MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Noah Gragson, facing a must-win situation to reach the Championship 4, held off reigning Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric in a drag race to the checkered flag to win Saturday night’s race in overtime at Martinsville Speedway.
Gragson joins Cindric, AJ Allmendinger and Daniel Hemric in moving on to the Nov. 6 title race at Phoenix Raceway.
“I want to cry right now,” Gragson told NBCSN’s Marty Snider.
Gragson ended the interview by shouting: “We’re going to the final four!”
MORE: Martinsville race results
Gragson, who entered the race 24 points below the cutline, knocked JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier out of the final transfer spot with the victory.
“Just wasn’t enough,” Allgaier told NBCSN’s Dave Burns.
Gragson and his team climbed the fence to celebrate his third win of the season and fifth of his career. He then shotgunned a beer.
Cindric finished second. Hemric placed third. Sam Mayer was fourth. Allgaier completed the top five.
Harrison Burton‘s hopes ended about 50 laps from the finish. Cindric, running third, made contact with the back of Gragson, running second. That sent Gragson into the back of Ty Gibbs, who was leading. The impact turned Gibbs in Turn 4 and Burton had nowhere to go, hitting the side of Gibbs’ car.
Justin Haley, who entered the race seven points below the cutline, saw his hopes of returning to the title race end with a brake fire. He lost three laps on pit road for the situation just past the halfway mark of the race.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric
STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Sam Mayer’s fourth-place finish marked his first career top-five finish. … Alex Labbe‘s eighth-place finish was his best of the year. … Jeremy Clements‘ ninth-place finish was his eight top 10 of the year, extending his career high.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Playoff driver Justin Haley finished 33rd because of brake issues. … Ty Gibbs finished 27th after his car was damaged when he was hit from behind and spun in front of the field while leading. Harrison Burton tagged Gibbs’ car. Burton, a playoff driver, finished 20th.
NOTABLE: Noah Gragson has won three of the last nine Xfinity races.
NEXT: The Xfinity season ends Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)