Noah Gragson came out on top of a compelling late-race battle with Ty Gibbs to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway.
The battle peaked on the final lap when Gibbs got side-by-side with Gragson for the lead down the Long Pond straightaway heading into Turn 2. But on the entrance to the turn, Gibbs briefly got loose on the inside, allowing Gragson to retain the lead on the outside.
Gragson then pulled away to his third win of the season. Gibbs finished second, followed by Josh Berry in third, A.J. Allmendinger in fourth, and Sheldon Creed in fifth.
MORE: NASCAR Xfinity Series at Pocono – Race Results
The victory comes one week after Gragson (along with Landon Cassill) was disqualified at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Gragson finished fourth in that race, but his car was found to be too low in the front during post-race inspection. He was instead credited with a 38th-place finish.
“I had to work for it. It was tough,” Gragson told NBC Sports on Saturday. “[The car was] just getting tight, tight, tight. With 15 [laps] to go, I didn’t think I could hold him off.
“But we just keep digging. This team is unbelievable. I’m fired up. Our third win of the year… Man, I’m exhausted.”
RETWEET to congratulate @NoahGragson on WINNING at @PoconoRaceway!
What an incredible battle between the @JRMotorsports driver and @TyGibbs_. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/cVXfIKTkFk
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 23, 2022
As for Gibbs, he admitted that the momentarily bobble in Turn 2 was the difference.
“We both went in there side by side and I just lost my side force and got loose under him, but that’s racing,” he told NBC Sports.
“I put myself in that position. I feel like I’ll definitely have to look back and see what other options I had.”
The race was red-flagged at Lap 46 for a multi-car crash off Turn 3. Santino Ferrucci spun off the corner, collecting Cup regular Ricky Stenhouse Jr. As Stenhouse slid toward the inside front stretch wall, Jeb Burton tried to squeeze between him and the inside front stretch SAFER Barrier.
But Stenhouse made contact with Burton, launching Burton off the ground and onto his roof.
Burton slid to a stop on the front stretch. Minutes later, safety workers were able to turn Burton’s No. 27 car right-side up, allowing him to climb out and walk away.
“Man, that was not good,” Burton told NBC Sports. “I hate it for my guys. Those guys work really hard on our race cars. We don’t have a lot of cars, and to tear up another car – two weeks in a row – isn’t good.
“I appreciate the safety crew that got to me fast… The main thing is we can build another race car. Glad I’m OK, and thanks to the safety crew.”
Stage 1 winner: Justin Allgaier
Stage 2 winner: Noah Gragson
Who had a good race: Sam Mayer rallied from two flat tires in the early stages of the race to finish sixth… Justin Allgaier salvaged a seventh-place finish after being penalized for speeding on pit road during the Lap 52 caution (spin and crash by Sammy Smith).
Who had a bad race: Rajah Caruth and Alex Labbe were the day’s first eliminations at Lap 2. Coming off Turn 3, Caruth made contact from behind with Labbe. Both drivers then lost control and made hard impact with the inside front stretch SAFER Barrier. They were both OK after the incident.
Next: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – Saturday, July 30, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC