Noah Gragson missed in his first swing at an Xfinity title

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 06: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Noah Gragson didn’t win his first NASCAR championship Saturday night, but he sure made his presence felt in his first title opportunity. The 23-year-old Las Vegas native finished 12th – disappointing but still impressive considering his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet hit the wall hard while running in third-place in the closing laps of the race.

Gragson earned his position in the Championship 4 with a clutch victory in the last Playoff race at Martinsville, Va. – a sort of walk-off homer in the racing world. In all, he won three races and scored 20 top-10 finishes over the 33-race season and qualified for his first ever Championship Race.

“Just disappointed,” Gragson said of the evening. “I’m not really sure what happened on that second to last restart

“We didn’t have the car nearly where we wanted it all weekend, practice, qualifying and the race,” he added. “Those guys, they beat us tonight. Congrats to them. Hats off to them. We just didn’t have it this weekend.”

Greg Engle