Noah Gragson wins wild Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Noah Gragson charged to the front on the final lap and outran Kyle Larson and Sheldon Creed in a tight battle to win Saturday night’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

Sheldon Creed took the lead on a round of pit stops late in the race and led until Gragson and Larson surged to the front and made the fight for the win a three-way battle. The three drivers had a fierce battle over the closing two miles, with Larson and Creed running side by side and banging fenders. Creed ran much of the final lap against the outside wall, struggling to reach the finish line.

While Larson and Creed wrestled for the lead and slowed after contact, Gragson, driving a JR Motorsports Chevrolet, slipped past on the inside and won the race, his fourth victory of the year. Creed finished second, followed by AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier and Larson.

Creed and Larson shook hands on pit road before discussing the finish. “They made it one hell of a race,” Gragson said. “They made it back to the line. It was spectacular there at the end.”

Gragson was momentarily dazed after climbing from his car following a series of burnouts. He later said smoke inside the car made him dizzy. “I was breathing that in and got pretty nauseous and tunnel vision,” he said. “I felt like i was about to pass out.”

Pole winner Brandon Jones slammed the wall between Turn 3 and 4 with 20 laps to go, causing a caution flag and bunching the field. Creed’s team returned him to the track first, and he kept the lead until the final laps. Creed led 47 laps.

Gragson, 24, had the race’s dominant car. He won the first stage and led 79 of the first 90 laps. He totaled 82 laps led for the race.

“I was real proud of him (Gragson),” said team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. “You wouldn’t know it by the way the car looks now. He didn’t get into the fence. He didn’t hurt the car. He was sitting there when the opportunity was presented to him on the last lap. That was because he had the patience and understanding. He did smart things to keep himself out of trouble when he wasn’t in position to win the race.”

MORE: Darlington Xfinity results

MORE: Darlington Xfinity driver points

The caution flew on lap 88 when flames popped underneath JJ Yeley‘s car.

Rain brought out a caution flag on lap 68, and the race was redflagged because of a downpour three laps later with Gragson in the lead. The red flag lasted two hours and 37 minutes.

Minutes after the start of the second stage, a four-car incident caused a caution flag. Involved in the crash were Kris Wright, Riley Herbst, Joe Graf Jr. and Myatt Snider.

A bizarre incident prior to the start of Stage 2 damaged two cars. While the field circled under caution, the car of Anthony Alfredo slammed into the rear of John Hunter Nemechek‘s car, causing major damage to Alfredo’s car. Alfredo apparently lost control after a brief bout of sickness in his car.

There are two races — Sept. 10 at Kansas and Sept. 16 at Bristol — remaining before the start of the playoffs Sept. 24 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Stage 1 winner: Noah Gragson

Stage 2 winner: Justin Allgaier

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson led much of the race, lost the lead late and then stormed back to the front on the final lap to win for the fourth time this season. … Sheldon Creed engaged defending Cup Series champion Kyle Larson in a thoroughly entertaining battle closing out the race.

Who had a bad race: Anthony Alfredo crashed his car into John Hunter Nemechek’s during a caution period. Alfredo apparently was sick inside the car and lost control. He finished next-to-last.

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Jeremy Clements wins at Daytona

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Jeremy Clements was the ultimate survivor Friday night/Saturday morning, driving through numerous multi-car accidents and winning the 250-mile Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

The race started more than three hours late because of weather issues and finished at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

Clements won for only the second time in his Xfinity career and jumped into the Xfinity playoff field.

Following him in the top five on a night in which many lead cars were either eliminated or heavily damaged in wrecks were Timmy Hill, AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and Sage Karam.

Daytona Xfinity results

Daytona Xfinity driver points

Jeremy Clements wins Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway

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It was the race that took hours to start, and then it didn’t want to end.

A series of multi-car crashes in the closing laps stretched Friday’s 250-mile Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway into Saturday before Jeremy Clements emerged victorious in the third overtime.

The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday but was delayed by more than three hours by rain and lightning. The calendar flipped to Saturday before the race ended near 1:30 a.m.

As the field struggled to reach the finish, a comedy of errors caused wreck after wreck, eliminating some leaders and damaging the cars of others.

Clements, winning for only the second time for his Spartanburg, S.C.-based family team, held first place on the last lap of the third overtime and was in front when the final caution flew. He had had a 164-race winless streak.

MORE: Daytona Xfinity results, driver points

MORE: Unforgettable night for Jeremy Clements stretches into morning

The victory pushed Clements into the Xfinity Series playoffs, making him the eighth driver to qualify.

With two laps to go, the fight for the lead produced a 10-car wreck as Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson hit while racing in the top five. Numerous other drivers were involved in the aftermath, spreading cars across the frontstretch apron and pit road and sending the race into overtime.

On the first lap of overtime, contact in the front three between Gragson and AJ Allmendinger caused another multi-car crash, bringing out the caution again. Gragson’s car moved up the track into the path of Landon Cassill, The impact caused Gragson’s car to lift off the track.

