Noah Gragson vs. the Xfinity Field Might Match Any Drama the Cup Series Generates

With two races left in its regular season, the Xfinity Series holds at least as much intrigue as the NASCAR Cup Series, and it’s in no small part due to Noah Gragson.

Gragson may be coming to Kansas fourth in the standings to AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, and Justin Allgaier, but he holds the key to setting the top of the playoff field.

Gragson already has his 2023 Cup Series ride secured, but he’s planning to win as the current Xfinity Series season heads for the homestretch. More so than anyone else, he’s what will make the road to the Championship 4 worth watching.

Noah Gragson has been playing to win

Noah Gragson waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3, 2022 in Darlington, South Carolina. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Noah Gragson waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3, 2022 in Darlington, South Carolina. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Ty Gibbs leads the Xfinity Series with five victories this season, with Noah Gragson close behind at four. AJ Allmendinger and Justin Allgaier have scored three wins apiece. Allmendinger can potentially wrap up the regular-season championship on Saturday at Kansas, bagging the 15 playoff bonus points in the process.

Gragson begins the day in fourth place, looking to make up 26 points on Allgaier and 41 on Gibbs to move up the list for additional playoff points. The task would be easier if not for the 30 points that NASCAR docked him for running Sage Karam off the road at Road America.

Gragson has been on his best behavior since, and there seems to be new determination in the driver of the No. 9 Chevy. He always drives aggressively, but Gragson has won twice and placed in the top 10 four other times in the eight starts since causing the mess in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

There’s more to it than winning races. Gragson’s secret weapon in piling up points for when the field is reset after Bristol is stage victories. The 24-year-old from Las Vegas has scored 12 stage victories in 2022, including six in the past six races. Allgaier is second with seven stage wins, which each log a playoff point.

Noah Gragson is coming off a great finish at Darlington

There’s a case to be made that last week’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington was the best NASCAR race of the season. It was interesting throughout and then thrilling at the end as three drivers with different objectives battled for the win.

Defending Cup Series champion Kyle Larson was there to pick up experience for the following day’s race at The Track Too Tough to Tame. Sheldon Creed was continuing his fight to slide past Ryan Sieg or Landon Cassill for the last playoff berth. Noah Gragson was seeking to add his playoff points total.

Creed took the lead back from Gragson on a late round of pit stops and led until Gragson and Larson surged to the front with two laps to go. Creed and Larson were swapping paint but maintaining decorum as neither was running the other off the track even as Creed spent part of the final lap against the outside wall.

While the others were slowing each other down, Gragson slipped past to take the checkered flag.

“He was sitting there when the opportunity was presented to him on the last lap,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who owns the JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevy. “That was because he had the patience and understanding. He did smart things to keep himself out of trouble when he wasn’t in position to win the race.”

We’re heading to a great finish in the Xfinity Series

AJ Allmendinger is in command of the standings heading into the final two races of the Xfinity Series regular season. Aside from his three wins, his strength has been finishing in the top 10 in 21 of 24 races.

Neither Allmendinger nor top-five drivers Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry can be discounted in the battle for the championship. But Noah Gragson vs. Ty Gibbs battling to get to the Championship 4 and then prevailing at Phoenix would be at least as compelling as anything the NASCAR Cup Series can dish up short of Denny Hamlin fighting for his first title against Kyle Larson, looking to go back-to-back.

Gragson is heading to Petty GMS next season, and Gibbs is likely taking Kyle Busch’s place if the two-time champion and Joe Gibbs Racing cannot strike a last-minute deal. The next two months could set the stage for a delicious Rookie of the Year battle.

All stats courtesy of Racing Reference.

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