.
(16) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 124.
(21) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 124.
(9) Drew Dollar, Toyota, 124.
(32) Shane Lee, Ford, 124.
(22) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 124.
(36) Joey Gase, Ford, 124.
(29) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 124.
(37) Kyle Sieg #, Ford, 124.
(26) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 124.
(7) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 124.
(33) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 123.
(11) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Fuel Pressure, 122.
(34) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 122.
(4) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, Accident, 113.
(23) Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, Accident, 113.
(15) Brandon Jones, Toyota, DVP, 110.
(2) Austin Hill #, Chevrolet, Accident, 110.
(14) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, Accident, 109.
(8) Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 103.
(17) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, Accident, 103.
(27) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, Accident, 96.
(38) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, DVP, 84.
(35) David Starr, Ford, DVP, 83.
(5) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, DVP, 79.
(3) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, Accident, 76.
(28) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, DVP, 51.
(25) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, Accident, 47.
(30) Chandler Smith(i), Toyota, Accident, 47.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 123.024 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 40 Mins, 52 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.131 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 39 laps.
Lead Changes: 25 among 14 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Earnhardt 0;T. Gibbs 1-4;J. Earnhardt 5-14;A. Hill # 15-18;A. Allmendinger 19;S. Creed # 20;A. Hill # 21-22;J. Berry 23-27;A. Alfredo 28-29;B. Brown 30;J. Yeley 31-32;S. Mayer 33;N. Gragson 34-37;A. Alfredo 38;A. Hill # 39-44;S. Mayer 45;J. Allgaier 46-50;D. Dollar 51;A. Hill # 52-68;D. Starr 69;T. Gibbs 70;A. Hill # 71-108;J. Allgaier 109-113;A. Allmendinger 114-118;J. Allgaier 119-121;N. Gragson 122-124.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Austin Hill # 5 times for 67 laps; Justin Allgaier 3 times for 13 laps; Jeffrey Earnhardt 1 time for 10 laps; Noah Gragson 2 times for 7 laps; AJ Allmendinger 2 times for 6 laps; Ty Gibbs 2 times for 5 laps; Josh Berry 1 time for 5 laps; Anthony Alfredo 2 times for 3 laps; JJ Yeley 1 time for 2 laps; Sam Mayer 2 times for 2 laps; David Starr 1 time for 1 lap; Drew Dollar 1 time for 1 lap; Sheldon Creed # 1 time for 1 lap; Brandon Brown 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 8,54,16,10,21,7,9,23,1,02
Stage #2 Top Ten: 7,1,21,19,54,18,68,3,31,27

Owen Johnson