Austin Hill seemed poise to win before his Chevrolet apparently developed electrical problems, forcing him to drop out of first place as the field took the green flag for the final overtime.

Allmendinger was running second approaching the start of the overtime when his car ran low on fuel, forcing him to the pits.

That gave Clements, whose lower-budget team typically can’t compete with the major teams in the series, the opening he needed. He was in the lead when the 11th caution flew for Riley Herbst‘s spin, freezing the field and giving Clements the win.

“I’m speechless, man,” Clements said. “I don’t even know what to say. We survived that big wreck back there (in the first overtime). It was like a ‘Days of Thunder’ wreck. Then I was like, ‘If we can just keep up with these guys, it’ll be a good day—top five and bring this car home in one piece.’ “

Following Clements at the finish were Timmy Hill, Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and IndyCar driver Sage Karam.

Scheduled for 100 laps, the race stretched to 118 because of the crashes, cautions and overtimes.

The lead pack was jumbled with nine laps remaining when Allmendinger lost control of his second-place car, sparking a huge accident in the trioval. Among other drivers involved were Josh Berry, Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier.

A multi-car crash 16 laps from the finish eliminated several cars. The incident began in the middle of the pack with contact between the cars of Brandon Brown and John Hunter Nemechek. Creed’s car turned into heavy traffic and was slammed by the Ford of Joe Graf Jr.

Herbst, running fourth, caused a caution period when his left rear tire blew, sending him on a wild ride across the grassy area adjacent to the backstretch.

The race’s first caution flag flew on lap 16 when Sammy Smith lost control of his car in Turn 4, sailed across the apron and slammed into the inside wall. Smith was not hurt, but his car was parked.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Noah Gragson

Who had a good race: Jeremy Clements weaved his way through the debris of a series of multi-car accidents and scored a major upset for his relatively small team. … Sage Karam came home fifth in the confusion, a fine run for a driver jumping from one form of racing to another. … Timmy Hill finished second, his best career run.

Who had a bad race: Almost everybody. Wrecks were plentiful, and they were big. Drivers with strong cars who didn’t finish well because of crashes included Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Anthony Alfredo, Sam Mayer, John Hunter Nemechek and Sheldon Creed.

Next: The Xfinity Series rolls on to Darlington Raceway for a Sept. 3 race (USA Network).

Tyler Reddick win shakes up Cup playoff grid

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Tyler Reddick became the 13th Cup driver to claim a playoff spot with his victory Sunday at Road America, leaving only three spots open via points.

With eight races in the regular season, it remains possible that the only way to earn a spot in the 16-driver playoff field is with a victory.

The three winless drivers in a playoff spot are Ryan Blaney (591 points), Martin Truex Jr. (540) and Christopher Bell (499).

Reddick’s victory knocked Kevin Harvick out of a playoff spot. Harvick is the first driver outside a playoff position. He trails Bell by 20 points.

The series travels next to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Sunday’s Cup race airs at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.

Xfinity Series

Ty Gibbs’ victory this past weekend at Road America didn’t add another driver to the playoffs. Seven drivers remain in a playoff spot via a win, leaving the final five positions to be determined by points at this time.

Landon Cassill has a 72-point lead on Anthony Alfredo for the final playoff spot with 10 races left in the regular season.

The series races next at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Saturday’s race airs at 5 p.m. ET on USA Network.

 

Examining Cup, Xfinity, Truck playoff picture after Nashville weekend

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Sunday night’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway altered the playoff picture for a couple of drivers.

Here’s a look at the playoff standings for Cup, Xfinity and the Camping World Truck Series:

Cup Series

Kevin Harvick‘s performance was enough to climb back into a playoff spot with nine races left in the regular season.

Harvick finished 10th and scored points in both stages. He finished with 36 points. Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola finished 17th and scored no stage points. Almirola finished with 20 points.

Almirola entered the race with a seven-point lead on Harvick for the final playoff spot. Now Almirola trails Harvick for that spot by nine points. Harvick outscored Almirola 9-0 in stage points Sunday.

Tyler Reddick fell 10 more points behind after placing 18th and scoring no stage points Sunday. He is 52 points from the cutline. The most a driver can earn in a race is 60 points. Austin Dillon is 53 points off the cutline, and Erik Jones is 58 points behind the cutline.

The series heads to Road America this weekend. Sunday’s race airs at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.

 

Xfinity Series

Justin Allgaier’s victory Saturday was his second of the year. Seven of the 12 playoff spots are filled by drivers who have won. Ryan Sieg holds the final playoff spot. He has a 69-point lead on Anthony Alfredo with 11 races left in the regular season.

The series races next at Road America. Saturday’s race airs at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

 

Camping World Truck Series

Ryan Preece’s win Friday at Nashville Superspeedway didn’t impact the playoff standings since Preece is not running a full schedule.

Five of the 10 playoff sets have been secured by drivers with a win. Three-time series champion Matt Crafton holds the final playoff spot. He leads Derek Kraus by 29 points. Kraus gained four points on Crafton at Nashville. Two races remain in the regular season.

The series is off this weekend. The Truck Series is back in action July 9 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1.