By AMANDA VINCENT
Days after announcing a contract extension with JR Motorsports, Noah Gragson claimed his first win of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. Gragson’s win of Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway also was the drivers third-career Xfinity win.
“It has been way too long,” Gragson said.
Harrison Burton finished second, Austin Cindric was third, and Kaulig Racing teammates Justin Haley and Jeb Burton rounded out the top-five.
Gragson led 40 laps of the race that was scheduled for 147 laps but went 152 laps after an overtime restart, taking his race-winning lead on a lap-143 restart.
NASCAR Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin was the previous race leader but was penalized when his crew took equipment over pit wall too early during a lap-138 caution, the seventh and penultimate caution of the race.
Hamlin led a race-high 43 laps before finishing 12th.
Pole sitter Daniel Hemric overcame an early-race spark-plug wire problem to win the first 45-lap stage.
After Hemric led the first nine laps, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson and Hamlin led laps before Hemric got back to the front as Hsmlon spun in lapped traffic on the final lap of the stage.
After A.J. Allmendinger led early in the second stage, Gragson took the lead on lap 71 and won stage two on lap 90.
Allmendinger, again, led early in the final stage before losing the position to Hamlin on lap 102. Hamlin, then, led most of the last stage until his pit-road penalty.
Allgaier finished sixth, Tyler Reddick was seventh, Jeremy Clements eighth, Myatt Snider ninth, and Alex Labbe finished 10th.