Noah Gragson snaps winless drought with Darlington victory in overtime

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – Just a days after the announcement that Noah Gragson will be back with JR Motorsports in 2022, Gragson won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

The overtime victory snapped Gragson’s 49-race winless streak. It is his third career series win. Gragson celebrated by climbing the fence with members of his team.

MORE: Darlington results, driver points 

“It has been way too long,” Gragson told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns of winning.

Gragson’s last win was June 2020 at Bristol.

Harrison Burton finished a season-best second. He was followed by Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and Jeb Burton.

With his third-place finish – and AJ Allmendinger placing 20th – Cindric is one point behind Allmendinger for the points lead with two races left in the regular season.

“It’s gonna be a fun two weeks,” Cindric said.

Denny Hamlin seemed poised to win in his first series start of the season but he was penalized for equipment (a tire) over the wall too soon on a late caution. Hamlin had exited the pits first, but the penalty dropped him to the rear of the field. Hamlin finished 12th.

The race featured plenty of drama at the end of each stage.

Daniel Hemric won the opening stage when Hamlin spun from the lead on the last lap of the stage attempting to lap Carson Ware. After that, Hamlin had contact with David Starr on pit road during the caution for that stage.

The second stage ended spectacularly. Gragson won and Hamlin was second, but the action was for third to seventh. The cars ran three wide on the last lap. Allmendinger lost three spots in the final two laps of the stage and fell to sixth. Justin Allgaier gained three spots to fourth in the final two laps of the stage. Cindric gained two spots in that stretch to finish the stage third.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Harrison Burton’s second-place finish gives him six consecutive top 10s. … Jeb Burton placed fifth, giving him back-to-back top fives. … Jeremy Clements placed eighth. He has seven top 10s this year, his most in a season. … Alex Labbe placed 10th. Both his top 10s this year came at Darlington.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Sam Mayer hit the wall on the second lap and things went worse from there. His day ended with a fire on pit road. He finished  39th in the 40-car field. … Riley Herbst slammed into the back of Tommy Joe Martins‘ ailing car on the backstretch. Herbst had no warning when he pulled to the inside of another car and rammed the back of Martins’ car.  Herbst finished 38th. … Brandon Jones, racing with teammate Daniel Hemric, lost control after contact and came down the track and hit the backstretch inside SAFER barrier. Jones finished 33rd.

NOTABLE: Ty Dillon finished 13th for Our Motorsports. Dillon filled in for Brett Moffitt, who missed the race for a medical reason. Dillon didn’t find out he was needed until a few hours before the race.

NEXT: The series races Sept. 11 at Richmond Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).