MARTINSVILLE, Virginia – Although Noah Gragson came up short on defending last year’s Dead On Tools 250 win at Martinsville Speedway, his immediate thoughts were not on his fourth place finish.
Instead, it was on Brandon Jones, the driver who will succeed him in JR Motorsports’ coveted No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro in 2023. In this case, it was about the manner of Jones’ bitter defeat from a controversial, Overtime restart move by Ty Gibbs.
Suffice to say, Gragson did not mince words at all, particularly with Jones’ soon-to-be former NASCAR Xfinity Series team.
“The 19 raced us clean all race,” Gragson said. “I wanted to have a shot at the front row at the end. When, I feel like, you restart on the outside and you win the race, you’ve earned it. If you’re third row, second row and you just clean a guy out, I don’t know if I agree with that.
“I thought Brandon Jones and the No. 19 Ty Gibbs Racing, I mean, Joe Gibbs Racing car did a great job all race. It helps JR Motorsports. That’s a dirtbag move.”
The typically mild mannered Gragson praised Jones’ maturity, particularly with how he handled Gibbs’ move that cost Jones a chance at the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Championship 4 battle.
“Yea, he was really good all day. I don’t know,” he offered. “If I was in that position, I would be pretty torqued up if I was Brandon. But that’s not the point.”
While Gragson slipped from his fifth starting position to 17th in Stage 1, he rallied to a fourth place finish in Stage 2.
Ultimately, Gragson wound up in fourth in the final scoring order, a respectable effort during the dress rehearsal race before next Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway (6:30 p.m. ET on USA).
Moreover, Gragson will vie for the series title alongside Berry and Allgaier of JR Motorsports, his current team, and Ty Gibbs of Joe Gibbs Racing.
All in all, it was a great moment for Gragson and his organization as the possibility seemed realistic after the first race of this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
With Phoenix awaiting Gragson and his title rivals, it is about JR Motorsports’ chance at one of their three drivers winning their first series title.
“Three cars going to the final four, it’s unbelievable to be a small part of this company,” he observed. “Last race coming up at Phoenix and then moving on. I’m just really grateful for all of you guys at JR Motorsports.
“Everybody involved, it takes so many people. I’m just really, really grateful for the opportunity. We go onto Phoenix with a shot at the championship.”
It is not every season when a team has a 75% chance at winning the title. However it concludes, Gragson likes his chances and he may feel the most confident of his competitors considering his spring Phoenix win earlier this year.
“We’re four cars but one team,” Gragson said. “That’s what makes JR Motorsports really so special. We’re one team with four cars. This was a goal coming into the season was to get all four cars into the final four but three will work. So the odds are in our favor.”