Gragson holds off Gibbs in thrilling Xfinity race at Pocono

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Noah Gragson (9) drives down a straight to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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Noah Gragson held off hard-charging Ty Gibbs and held on to win his third Xfinity Series race of the season on Saturday night at Pocono Raceway.

Gragson also won at Phoenix and Talladega and took JR Motorsports to victory for the second weekend in a row. Justin Allgaier won last week in New Hampshire.

Gragson, bound to race vacant next season at Petty GMS Motorsports, knocked doors with Gibbs on the final lap and raced down the track for the win. Best of all, Gragson and Gibbs raced side by side to a clean and thrilling end to a feud that began last month at Portland International Raceway. Gragson vowed revenge after Gibbs dumped him during the race.

No hard feelings at Pocono. Just a great race.

“It was probably the best I’ve ever driven there,” Gragson said. “I’m working my (back) to keep the 54 there. With 15 to go, I didn’t think we could hold him. I’m exhausted.”

Gragson, who celebrated by climbing the fence, will make his eighth Cup start of the season on Sunday.

Gibbs said he was determined over the final few miles to hold on to the race and blamed himself for making mistakes that cost him the win while driving for his grandfather, Joe Gibbs.

“I just didn’t make it,” said 19-year-old Gibbs.

Josh Berry was third, AJ Allmendinger fourth and Sheldon Creed fifth. Chevrolet placed eight drivers in the top 10, with Gibbs and Toyota and 10th place Cole Custer at Ford the outliers.

The red flag was raised late in the race following a frightening wreck that overturned Jeb Burton’s #27 Chevy and skidded across the track. Burton, 29, his car thrown into the air and slammed on the hood, escaped unscathed.

“Man, that wasn’t good,” Burton said. “I just appreciate the security team. They joined me quickly. »

Keeping calm in the TV booth as he explained the wreckage: Burton’s uncle, retired NASCAR driver Jeff Burton. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Santino Ferrucci and Ronnie Bassett Jr. were also picked up from the crash and eliminated from the race.

Sage Karam finished 20th in his first NASCAR race at the track and for the first time at the track since he set off a wreck during an IndyCar race in 2015 that killed IndyCar driver Justin Wilson. Karam, 27, took a bike ride around the track this week, a necessary step to reflect on his own difficult journey. He tweeted his thanks to the “running community for all the positive vibes this week”.

Karam said he was still “stressed out” and struggling to make up his mind in the days leading up to the race.

“A lot more pressure coming into this one that I put on myself than any other race, of course,” Karam said. “I’m just happy to leave here today with a good memory and to rewrite the book a bit, I guess It’s a new chapter for my experiences here in Pocono.

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Sandy A. Greer