Jeremy Clements

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity opener at Daytona for first series victory

Leave a comment

Noah Gragson won Saturday’s Xfinity Series opener at Daytona, taking the victory in a three-lap shootout that ended under caution and claiming his first career Xfinity Series win.

The victory comes in his 37th career start.

Gragson, 21, led 15 laps and beat Harrison Burton, Timmy Hill, Brandon Jones and Chase Briscoe.

It is JR Motorsports’ third straight win in the season-opening race at Daytona and its fifth win in the last seven.

Gragson is the seventh Xfinity driver to earn his first win at Daytona.

The Las Vegas native took his time getting to victory lane.

His lengthy celebration on the frontstretch saw him: fan a flame on the track caused by his burnout, climb the catchfence with his crew, execute an impressive Bo Duke hood slide across his car, try multiple times to toss a water bottle into the stands before he finally planted the checkered flag atop his car before driving to victory lane.

“I’m so thankful for this opportunity,” Gragson told FS1. “Man, I’m speechless right now, I didn’t think this would come. … I spent a lot of time with (team owner) Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. this week, talking for about two hours. Wanted to be a better speedway race. He told me ‘go have fun, wreckers or checkers, you got to manage you gaps, be there at the end and just go lead the damn the thing.’ That’s what we did.”

Later in the media center, Gragson said “Without that talk I don’t think I’d be sitting here.”

Gragson had to bounce back from a Lap 32 speeding penalty. It’s the fifth time in the last seven Daytona races that the winner rebounded from an in-race penalty.

The race ended under caution due to a large wreck on the backstretch on the final lap.

The finish was setup by a wreck on a restart with seven laps to go.

It collected Jeb Burton, Austin Cindric, Ryan Sieg, Brett Moffitt and others. It began after Briscoe took the lead and he moved up to  block Gragson as they neared Turn 3. Burton, running behind Gragson, checked up and was turned by Cindric. He bounced off Jones before turning back into the wall, causing a chain reaction.

The wreck resulted in a seven minute and 50 second red flag.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Jeb Burton led a 1-2-3-4 sweep by JR Motorsports to end the first stage.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier won the stage under caution following a wreck by Riley Herbst, pole-sitter Myatt Snider and Chris Cockrum on the last lap.

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Harrison Burton earned his best finish in 10 Xfinity starts and his second top five … Timmy Hill earned his best finish and his first top five in 185 career Xfinity starts. It came hours after his MBM Motorsports team received a L2 level penalty for an improper body modification, which included a six-race suspension for his crew chief.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Caesar Bacarella finished 29th after he spun on his own exiting Turn 4 on the first lap of the race … Jeremy Clements finished 28th after the hood on his No. 51 car tore apart on Lap 19 and caused a debris caution … Defending race winner Michael Annett got loose and spun on Lap 38 and collected Austin Hill and rookie Joe Graf Jr in a wreck. Annett was later in the last-lap crash … Justin Allgaier finished 30th after he was involved in a wreck with Josh Bilicki and Clements with 13 laps to go.

NOTABLE: The top three lap leaders of the race – Jeb Burton (26 laps), Justin Allgaier (23) and Myatt Snider (22) all were eliminated in crashes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You know, don’t expect I’ll ever (go to victory lane at Daytona) again as a driver, so I’ll take these whenever they’re coming, right.  If I can get in here as an owner or part of any kind of success like this, it’s a great feeling.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. to FS1 after Gragson’s win.

WHAT’S NEXT: Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 22 on FS1.

Check back for more.

Christopher Bell keeps it perfect: takes Xfinity pole in Phoenix

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Christopher Bell continued his thus far perfect weekend Saturday, capturing the pole for this afternoon’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 Xfinity Series playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC) at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Bell’s pole – his sixth of the season (a career high) – added to Friday’s accomplishments of being fastest in both Xfinity Series practice sessions. In addition, Bell is the defending winner of this race from last fall.

Now all that’s left to cap off the perfect weekend is to win this afternoon’s race.

Bell took today’s pole with a speed of 132.450 mph. Cole Custer will start alongside Bell on the front row after posting a qualifying speed of 132.100 mph. Bell and Custer were the only drivers to post speeds above 132 mph during the qualifying session.

Third through 10th were Chase Briscoe (131.786 mph), Tyler Reddick (131.733), Justin Allgaier (131.641), Zane Smith (131.162), Austin Cindric (131.014), Brandon Jones (130.762), Michael Annett (130.653) and Jeremy Clements (130.458).

Bell is going for his ninth win of the season in a race that will determine the four finalists who will compete for the championship a week from now in Miami.

Click here for full qualifying results.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Christopher Bell to start on pole for today’s Xfinity race at Kansas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Christopher Bell will start on the pole for today’s Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway, the first race to kick off of the playoffs’ Round of 8. The race will be carried live on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.

Bell covered the 1.5-mile track at a speed of 181.165 mph. It was his fifth pole of the season and 11th of his Xfinity career.

Today’s race will be the 19th Xfinity race held at Kansas Speedway and Bell becomes the 15th different driver to earn an Xfinity pole there. Kansas Speedway is the closest NASCAR track to Bell’s Norman, Oklahoma home.

