Ty Gibbs scored his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the season on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
Pole sitter Noah Gragson swept both stages and appeared to have the dominant car. But after he pitted during the Stage 2 break, Gibbs cycled to the front and took control of the race.
He kept the lead through green flag pit stops around 25 laps to go and held on for a 1.2-second victory over Justin Allgaier.
When asked if Saturday’s win was a statement victory as the playoffs loom, Gibbs told NBC Sports that “it depends on how you look at it.”
“I just race, week in and week out,” Gibbs said. “But (there’s) people who get all excited and think they’re making a huge statement and then they get in the playoffs and suck.
“I’m just doing what I can, week in and week out.”
Gragson finished third after a decision to stay out near the end of Stage 2 proved costly.
During a caution at Lap 52, he and his No. 9 JR Motorsports team did not pit and instead chose to go for the stage win and playoff point. Gibbs, on the other hand, chose to pit under that caution.
Gragson was able to track down and pass A.J. Allmendinger on the final lap to win Stage 2. But Gragson then pitted during the Stage 2 break. He climbed back into the top five but never saw the lead again.
“I felt like we had a good enough car to be able to get back up there – just kind of struggled on the short run,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “… We won the first stage and kind of got shuffled back on the restarts in the second stage and decided to stay out.
“We ended up winning that second stage, but once everything cycled through and we pitted after the stage, those guys started up front on the tires they took… You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We got two playoff points, but I felt we were good enough to win.”
Stage 1 winner: Noah Gragson
Stage 2 winner: Noah Gragson
Who had a good race: Josh Berry recovered from both an early run-in with the wall and a mid-race speeding penalty on pit road to finish sixth… A.J. Allmendinger suffered a cooling shirt issue for the second weekend in a row, but was able to soldier on and finish seventh.
Who had a bad race: After losing an engine in morning practice, Matt Mills crashed out of the race at Lap 40. Mills got on the brakes for C.J. McLaughlin‘s wreck ahead of him in Turn 2, but then lost control and went into the Turn 2 wall himself.
Next: Watkins Glen International – Saturday, Aug. 20, 3 p.m. ET, USA Network