Noah Gragson ended up being at the right place at the right time in Darlington.
On the final lap of the 40th Annual Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200, Gragson banged the wall while battling Sheldon Creed and Kyle Larson for the win, relegating him to third and seemingly putting him out of contention. But the contact wasn’t over between the two leaders, and Larson got loose before Creed cut a tire.
Despite Creed’s best efforts at what Kyle Larson called a “video game move” when he tried it at Darlington, running full throttle against the wall, Gragson was able to swoop by and steal the win ahead of Creed.
It was a thrilling conclusion to an Xfinity Series race that stopped for more than two-and-a-half hours midway through due to rain.
“All you fans, was that cool—did we put on a show for you guys?” Gragson exclaimed after catching his breath. “Sheldon Creed was really fast… I watched, during that rain delay, him running the top in (turns) 1 and 2, and I knew there was a lot of speed there.”
“So I went up there and I found something,” he said, “and Sheldon pinched me off, and the 17 (of Larson) got by me when it was like three to go, and I was like, ‘Oh, they’re going to get into each other—they’re racing too hard.'”
Creed had extra motivation to win, coming into the race more than fifty points below the Playoff cutline. Having found victory lane at Darlington twice in the Truck Series, he had this race circled as his ticket to the postseason.
“I was trying to hold on,” Creed said. “I had a really fast car. It was just a little too free to run their speed there at the end. They could run up the hill in (turns) 1 and 2 and then really get a good run down the backstretch. I had to stay really low to keep the rear of the car underneath me.”
“I was hoping they were going to get to racing behind me,” he added. “When Kyle got next to me, my only opportunity was to side-draft as hard as I could. We got that wall, and I felt the right-front start to go down (as I was) going down the backstretch.”
Creed ultimately recovered to finish second, just ahead of AJ Allmendinger and .794 seconds behind the race winner. The runner-up finish did help him in the points though, and he’s moved up to 13th in the standings, 16 points behind 12th-place Ryan Sieg with two races left in the regular season.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Larson, who will be competing in the Cup Series Playoff race at Darlington on Sunday. “I was just trying to be patient as I caught them two. I was able to get by Noah, and I saw Sheldon was really loose in front of me, so I was just trying to stay patient behind him.”
“Coming to white, I didn’t want to get inside him on the frontstretch, because I knew what would happen,” he explained, “but I had such a good run off of (turn) 4 that I had to make a move. He sat on my door and got me really loose. I had to chase him up the track. It was just a lot of fun from all of our seats. Crazy to be a part of a finish like that.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200
Darlington, South Carolina
Saturday, September 3, 2022
1. (2) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 147.
2. (3) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 147.
3. (19) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 147.
4. (6) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 147.
5. (7) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 147.
6. (5) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 147.
7. (36) Christopher Bell(i), Toyota, 147.
8. (15) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 147.
9. (17) John Hunter Nemechek(i), Toyota, 147.
10. (4) Austin Hill #, Chevrolet, 147.
11. (12) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 147.
12. (9) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 147.
13. (10) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 147.
14. (1) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 147.
15. (11) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 147.
16. (16) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 147.
17. (14) Stefan Parsons(i), Chevrolet, 147.
18. (25) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 147.
19. (22) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 147.
20. (27) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 147.
21. (13) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 147.
22. (31) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 147.
23. (38) Kyle Sieg #, Ford, 147.
24. (18) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 147.
25. (30) David Starr, Ford, 147.
26. (29) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 146.
27. (26) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 146.
28. (21) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 145.
29. (32) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 145.
30. (35) Dawson Cram, Ford, 145.
31. (28) Brennan Poole(i), Chevrolet, Axle, 86.
32. (23) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Engine, 83.
33. (20) Joe Graf Jr., Ford, Accident, 61.
34. (8) Riley Herbst, Ford, DVP, 56.
35. (24) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, Electrical, 55.
36. (34) Kris Wright(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 55.
37. (37) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, Accident, 51.
38. (33) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, Radiator, 44.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 97.979 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 2 Mins, 58 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.794 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 39 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B. Jones 1-3;N. Gragson 4-82;J. Allgaier 83-93;N. Gragson 94;A. Hill # 95-96;J. Allgaier 97;S. Creed # 98-132;N. Gragson 133;S. Creed # 134-145;K. Larson(i) 146;N. Gragson 147.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Noah Gragson 4 times for 82 laps; Sheldon Creed # 2 times for 47 laps; Justin Allgaier 2 times for 12 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 3 laps; Austin Hill # 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Larson(i) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,19,54,7,2,98,21,18,34,48
Stage #2 Top Ten: 7,9,18,19,21,2,54,26,16,8
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