Hunter Thomas / TheFourthTurn.com
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Noah Gragson prevailed in an epic, three-way battle with Sheldon Creed and Kyle Larson to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips VFW Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway.
In the closing laps, it appeared that the race was going to come down to Gragson and Creed, but then Larson entered the battle for the win. On the final lap, Larson and Creed, who were running first and second, made significant contact with each other in Turns 1 and 2. As they made their way into the final corners, both Creed and Larson rode the outside wall, and Gragson, who also bounced off the wall, was able to continue and pass by to win. The victory marks Gragson’s fourth victory of the season. The win is also his second at the track, Too Tough To Tame.
“Sheldon Creed was really fast, and really all of the JRM cars, Justin Allgaier and Kyle Larson,” Gragson said. “Kyle came on strong at the end. I watched during that rain delay, him (Larson) running the top in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I knew there was a lot of speed there, so I went up there, and I found something, and Sheldon pinched me off, and the 17 (Larson) got by me. Then there was like three (laps) to go, and I was like ‘they’re going to get into each other racing too hard’. The 2 (Creed), he’s got nothing to lose, he’s racing his tail off, and Kyle is going for a win. What a job by everyone at JR Motorsports.”
Creed needed to win on Saturday night, because he’s currently below the cutline to advance to the NASCAR Playoffs, but he came up short to finish second. The driver of the Richard Childress Racing No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet had a stellar night. He led on two occasions for 47 laps, and he was stout in the final battle of the night.
“I put together really good restarts,” Creed said. “I got the lead. I needed that to stay green. Noah and I were kind of even there late in that run. He’d be a tenth better, and then we’d be even, and then he’d be a tenth better, but we wouldn’t lose that much time. I just wanted it to stay green.”
AJ Allmendinger finished third, followed by Justin Allgaier and Larson. Rounding out the top-q0 was Ty Gibbs, Christopher Bell, Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Hill.
Gragson won Stage 1, and Larson won Stage 2.
There were 10 lead changes among six drivers. Gragson led a race high of 82 laps.
There were also five cautions for 39 laps. The only multicar accident occurred on Lap 57, when contact between Kris Wright and Joe Graf Jr. in the exit of Turn 2, collected Myatt Snider and Riley Herbst.
Just a few laps later, the race was halted for 2 hours, 37 minutes and 23 seconds for torrential rainfall.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will visit Kansas Speedway for the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday, September 10. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on USA and MRN at 3 p.m. ET.
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