N News & Results

Xfinity at Darlington – Gragson’s first win of the year

Darlington, SC, Sept 4/21 (by John Davison): Noah Gragson drove to the front of the NASCAR Xfinity Sport Clips Haircuts 200 at Darlington Raceway on an overtime restart to nip ahead of Harrison Burton by just over two tenths of a second for his third career series win and his first of the 2021 season. "This is Darlington, I can't believe it!" exulted the winner.

Including the competition caution and the two stage ends, a total of eight cautions flew, the final one for debris on the front stretch that led to the overtime.

A newly-paved patch on the second turn led to changing traction over the course of the race with third-place finisher Austin Cindric commenting: "Today when we showed up it was a construction site and now it's a racetrack…. We're the first cars to run on it. It gained grip throughout the day. It got cleaned throughout the day. It got more raceable throughout the day. I don't think it will be much of a story line tomorrow. You can make the argument that it can make it harder to pass, but you can also make the argument that it helps the bottom lane hang in on restarts off of two. There are pros and cons, but it seems like something the track needed to do and I see no problem with it."

Austin Cindric finished third, Justin Haley was fourth and Jeb Burton was fifth. Cup driver Denny Hamlin led 43 of the race’s 152 laps (with overtime) and he was leading when the second-last caution flew with eight laps remaining. However, a miscue by his pit crew saw him penalized and sent to the rear. In the remaining laps he was only able to recover enough to finish in 12th place. A.J. Allmendinger was another strong runner, leading for 24 laps but his car let him down on that next to final restart and after Daniel Hemric dropped debris on the track bringing out the final caution and sending the race into overtime – he only managed to finish in 20th place.

The sole major hit of the day was when Riley Herbst slammed into the rear of Tommy Joe Martins' car when the racers between them dodged out of the way and Herbst had no time to avoid the impact. "I'm fine," Herbst said later. "I really want to see the replay before I comment any further, but I don't know why they were stopping in the center of the straightaway at Darlington. That's kind of crazy, but I think we're 443points or so and hopefully we can go to Richmond with that cushion. Hopefully, we can gain a few more points there and then we'll be a little bit more comfortable for Bristol."

Second place finisher Harrison Burton was not happy with his finish. "I'm just upset. I really wanted to win here," he said. "This place means a lot to me. It's fun to run well here, but it sucks to not win here. We'll keep digging at it…. Just frustrated."

Tires played a major role in the race, with a fresh set making it possible for Daniel Hemric to come from nearly last on the track to win the second stage of the race. Worn tires led to starts that scrambled the field with teams staying out to lead laps restarting in at the front and the cars dropping back. Timmy Hill fell out after a drive train problem on one of the restarts where his team left him out for position.

Two more races – Richmond and Bristol – remain in the ‘regular season’ before the seven-race elimination playoff series begins for the Xfinity Series. The Richmond race will be run next Saturday, September 11th.

• Click HERE for the Race Results

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