DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Noah Gragson held off Harrison Burton in a two-lap overtime shootout at at Darlington Raceway on Saturday for his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season.
Gragson began his week by extending his deal to drive the series for JR Motorsports in 2022 and capped it with his third career win — and first ever at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”
“This is Darlington, I can't believe it,” Gragson said.
It looked like no one, including Gragson, would be able to outrun Cup Series star Denny Hamlin late in the race. But a caution came out with 10 laps to go and when Hamlin went into pit, there was a tire already over the wall waiting — a no no in the NASCAR rule book — and he was sent to the back of the those on the lead lap.
Gragson had a final challenge after a caution came out on the 144th of 147 laps because of debris on the track. He shot out in front in the high lane closest to Darlington's famed wall as Burton tried to go low.
Burton pulled alongside Gragson on both overtime laps, but could not move in front.
Burton held on for second while Austin Cindric was third. Justin Haley finished fourth followed by Jeb Burton, Justin Allgaier, Cup Series regular Tyler Reddick, Jeremy Clements, Myatt Snider and Alex Labbe making up the top 10.
Hamlin finished 12th after leading 43 laps, the most of any driver. Hamlin, however, gave himself a solid preview of the track — and its repaved and repaired turn two — for Sunday night's Southern 500 and the first NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.
Hamlin is seeded seventh in the 16-man playoff field.
Gragson hadn't won since Bristol in June 2020. After a burnout, Gragson and some of his team members climbed the fence at Darlington to celebrate with fans.
“It has been a long time,” an excited Gragson said.
There are two races remaining at Richmond and Bristol before the Xfinity's 12-man playoff begins.
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