Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: We Saw it Coming, Noah Gragson Locks Himself Into the Championship 4

Noah Gragson won the Contender Boats 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday (Oct. 22) and locked himself into the final round of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.

Gragson penciled in his eighth win of the year at a track he was more than comfortable at. The Xfinity championship challenger completely dominated the race as he earned a clean sweep by taking the win in all three stages.

Gragson found himself inside the top 10 three different times before Saturday at Homestead, but he was finally able to break that spell and punch his ticket to the next round. Other drivers, though, weren’t so lucky.

The Winners

As if JR Motorsports wasn’t already, it’s established itself as the premier Xfinity team to be on if a driver wants to continue onto the next level. Now, with two out of its four drivers locked into the Championship 4, the organization is more legit than ever. Gragson is gone next year, and with Brandon Jones coming to the team to replace him, it’s just reloading to top it all off.

Trevor Bayne has been nothing short of rock solid this season in his few contests for Joe Gibbs Racing. His entrance into free agency in 2019 was no surprise to anyone, but the veteran racer has been able to put together some very impressive runs in limited exposure. As silly season approaches, be on the lookout for Bayne to be welcomed back into one of NASCAR’s premier series if it’s something he desires.

The Losers

Stefan Parsons was well on his way to putting together one of the best races of his young career until a late race crash took him out on lap 188 of 200. He had finished 13th in stage one and 10th in stage two, and he was running 13th at the time of his spin after contact on the frontstretch. If you’re looking for the specifics of the incident, he broke it down for the Frontstretch crew.

Even though he brought his ride home in 10th, Justin Allgaier had to battle for it all day. He didn’t even return to the lead lap until there were six laps remaining. He met the wall a few times on the high line, dealt with tire problems and had an all around rough day at the office that definitely could have cost him a win. Allgaier is a veteran, though, so look for him to rebound next week – that’d be massive for JRM.

Scheme of the Week

Instead of highlighting one scheme this week, I want to do something a little different and talk about how NASCAR has decided to dub the cars involved in the playoffs this year. Everyone has seen them, and I can’t think of one person that likes them: the purple accents.

Here they are on Gragson’s car, and they completely break up the typically clean look that the bright orange provides. Gragson’s car is probably the worst example, with Ty Gibbs in a close second. I get that it’s Xfinity’s colors, but dear Lord does it ruin the look of what I believe is the best looking platform in NASCAR right now.

Playoff Pit

There’s only one winner’s spot left up for grabs in the playoffs with Josh Berry and Gragson locking themselves in already. With only one more race until the final cut, tensions are going to be high at Martinsville Speedway with plenty of great talent making a run for it.

Gibbs currently holds a strong grip on the points spot, but a win would make the rookie sleep much easier going into Phoenix.

Fuel for Thought

Phoenix is a fun track, full stop. Its unique layout provides for some of the most exciting moments in our sport, but I have one problem with it. It hosts a race two times a year.

The championship should be special. These are the best drivers in the world competing for potentially millions of dollars, a huge trophy, their future in the sport and most importantly, bragging rights for themselves and their fans. Therefore, it should be held at a track that NASCAR only visits once a year, and when they do, it’s a sellout.

I’d even be fine with keeping it at Phoenix. It provides a phenomenal atmosphere and challenge for all of the drivers. However, if it is kept at Phoenix, it needs to be the only race the track hosts. There are plenty of other tracks in the country that could host a race and would draw just as much if not more attention during the earlier portion of the season.

If NASCAR doesn’t see it that way, then cool. Cut down on the amount of races. NASCAR has the longest season of any sport, and any break would be welcomed not only by the drivers, but their families as well. Fans could do with one less race weekend, especially if its broadcasted by FOX.

I may be burned at the stake for trying to take a race away from a great track, but it would only serve to make the final race that much more special.

Where to Next?

The Xfinity Series is headed to Martinsville Speedway next week along with the rest of the circuit for the final cut race of the 2022 season in what has been dubbed the Dead On Tools 250.

Brandon Jones was the victor the last time the series visited the famous track, but plenty of drivers had good speed in that one. Don’t be surprised if a driver towards the back of the points standings wins their way into the final round.

That race begins at 3 p.m. ET and will be aired on NBC, the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR.

About the author

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.

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