Gragson, who needed a victory to contend for the 2021 Xfinity championship next weekend at Phoenix, grabbed the lead from Daniel Hemric in the first overtime, then held off a last-lap challenge from Austin Cindric in the second overtime to win Saturday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Gragson’s 0.064-second margin of victory is the closest in series history at Martinsville.
Hemric appeared to have the race win in hand until Justin Haley spun with five laps remaining in regulation. On the overtime restart, Gragson was able the power around Hemric on the outside just before the caution came out again for a wreck involving Josh Berry.
The win is Gragson’s third of the season and came at the most opportune time, providing his No. 9 JR Motorsports team the chance to win his first NASCAR championship.
“Man, I want to cry right now. It’s been a rough season. We got a couple wins there at Darlington and Richmond but things weren’t looking good after last weekend,” Gragson said.
“I told my guys that we had an opportunity and we were still in it. I’m just so thankful. It’s just such an opportunity. It’s my second win at Martinsville and I get to take home a clock.
“This team’s unbelievable and how about all these badass fans out here.”
Joining Gragson in the Championship 4 next weekend are reigning series champion Cindric, A.J. Allmendinger and Hemric.
“I felt like I had a shot as the third-place car. I wasn’t going to use up Noah,” Cindric said. “I intend to race for a championship a certain way. I’m really proud of this season.”
Failing to advance were Justin Allgaier, Haley, Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton.
Hemric ended up finishing third in the race, Sam Mayer was fourth and Allgaier rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap cars pit with Gragson the first off pit road. Myatt Snider was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
On the restart on Lap 131 Gragson was followed by Harrison Burton, Ty Gibbs, Cindric and Jeb Burton.
On Lap 150, Bayley Currey hit the wall and dropped debris on the track, which forced NASCAR to throw a caution.
A handful of cars pit but Gragson remained on the track and in the lead when the race resumed on Lap 156.
Ryan Ellis spun off Turn 2 on Lap 159 to bring out a caution. All the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Gibbs the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 185, Gibbs was followed by Harrison Burton, Gragson, Hemric and Jones.
Myatt Snider got hit by Ryan Sieg and spun up the track and into the wall to bring out a caution on Lap 186. The returned to green on Lap 193 with Gibbs out front followed by Gragson and Cindric.
Shortly after the restart, a multi-car wreck erupted off Turn 2 involving Jeb Burton, Spencer Boyd, Michael Annett and Riley Herbst.
NASCAR decided to red-flag the race to clear the track of debris and fluid. After a nearly 11-minute delay, the race returned to yellow conditions.
The race returned to green with 50 laps remaining. Gibbs remained out front, followed by Gragson, Cindric and Allgaier.
Shortly after the restart, Gragson knocked Gibbs out of the lead and Harrison Burton ended up slamming into Gibbs’ stopped car in the middle of the track.
The race returned to green on Lap 208 with Gragson as the leader followed Cindric and Allgaier.
With 40 laps to go, Hemric had made his way into the second spot behind Gragson as Allgaier ran third.
A large piece of debris in Turn 2 on the track on Lap 218 brought out the 11th caution of the race. The race returned to green on Lap 225 with Gragson still out front followed by Hemric and Allgaier.
With 18 laps to go, Hemric got inside of Gragson and powered to the lead.
On Lap 244, Haley spun off Turn 4 to bring out a caution which sent the race into overtime. Hemric led on the restart followed by Gragson, Cindric and Allgaier.
Josh Berry spun and hit the wall shortly after the restart, which sent the race into a second overtime. Gragson led on the restart, followed by Hemric, Cindric and Mayer.
Gragson held off furious last-lap charge from Harrison Burton to claim the Stage 2 victory.
Gibbs finished third, Jeb Burton was fourth and Cindric rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most of the lead-lap cars pit but Gragson stayed out and inherited the lead. Cindric was the first off pit road among those who pit.
On the restart on Lap 69, Gragson led the way followed by Gibbs, Preston Pardus, Jeb Burton and Jeremy Clements. Cindric lined up 17th.
With 25 laps remaining in the stage, Gragson held about a half-second lead over Gibbs while Harrison Burton had made his way to third.
Harrison Burton got around Gibbs with 20 laps to go in Turn 3 as Gibbs’ car wheel-hopped entering the turn. Burton took over the second position and begin to challenge Gragson for the lead.
With 10 laps remaining, Gragson was fighting furiously to hold off Harrison Burton as Gibbs ran in third, 2.7 seconds behind the leader.
Cindric held off Hemric to take the Stage 1 win.
Allgaier was third, Allmendinger fourth and Berry rounded out the top-five.
Cindric started on the pole and remained out front until a caution was displayed on Lap 15 as Preston Pardus spun around.
The race returned to green on Lap 21 with Cindric still out front.
On Lap 31, NASCAR issued a competition caution to allow teams to check tire wear. The lead-lap cars remained on the track and the race returned to green on Lap 36.
On Lap 48, Gibbs appeared to slow on the track and SMayer slammed into the back of Gibbs’ car, which did tremendous damage to Mayer’s No. 8 and brought out a caution.
Several lead-lap cars elected to pit but Cindric stayed on the track and in the lead. The race returned to green on Lap 54.
With five laps remaining in the first stage, Cindric held a small lead over Hemric as Allgaier ran third.