DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Noah Gragson won his first career Xfinity Series race when Saturday’s opener was stopped on the final lap by a crash well behind the winning JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
It was the third consecutive win at Daytona for a car fielded by Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister and Rick Hendrick in what they consider a family business.
“It never gets old, man,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t expect I will do it ever again as a driver, but if I get here as an owner and have success like this, it’s a great feeling.”
Gragson and Chase Briscoe swapped the lead in the closing three-lap sprint to the finish, but NASCAR threw the yellow-flag for a multi-car crash on the final lap.
Harrison Burton and Timmy Hill, who will make his Daytona 500 debut on Sunday, were second and third in Toyotas. Briscoe was fourth in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Gragson celebrated old-school style, first by climbing the fence at Daytona International Speedway — a nod to both three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and recent NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart. Then Gragson fueled the flames on the Daytona track surface created by his celebratory burnout.
He ran up and down the frontstretch pumping his fists in celebration, then slid across the hood of his JRM entry for the drive to victory lane.
“It’s Daytona, you never know if you get this chance again, so do what you want to do,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
Gragson is the seventh different race winner for JRM.