Brandon Jones will sit alongside Bell on the front row with a speed of 180.481 mph. Third through 10th were Austin Cindric (180.216 mph), Tyler Reddick (179.313), Cole Custer (179.307), Jeremy Clements (178.843), Justin Allgaier (178.802), Ryan Truex (178.625), Ross Chastain (178.601) and Noah Gragson (178.424).

Gray Gaulding was back in the car and qualified 19th (174.503 mph). Gaulding suffered a medical emergency on the airplane en route to Kansas on Friday. He was cleared by NASCAR physicians to take part both in qualifying as well as this afternoon’s race.

A total of 38 drivers will take the green flag for today’s race. Timmy Hill was the slowest qualifier and will not compete in the race.

Click here for the full qualifying results.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Cole Custer earns 7th win of season, now it’s on to Xfinity 2nd round

Leave a comment

His car may carry the number 00, but Cole Custer was No. 1 Saturday, winning the final race of the first round of the Xfinity playoffs at Dover International Speedway, propelling him and seven other drivers into the Round of 8, which begins in two weeks at Kansas.

It was Custer’s seventh win of the season, tying him with Christopher Bell for most wins in the 2019 Xfinity Season. Custer led 31 laps in his 100th career start in the Xfinity Series. It was also the ninth career Xfinity Series win for the 21-year-old Custer.

“I’ve wanted to win here so bad for so long,” Custer told NBCSN. “I’ve been close a number of times. To win the gold Monster (trophy) is just unbelievable. … I think it’s every driver’s favorite race track. Everybody wants the Monster. It’s such a cool race track. … It’s definitely one you want to cross off the box.”

Justin Allgaier finished second, followed by Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and Chase Briscoe. Sixth through 10th were Michael Annett, Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith and Ryan Sieg.

The eight drivers that move on to the second round of the playoffs are: Christopher Bell, Briscoe, Custer, Cindric, Allgaier, Tyler Reddick, Gragson and Annett. The first seven drivers were locked into the playoffs either coming into the race or during the race, except for Annett, who had to race his way into the second round with a strong performance late in the race, holding off Haley and Nemechek and keeping both of them from advancing.

“I was trying to do my high school math out there and I think I needed to beat the 23 (Nemechek) by eight (points) in that last segment, so our strategy helped,” Annett told NBCSN. :I just wanted to hang tough and bring it home and that’s what these guys deserved. This is my best playoff run since we’ve started these playoffs so I’m looking forward to it as we have a lot of good tracks ahead of us.”

The four drivers that were eliminated from advancing in the playoffs were Brandon Jones, Nemechek, Sieg and Haley.

Even though he’s assured of moving on to Round 2, it was an uncharacteristically bad day for points leader Christopher Bell, who had to pit during Stage 1 to replace a carburetor, dropping him 14 laps behind the leaders. Bell returned to the race and finished 25th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier 

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier (seventh stage win of season; second time he’s swept both stages in a race this season – also did it at Bristol in spring).

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Cole Custer is one of Xfinity’s so-called “Big 3” and showed why he is in that elite company Saturday. He may not have had the best car, but great pit strategy and staying out of trouble brought home the win and put him in second place in the reset points heading into Round 2 of the playoffs. … And don’t overlook Chase Briscoe’s rally from last for unapproved adjustments after a misfire in qualifying to first before finishing fifth. He led a race-high 71 laps before the misfire returned late in the event.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brandon Jones’ hopes to advance to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs lasted just two turns before he was involved in a first lap wreck with Harrison Burton that left Jones’ car unable to be repaired. “I always try to find the positives with this kind of stuff, obviously none today,” Jones, who finished 37th, told NBSCN. … Jeremy Clements’ motor blew up on Lap 10, ending his day (finished 36th).

NOTABLE: Brandon Brown‘s 11th-place finish was his best finish since placing sixth at Daytona in July. Saturday’s finish marked the second time he’s placed better than 12th this year. 

WHAT’S NEXT: The Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway kicks off the Round of 8 second round of the Xfinity playoffs on Oct. 19 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Chase Briscoe wins pole for Xfinity Roval race

Leave a comment

CONCORD, N.C. —  Defending race winner Chase Briscoe will start first in today’s Xfinity Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval(3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Briscoe claimed his first career Xfinity pole with a top speed of 100.346 mph. He is the 16th driver to get his first Xfinity pole on a road course.

The top five was completed by Tyler Reddick (playoffs), Austin Cindric (playoffs), Cole Custer (playoffs) and AJ Allmendinger.

The top 10 was rounded out by Alex Labbe, Justin Allgaier (playoffs), Jeremy Clements, Justin Haley (playoffs) and Will Rodgers.

Clements earned his best road course start in his 29th start.

Christopher Bell qualified 11th after he missed the backstretch chicane on his initial run in the second round.

Noah Gragson, who is in a backup car, did not make a second round qualifying round and will start 12th.

Only three playoff drivers did not advance to the second round of qualifying.

John Hunter Nemechek qualified 14th and Brandon Jones qualified 15th.

Michael Annett qualified 23rd, but he will start from the rear after going to a backup car following a wreck in practice Friday.

Click here for the starting lineup.