Noah Gragson held off Chase Briscoe after an incident with his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier to earn his second victory of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season in a frantic finish to the Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Gragson’s No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet edged Briscoe’s No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford by a mere .328 seconds for Gragson’s second victory of the season, matching his winning work in the Daytona International Speedway season opener. And his victory Monday night on the high-banked Bristol half-miler was equally as dramatic as the three-way finish he prevailed in at the big speedway this past February.
Allgaier, who led a race-high 156 of the 303 laps, was leading the field when 21-year-old teammate Gragson caught up, pulled alongside and ultimately made contact, sending Allgaier’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet into the wall and out of the race for an 18th-place finish. It marked the third consecutive Bristol race Allgaier has led at least 100 laps and didn’t celebrate in Victory Lane.
“I really apologize to Justin and the 7 team, that’s not how I want to race but I saw a position open up, he kind of slipped off the bottom the lap before and I tried to get to the bottom and I just got too loose,” Gragson said. “But one heck of a night for this 9 team.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Brandon Jones and pole-sitter Harrison Burton finished third and fourth, respectively, followed by Myatt Snider, who rallied to a fifth-place finish after starting 22nd.
Daniel Hemric, Brandon Brown, Jeremy Clements, Josh Williams and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top 10 in order.
With their top-four finishes at Bristol, Gragson, Briscoe, Jones and rookie Burton have qualified for the first round of the four-race Dash 4 Cash incentive program that begins next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The highest finisher among those four in the Atlanta race will win an additional $100,000 and automatically earn a spot to try again for another big payday at the next race.
“Last year I don’t know if we ever qualified one time for it, this year is a whole new ballgame and I’m showing up to win races,” Jones said. “I think we’re going to be a competitor when we come to tracks that are eligible.”
Bristol’s early stage wins went to both Gragson (Stage 1) and Allgaier (Stage 2), with Allgaier really taking control of things around the race’s midpoint.
Several race favorites were taken out in a typically hard-nosed style of racing that comes at the famed Bristol high-banks with 12 caution periods for 85 laps.
Two drivers among the championship top five coming into the event, Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric, made contact a mere six laps into the race, ending Cindric’s day and damaging Chastain’s Chevrolet enough to hamper him the rest of his night. Cindric finished 36th of 37 cars, and Chastain was 28th.
The melee dropped Cindric from second place in the standings to sixth place — now 56 points behind leader Briscoe. Gragson’s victory moved him up to second in the standings, only nine points behind Briscoe. Chastain is fifth, 52 points back from the series standings lead.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series moves to the 1.54-mile Atlanta track for a doubleheader with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series on Saturday.