Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Gibbs Shines, Gragson’s Frustrations Set Off Crash at Road America

There was a heck of a lot more rubbing and racing on Saturday (July 2) as Ty Gibbs won the Henry 180 at Road America for his fourth trophy of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

After Kyle Larson had dominated the faster car of Gibbs all day, the young Xfinity full-timer dug deep and showed why he’s unquestionably one of the best young talents in the sport. Gibbs has a reputation for being a reckless driver, but held back when he had the chance to move Larson out of the way during the closing laps. At his next opportunity, he made one of the best passes of his young career for the win.

Larson, Josh Berry, Austin Hill and Brandon Jones finished out the rest of the top five, but it was a highly questionable move by Noah Gragson that grabbed headlines.

The Winners

Jeremy Clements has a history of running well at Road America, even winning the race there in 2017. Saturday was no different, as he notched a top 10 for his efforts and even led the race at one point. Clements suffered an unfortunate penalty late in the race, however, and brought his No. 51 across the line in ninth. He looked good doing it, too, as Whitetail Dip hooked up the JCR team with a slick scheme this week. It’s not my scheme of the week, but it’d be cruel and unusual punishment not to share it.

Josh Berry was caught up in the carnage caused by Gragson and company, but in a brilliant stroke of either wild luck or tremendous skill (maybe even a bit of both?) he wound up finishing third. It wasn’t a great day for JRM, as right turns were pretty crucial. However, Berry’s top three made for a nice silver lining to an otherwise woeful day.

See also
Ty Gibbs Takes Lead on Final Lap, Wins Xfinity Race at Road America

The Losers

Mr. Roadcourse himself, AJ Allmendinger, had a rough day at the office. After starting on the back row, Allmendinger worked his way up to the front, per the usual. However, the powers at be decided that today was not to be his day. Did he finish poorly? Absolutely not — he brought it home in sixth. However, I’m sure he won’t take too kindly to the known dirt track legend Larson stealing his thunder for the day.

Ty Gibbs haters took quite the blow today, and I would know, I am one. I touched on it earlier, but you really have to watch Gibbs’ pass on Larson to really understand how great of a move it was. The pass was only the beginning, though, as Gibbs then had to fend off Larson until the checkered flag. If you’re a fan of good racing, I encourage you to check out the final lap. Hell, I’ll even link it below.

The Playoff Pit

With Gibbs picking up his fourth win of the season, the playoff race remains unchanged from last week. Gibbs, Justin Allgaier, Allmendinger, Berry, Gragson, Brandon Jones and Austin Hill are still the only eligible winners. I figured this week could add another wild card to the mix, but Gibbs had other plans. There’s still plenty of time for some fresh faces to join the mix, though, as next week only moves us past the halfway mark on the season.

Scheme of the Week

It would feel unpatriotic of me to not make an Independence Day themed pick this week, as we are about to celebrate the 4th of July after all. For this reason, Clements’ Whitetail Dip scheme didn’t make the cut. Never fret, though, because I wasn’t short on choices by any means. Berry’s No. 8 sure was appealing, but it was a little out there compared to this week’s winner. Enter, Sheldon Creed.

Now, Creed may have brought this slick ride home in a whopping 27th place, but at least he looked good doing it. As many know, the base scheme for Creed’s car is one of my favorite in the series due in part to its simplicity — it just works. RCR knows that, and they didn’t stray too far from it with this Red, White and Blue star-spangled ride. Good choice, design team, here’s your props.

Fuel for Thought

Alright, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Gragson and Sage Karam got together for a little extra-curricular powwow on lap 25, resulting in a 13-car pile up that got plenty of people, including some of our very own staff, asking some serious questions.

See also
Tempers Flare at Road America, Spark Massive Xfinity Series Crash

The crash occurred on a straight away after Karam had raced Gragson hard for a few corners. Gragson hooked a hard right in the middle of the 30-foot-wide straight and sent himself and Karam flying sideways. As one could imagine, complete carnage ensued. Brandon Brown was among the drivers who got the worst end of the deal as he needed a moment to collect himself sitting against the wall before heading to the infield care center. The full wreck can be found below on NASCAR’s YouTube channel.

 

 

After the race, Frontstretch‘s own Daniel McFadin was able to get Karam’s thoughts on the crash.

“It’s just really dangerous, the way he (Gragson) drove out there,” said Karam. “I’ve never turned into somebody deliberately on a straight line, and that’s exactly what he just did, so I don’t understand it.”

The question now becomes ‘what should NASCAR do, if anything?’ I’m here to tell you to not get your hopes up, and that’s not because there is any justification to doing what Gragson did, but because of who he drives for. JRM is the identity of the Xfinity Series; they make it palatable to the more casual race fans. Not to mention, the word “Junior” on anything related to NASCAR is going to be the money maker in whatever sector it populates.

I say all of that to reach this conclusion, if Gragson gets anything, don’t expect it to be much. What does that say about the state of the series as a whole, though? That’s up for the fans to decide.

Where to Next?

The NASCAR Xfinity Series is off to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Alsco Uniforms 250. Gibbs took home his second win of the season the last time the series visited the freshly reconfigured track, which led to mixed reviews from fans. We’ll see if the second go around goes any smoother, with the green flag dropping at 5 p.m. ET. That race will air on USA Network and can also be found on the Performance Racing Network.

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johndawgchapman

I’ve been watching Gregson closely this season, & I’d been impressed with what I’d seen. All that went out the window yesterday. His fit of pique cost other teams 10’s of thousands of $$, ruined a number of drivers days.
And proved what he’d been showing up to now was just a veneer of maturity & respectability.
But I expect this will pass, we’ll just keep reading about Ross Chastain.

John

I think this time he may have lost the Kaulig Cup ride and very possibly the ride in the 9 next year (unless Johnny Morris really, really likes him and ponies up more money to keep him in the car). On the plus side, we won’t have to hear insincere apologies all week from him. Nascar has allowed crashing other drivers in anger to be acceptable in all 3 series and slam, bang rivalries are good for ratings. ‘Entertainment’ wins over ‘Sport’ anytime. This crap is what happens when you’d sell your sole for another 100,000 viewers.

Old Fan

NASCAR will never punish a driver who races for Junior (but their marketing department will make sure to use footage of this accident in their upcoming commercials). It’s going to be up to the other drivers to discipline Noah by making sure he doesn’t finish any of the Playoff races.

DoninAjax

Send Jr. the bills to repair the damaged cars! He can take it out of Noah’s salary.

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