One can always count on Talladega Superspeedway to be a site for chaos, and Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event did little to deter that notion. Despite a fairly incident-scant first two stages, drama broke out with four wrecks in the final twenty laps and three overtimes. A mad scramble ended with Noah Gragson holding off Jeffrey Earnhardt for his second win of the season.
Much of the pre-race buildup centred on Earnhardt, driving a black #3 for Richard Childress Racing with grandfather Dale Sr.‘s former crew chief Larry McReynolds leading him, who won the pole. RCR drivers Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed qualified behind him. Hill, who won the season’s first superspeedway race at Daytona, dominated the affair by leading sixty-seven laps but was eliminated in a late wreck.
Although the lead changed hands multiple times with eight trades in the first stage, it was a relatively clean segment as Ryan Ellis‘ spin was the lone caution. Josh Berry took the lead on the penultimate lap to win the stage ahead of Ty Gibbs, A.J. Allmendinger, Landon Cassill, Hill, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Anthony Alfredo, Sam Mayer, and Brett Moffitt.
Stage #2 continued being incident-free until a wreck on the backstretch that sent Mason Massey into the inside wall while collecting Berry, Moffitt, Chandler Smith, and J.J. Yeley.
“We had it avoided there for a minute and then the #8 (Berry) started coming back across and just the way that I was angled I was going to either hit him with my left front or I had to get on my brakes and go to the right quick enough and once I did, I just got sideways and couldn’t save it,” said Smith, who was making his Xfinity début. “It sucks.”
The crash caused the stage to end under yellow with Allgaier leading Hill, Brandon Jones, Gibbs, Drew Dollar, Brandon Brown, Earnhardt, Riley Herbst, and Myatt Snider.
Much of the final stage was a battle between Hill and Gibbs for the lead before lap 76 when Gibbs and Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Jones, Ellis, Daniel Hemric, and David Starr wrecked together. With Gibbs out of the picture and retiring for just the second time in his Xfinity career, Hill and Creed led the way as the race resumed. As Hill received a push from Allmendinger along the outside, Creed paced the inside before being shuffled back by Herbst, interestingly meaning said line was led by a pair of drivers with off-road roots.
Matt Mills hit the wall with sixteen laps remaining to produce the fifth race-related caution. Another wreck occurred six circuits later involving Brown, Dollar, Jones, Joe Graf Jr., Kaz Grala, and Ryan Vargas.
Hill and Allgaier led the field to the restart with four laps to go, but the former’s hopes died two corners later when he was clipped by Mayer, who was pushing his JR Motorsports team-mate on the outside but received too strong of a bump from behind by Allmendinger and Creed. Both Hill and Mayer slid into the inside wall, necessitating a caution and overtime.
Overtime began with Allgaier and Allmendinger on the front row as Creed and Jeb Burton respectively pushed. However, Creed was squeezed between two lanes and shuffled back. Now stuck in the pack, Creed’s own race came to an end after being hit by Caesar Bacarella, who was spun by Gray Gaulding, and briefly sent airbourne. The second overtime also failed to make the white flag when Jeremy Clements‘ car stopped on the apron.
A third attempt began with Allgaier dropping out after running out of fuel, leaving Allmendinger to fight with Gragson. The latter cleared his adversary as the leaders organised into single file shortly before beginning the final lap. Earnhardt attempted to lead an outside lane before committing to the inside, enabling him to move up to second but he was unable to catch Gragson as he kept him at bay.
The win is Gragson’s seventh in the Xfinity Series, first at Talladega, and second on a superspeedway (first was at Daytona in 2020). Despite falling short, Earnhardt earned his best NASCAR national series career finish and just his second top five.
|1||19||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|2||1||3||Jeffrey Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|3||13||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|4||10||38||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||124||Running|
|5||6||10||Landon Cassill||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|6||12||23||Anthony Alfredo||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|7||20||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||124||Running|
|8||24||07||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Raicng||Ford||124||Running|
|9||31||31||Myatt Snider||Jordan Anderson Racing||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|10||18||02||Brett Moffitt||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|11||16||8||Josh Berry||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|12||21||36||Alex Labbé||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|13||9||18||Drew Dollar||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||124||Running|
|14||32||53||Shane Lee||Emerling-Gase Motorsports||Ford||124||Running|
|15||22||27||Jeb Burton||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|16||36||35||Joey Gase||Emerling-Gase Motorsports||Ford||124||Running|
|17||29||4||Bayley Currey||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|18||37||39||Kyle Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||124||Running|
|19||26||78||Josh Williams||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|20||7||6||Ryan Vargas||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||124||Running|
|21||33||47||Gray Gaulding||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||123||Running|
|22||11||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||122||Fuel Pressure|
|23||34||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet||122||Running|
|24||4||2||Sheldon Creed||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||113||Accident|
|25||23||45||Caesar Bacarella||Alpha Prime Racing||Chevrolet||113||Accident|
|26||15||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||110||DVP|
|27||2||21||Austin Hill||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||110||Accident|
|28||14||1||Sam Mayer||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||109||Accident|
|29||8||48||Kaz Grala*||Big Machine Racing Team||Chevrolet||103||Accident|
|30||17||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet||103||Accident|
|31||27||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||96||Accident|
|32||38||44||Ryan Ellis||Alpha Prime Racing||Chevrolet||84||DVP|
|33||35||08||David Starr||SS-Green Light Raicng||Ford||83||DVP|
|34||5||11||Daniel Hemric||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||79||DVP|
|35||3||54||Ty Gibbs||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||76||Accident|
|36||28||66||J.J. Yeley||MBM Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||DVP|
|37||25||91||Mason Massey||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||47||Accident|
|38||30||26||Chandler Smith*||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota||47||Accident|
|DNQ||13||Natalie Decker||MBM Motorsports||Ford|
|DNQ||34||Jesse Iwuji||Jesse Iwuji Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|DNQ||28||C.J. McLaughlin||RSS Racing||Ford|
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points