Noah Gragson's Xfinity Series dominance worth appreciating




  • In Sports
  • 2022-09-30 15:16:57Z
  • By NASCAR.com
 

What Noah Gragson is doing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series right now is historic.

The fourth-year driver for JR Motorsports finds himself tied with series legend Sam Ard with wins in four consecutive races, a feat no driver has accomplished since Ard did so in 1983. And while four drivers have won five of their consecutive series starts, no one has ever won five straight races.

Gragson can write his own history at Talladega Superspeedway if he takes his No. 9 Chevrolet back to Victory Lane on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Las Vegas native is a two-time winner on superspeedways and is the most recent victor at Talladega.

MORE: Xfinity playoff standings | Talladega schedule

At 24 years old, Gragson is experiencing his most fruitful season of his time in NASCAR's upper echelon. His seven victories this season have come at a variety of different track types - a superspeedway like Talladega; intermediates like Pocono, Darlington, Kansas and Texas; and 1-mile or shorter tracks like Phoenix and Bristol.

If it feels like there's some recency bias with Gragson's performance, you might be right to a certain extent. According to Racing Insights, Gragson's last nine races have produced staggering numbers: five wins, seven top fives and eight top 10s with seven stage victories, 352 laps led and an average finish of 4.89. He's also racked up an impressive 32 playoff points and is the only competitor locked into the Xfinity Series' Round of 8 courtesy of his Texas win.

Before this year, Gragson had never won more than three times in a single season. His Xfinity total now sits at 12, ballooning from five at the start of the season.

Perhaps more impressive is that Gragson has maintained a high level of performance since the start of 2022. The first four races produced consecutive top-three efforts, culminating with a Phoenix victory in March. That was followed by a season-worst stretch that saw three finishes of 20th or worse in the next four events.

Gragson quickly relocated his footing. Since that span, Gragson has finished outside the top 10 in just four of the last 19 races. His 13 stage wins this year are the most in an Xfinity season since Christopher Bell racked up 17 in 2019.

His success is also proving significant for JRM, which he's called home since 2019. JRM, co-owned by Rick Hendrick, Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Dale Earnhardt Jr., is enjoying its winningest season as a company with 13 victories, four more than its previous record of nine in 2014. Chase Elliott won the Xfinity Series championship that year driving the team's No. 9 Chevrolet. Gragson is now JRM's second-winningest driver, with his 12 wins trailing Justin Allgaier's 16.

RELATED: 2022 Xfinity Series winners

Questions surrounding Gragson's maturity followed an intentional spin during the Xfinity race on July 2 at Road America, an incident that collected numerous vehicles and resulted in a $35,000 fine from the sanctioning body. Those questions have largely been answered as the season progressed - so much so that Petty GMS has signed Gragson to drive its No. 42 Chevrolet on a full-time basis starting with the 2023 Cup Series season.

His growth is continuing in NASCAR's premier series this year. Gragson has made 13 Cup starts this season - three superspeedway starts for Beard Motorsports and 10 races for Kaulig Racing. Gragson was slated to drive the No. 62 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports again at Talladega but instead will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports as Alex Bowman sits sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.

With Cup aspirations coming to fruition, Gragson's goal remains focused on one thing: turning his recent Xfinity Series dominance into a series title in Phoenix.

Where will Gragson finish in No. 48 at Talladega? - Powered By PickUp
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