NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Noah Gragson Loses Lead in Final Corner, Misses Win at Texas

Noah Gragson seemed well on his way to winning his third race of the year, but a slip in the final corner of the last lap allowed Harrison Burton to scoot by and win his third NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday (Oct. 24).

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 already featured plenty of playoff drama prior to the last-lap climax. But Burton’s car was on rails during the final 10 laps and his Toyota grew increasingly larger in Gragon’s mirror until he was on the leader’s bumper.

Gragson started the last lap about half-a-second in front of Burton, yet could only watch as Burton blazed through the first two corners and cut the deficit in half with a half-lap remaining. Both cars stayed in the high lane to avoid a lapped car in turn 4. However, Gragson bobbled slightly and moved up the track, allowing Burton the preferred line and giving the No. 20 the advantage with just several hundred feet between the cars and the checkered flag.

Gragson seemed shell-shocked during his post-race interview, pausing several times to stare off into the distance. He was one of the few playoff drivers – up until that final corner – who hadn’t had any sort of misfortune or setback over the course of the afternoon.

KRISTL: Late-race wreck leads to frayed tempers, shake up Xfinity title contenders

“I don’t know,” Gragson said. “I felt like we had a fast car there, just a little tight on exit all day. Just…frustrated at myself…I was pretty tight there at the end, I saw [Anthony] Alfredo holding Harrison off and thought we were getting away. …Then I saw the [No.] 20 get by the [No.] 21, and he ran me down in like two laps and I knew he was coming. I just didn’t expect him to get there.”

That split-second lapse of control made the difference between clinching a Championship 4 position and heading to Martinsville Speedway next week below the cutline.

“Fuck,” he continued after another long pause. “Sorry. I don’t know. Frustrated but thankful for my guys, [crew chief] Dave Elenz, the rest of this team, we’ll go to Martinsville. I like that track, just – I mean that could be make or breaking your season right there. and [I] just threw it away.”

The result, indeed, could be a make-or-break moment for the JR Motorsports driver’s 2020 championship hopes. He heads to Martinsville seventh in the eight-driver playoff standings and on the outside looking in, 24 points back from fourth-place Justin Haley. He’s nine points removed from sixth-place Ross Chastain and 19 points ahead of last-place Ryan Sieg, who suffered issues of his own during the event at Texas.

The mistake cost Gragson a guaranteed spot in the series finale’s Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway. The win would have been a much-needed boost for the team after he suffered a crash last week at Kansas Speedway. That incident forced him to retire from the race under the damaged vehicle policy, finishing last.

Gragson hasn’t visited victory lane since the spring race at Bristol but has recorded a pair of second-place finishes over the last several weeks. He also sat on the pole for both the Charlotte ROVAL and Kansas.

JOHNSTON: What a Runner-Up Finish Cost Noah Gragson

O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Recap: Burton Ecstatic Over Last-Lap, Comeback Win

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About Adam Cheek

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Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Entercom Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

6 comments

  1. Avatar

    Gragson has better car control than he has self control. He must have been thinking of what creative celebration he could come up with after the win.He appeared to have brain fade in the last lap and was caught napping.
    He definitely needs another year in Xfinity to hopefully mature if he expects to race at the cup level. Talent is there but the whole package is not together yet

  2. Avatar

    The F-word is just as bad as the N-word, instead of enjoying a great finish i had to sit the kids down and tell them why they should not speak that way, Gragson ruined a great race with his foul mouth, Kyle Larson was thrown out of NASCAR for saying the N-word at a non NASCAR event, Gragson said the F-word not once but twice during a live NASCAR broadcast, He needs to be suspended for the last 2 races of the year so he can understand that his words carry weight, I tell the kids not to use these words and they understand why Larson is not in NASCAR, If Gragson is allowed to race next week NASCAR will be saying that the N-word is bad but we have no problem with the F-word being said on live TV

    • Avatar

      Totally agree with you Steve R

    • Avatar

      George Carlin’s “seven words you can’t say on TV” are all being said. Not OK but this is “progressive thinking.”

      There’s going to be a time delay soon but that’s what you get when you don’t give the interviewee time to cool down. They don’t want vanilla drivers but be careful what you wish for.

  3. Avatar

    Networks run to Baby Busch and other drivers after they’re knocked out of an event hoping for a sound bite like that and crucify them when they do.

  4. Avatar

    Earlier this year at Kentucky, Gragson wrecked Burton and the two had words and an altercation after the race. Harrison could have gone out and retaliated by wrecking Gragson at a race sometime afterwards, but he didn’t. However, what he did at Texas, beating Gragson by flat out driving him on the last turn of the last lap in a race that Gragson desperately needed to make the championship race was, I’m sure, a far sweeter payback.