By AMANDA VINCENT
A week after claiming his first NASCAR Xfinity win of 2021 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Noah Gragson claimed a second-consecutive win Saturday afternoon when he took the checkered flag in the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
“Today’s not about this team or this win; it’s about everyone who lost their lives 20 years ago,” Gragson said on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001. “We have a lot of heavy hearts and, at least in America, we can come together on this day and appreciate all you race fans for coming out. It’s an emotional day. It’s a special day. But it’s not about us today.”
Justin Haley, with the advantage of newer tires, drove up to second in the final laps following a lap-238 caution for a Jeremy Clements spin.
“I knew they (Haley) had tires, but the thing that really kept us alive were those two cautions at the end,” Gragson said.
The yellow flag waved nine times in the 250-lap race, including three cautions in the final 30 laps. Gragson led a total of 22 laps, including the final 14 laps after taking the lead on a lap-236 restart from a Tommy Joe Martins incident.
John Hunter Nemechek finished third. Justin Allgaier finished fourth after suffering a steering issue in the first third of the race. Riley Herbst rounded out the top-five.
A.J. Allmendinger won the first 75-lap stage after taking the lead from pole sitter Austin Cindric on lap 46. Martins led late in the stage with an advantage of newer tires taken during a lap-35 competition caution, but Allmendinger retook the position on the last lap of the stage.
Allmendinger wound up 18th at the checkered flag, though, after leading 39 laps. Cindric finished 16th after leading 50 laps.
Ty Gibbs led a race-high 67 laps including a stage-two win on lap 150. He took his stage win by passing Daniel Hemric on lap 98. The second stage ended under caution because of an incident between Jade Buford and C.J. McLaughlin on lap 157.
Gibbs finished the race in the seventh position. Other top-10 finishers included Hemric in sixth and Brandon Brown in eighth. Harrison Burton finished ninth after leading 43 laps. Jeb Burton was 10th after an early-race battery issue.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 14th in his lone race of the season after starting 30th and serving a pot-road speeding penalty during a lap-223 caution.