HOMESTEAD, Fla — Noah Gragson felt like the Homestead-Miami Speedway owed him one. He finally cashed in on the South Florida racetrack on Saturday. Gragson led the final 56 laps en route to his 13th career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory. It’s a star studded list of drivers with 13 career Xfinity Series wins as he joins Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Darrell Waltrip, Elliott Sadler and Austin Cindric for 27th all-time.
This win also stamps his name into the Championship 4 as he’ll join his teammate Josh Berry in two weeks at Phoenix in going for a title in the Arizona desert.
“We just kicked their ass baby, let’s go!” Gragson yelled. “I just wanted this one so bad.”
He absolutely did. He led 83 laps in the first race of 2020 but didn’t win. He led 81 laps a day later and didn’t win again. Then he led 34 laps last year and ran into a lapped car while leading late.
Today, after 127 laps led, he never wavered and now has to be the championship favorite as not only has he won 5 of the last 8 races on the season, he also won at Phoenix back in March too.
Gragson saw contender after contender drop off with Trevor Bayne speeding on pit road on what was supposed to be his final stop. Then Austin Hill had a loose wheel after what was his final stop.
It allowed Gragson to open up a wide lead and to what he thought would cruise to an easy win. Instead, a caution came out on Lap 187 which he felt like, “here we go again.”
Luckily enough however, only 9 cars were on the lead lap and he was one of a few teams left with a fresh set of tires laying on pit road. They elected to pit from the lead still which brought others down with him.
He restarted with the lead and got a phenomenal launch to hold the field off.
Ty Gibbs passed AJ Allmendinger late for second to earn his second runner-up spot in the last three weeks including 5 top 4’s in the last 7 races.
“We were just battling our race car all day. We made great adjustments and my guys never gave up,’’ said the 20-year old Gibbs who was making his Homestead-Miami Speedway debut. “We’ll move on to Martinsville. I feel like that’s a place we were really fast at earlier this year and probably had a shot to win it so I’m excited to back there.”
Allmendinger was third in his No. 16 Chevrolet for his third top three in the last four races while his teammate Daniel Hemric was fourth in his No. 11 Chevrolet.
JRM 2-for-2 In Round of 8
A week after Josh Berry won at Las Vegas in a 1-2-3 day for JR Motorsports, they dominated Saturday’s Contender Boats 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in taking 4 of the top 11 finishing spots including the win.
They combined to lead 130 of 200 laps overall and now have 2 of the 4 spots to the Championship 4.
Noah Gragson has 12 top 10 finishes in his last 13 starts including 7 top 3’s in the last 8 overall.
Sam Mayer had another solid outing with his 8th consecutive top 11 finish (5th). The only problem, is, he Mayer didn’t have a ton of playoff points entering this round so despite finishes of 7th and 5th, he’s still -28 heading to Martinsville.
The good thing is, he’s 2-for-2 in top 5’s at Martinsville in the Xfinity Series too.
Justin Allgaier and 10th and Josh Berry in 11th.
Terrible Weekend For Allgaier Show How 1 Bad Weekend Can Hurt You
Justin Allgaier entered Saturday’s race 15 points to the good but after a bad weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, he drops to 5 points below the cutline in losing an astonishing 20 points this weekend.
It all started on Friday night when he was a puzzling 20th quickest in qualifying. On Saturday, he got into the wall at the end of the second stage and had to pit early. He then had a bad pit stop in the final stage and then had a tire go down with 18 to go in the race and had an unscheduled pit stop as a result of that.
At that time, he was 6 points below the cutline. Luckily for him, the final caution came out which allowed him to stay out and take track position and hold others off for a remarkable 10th place finish too. That’s his 21st top 10 and one that despite all those issues, I never thought would happen.
Allgaier has 2 top 5 finishes in the last 3 weeks though too which gives him pause on his bad feelings, but it just goes to show you how much you can lose in one week.
Same thing happened to AJ Allmendinger last week in Las Vegas. He entered way about the cutline on the heels of 2 straight wins, but after two loose wheels late in the race last Saturday, he finished 22nd and dropped to 16 points below the cut line.
Speaking of Allmendinger, what a rebound he had on Saturday. He never felt like this was one of his better race tracks but he still improved from the 13th starting spot to scoring 15 stage points and a third place effort in the Contender Boats 300. It was his 12th top 7 finish in the last 13 races including 9 of which in the top 4. He moves from -16 to +5 in gaining 21 points on the day.
It was also his best career finish here in 14 total starts including his Cup days. However, he does have 2 top 4’s in his last 3 NXS starts on this track.
Hill Rebounds From Loose Wheel
Austin Hill was having a phenomenal day going when he scored 13 stage points and the good side of the cutline going into the closing laps. However, he crew felt like they didn’t get his left rear tire tightened on his final pit stop which forced him back down pit road to ensure that they ended up getting the wheel tightened. As a result, the vibration went away.
So did his advantage.
However, Hill even without a set of tires left rebounded to finish back in the top 10 in his No. 21 Chevrolet in coming home 9th. He’s -7 heading to Martinsville.
Brandon Jones Struggles
I had higher hopes for Brandon Jones on Saturday. He qualified his No. 19 Toyota in 5th and had entered the race having scored two straight runner-up finishes here and having 5 consecutive top 8 finishes at that. On the season, Jones had 5 top 10’s in his last 6 starts too.
However, he never truly was a factor in scoring 0 stage points and spending most of the final half a lap down. He’d finish 15th and head to the elimination race -38.