FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity playoffs by becoming the first driver in 39 years to win four races in a row, going to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday after being just in front of a massive wreck that took out three playoff contenders.
The victory for Gragson locked up the first spot in the round of eight, with two more races to determine the other seven drivers that will advance with him. The Xfinity Series begins its playoffs with 12 drivers, instead of 16 like the Cup Series, so its postseason is one round shorter.
Sam Ard is the only other series driver to win four consecutive races. He did it in 1983, the second year of the NASCAR’s second-level circuit, while winning five of the last six races in the season that he had 10 wins overall.
It was the seventh win this season in the No. 9 Chevrolet for Gragson, who had already set a single-season record for most wins by a JR Motorsports driver. He has 12 career victories.
The top six finishers were all playoff contenders. Austin Hill was the runner-up in his Chevy and a spot ahead of Ty Gibbs, who came back from the back of the field after after having to start there because of unapproved adjustments on the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Stage two winner AJ Allmendinger, Riley Herbst and JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry were fourth through sixth, respectively.
Gragson was out in front on a restart with 84 laps left, and it was virtually four-wide coming out of Turn 1 in the corner, with Sheldon Creed low on the inside of the leader, and his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier and John Hunter Nemechek on the outside.
Nemechek, the winner at Texas last fall but not in playoff contention, got loose and collected Allgaier to start a chain-reaction wreck. Defending Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, the stage one winner, and polesitter Brandon Jones were the other playoff drivers that got caught up in the fracas.
Gragson led a race-high 85 of the 200 laps at the 1 1/2-mile track. Nemechek was in front 60 laps and Allmendinger 34.
Allmendinger is second in the playoff standinsg, 47 points behind Gragson. Gibbs, Hill, Berry, Allgaeir, Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg round out the top eight. Herbst, Hemric, Jones and Jeremy Clements are outside the top eight.
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