Top-Fives for Gragson, Annett at Las Vegas

JR Motorsports | 3/2/2019

Brandt Justin Allgaier Las Vegas Michael Annett News Noah Gragson Pilot Flying J Switch The Cosmopolitan XFINITY Series Zane Smith

Noah Gragson and Michael Annett both brought home top-five finishes Saturday for JRM in the first race of the 2019 West Coast Swing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Race 3 of 33: Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval / 200 laps
Weather: Mostly cloudy; 68 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Busch

Gragson's Finish: 3rd
Annett's Finish: 5th
Smith's Finish: 24th
Allgaier's Finish: 31st

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, earned a hard-fought third-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 20-year-old rookie driver improved seven positions in the closing laps and overcame two green-white-checkered restarts to earn the top-five finish. With the result, Gragson has now recorded three top-five and five top-10 finishes in just six career NXS starts.

For the second weekend in a row, rain forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying, leading to the field being set by owner points, per the rulebook. As a result, Gragson took the green flag for the scheduled 200-lap event from the fourth position. After initially battling for position inside the top five, Gragson reported to crew chief Dave Elenz that the Switch Chevrolet had shifted toward the tight-side rolling through the center to the exit of the corner. Despite not handling to his liking, Gragson continued to fight for position inside the top 10 throughout an opening stage that was dominated by long green flag runs, ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag in the 10th position.

During the stage-ending caution, Elenz called Gragson to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment in the hopes of improving the handling of the Switch Chevrolet. The Las Vegas, Nev. native returned to the track following the stop in the seventh position and maintained his top-10 track position until the tight-handling condition unfortunately returned. With the handling woes persisting, Gragson was shuffled back to the 13th position by the time the caution-free second stage came to a close on lap 90.

Prior to the beginning of the final stage, the driver of the Switch Chevrolet returned to pit road for another round of chassis adjustments and four fresh tires. After lining up for the lap 97 restart in eighth, Gragson quickly reported that he was still tight rolling through the corner. This handling condition remained until the JR Motorsports driver came to pit road during the lone round of green flag pit stops on lap 147. Gragson left pit road following the stop in the 11th position but was unfortunately caught one lap behind the race leaders. However, an opportune caution on lap 188 provided Elenz with the chance to keep Gragson out on the track to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap.

Now back on the lead lap, Gragson pressed forward, moving up to the seventh position just before the caution was displayed coming to the white flag. While under caution, the driver of the Switch Chevrolet came back down pit road for the last set of fresh tires. Returning to the track in seventh, Gragson raced up to sixth before the caution came out once again on lap 205, setting up the second attempt at NASCAR Overtime.

Lining up for the final restart in sixth, Gragson made a daring three-wide move on the outside of Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap to take the checkered flag in the third position. With the result, Gragson has now recorded three top-fives and five top-10s in six career NXS starts. 

Kyle Busch brought home the victory, with John Hunter Nemechek, Gragson, Austin Dillon and JRM teammate Michael Annett rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“We never gave up today with our Switch Chevrolet. Dave (Elenz, crew chief) made some great adjustments all race long that put us in a position where we could make a run toward the front there in the end. We fought hard all day and came home with a really solid finish that we can build off of moving forward. We all know what the goal is at the end of the day and that is to get to Homestead, and finishing like today is what we need to do to make sure we get there at the end of the season.”

Michael Annett

Michael Annett and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet drove to a solid fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, battling for the lead in the final laps. It was the second top-five finish in three races for the team to start the season and propelled him to fifth place in the series point standings. By virtue of his season-opening victory at Daytona, Annett is already locked into the NXS Playoffs.

For the second straight week, qualifying was cancelled by rain and the field was set on 2018 car-owner points, which meant Annett would start the race from 16th spot. Annett wasted little time moving forward in the 45-lap Stage One, gaining 10 spots in the first 24 laps to run sixth. After swapping sixth place for a few laps, Annett settled down and charged on, eventually passing JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier for that spot with eight laps remaining, to lock up the position and earn five valuable stage points.

After pitting for four tires and fuel, Annett started Stage Two in sixth place. Early in the run, Austin Cindric got loose off Turn 2 and spun, directly in front of Annett and teammate Noah Gragson, which caused Annett to drop to 11th in the order. After shaking off the close call, Annett restarted ninth and wound up finishing Stage Two in eighth position, adding more stage points to his total.

Pitting again for four more tires and fuel, with no adjustments, Annett headed back out in fifth place for the restart. On the green flag, Annett got caught on the low line and dropped to 10th before climbing back to seventh as the run went on. Annett told crew chief Travis Mack that the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was still free, as it had been all day, and was not tightening up. He pitted on lap 148 for tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment and was the last car on the lead lap with 30 laps remaining in the race. As the laps wound down, Annett fell a lap down to leader and eventual winner Kyle Busch on lap 175, but maintained his track position for the free pass.

A caution flag on lap 187 put Annett and the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet back on the lead lap, though he had to wait until the lead-lap cars pitted to get service for the dash to the checkered. Once on pit road, Mack and the crew put on another set of tires, added fuel and made wedge and air-pressure adjustments to gear their driver up for the run to the finish. Annett rolled off seventh on the restart, but action stopped soon after the green went in the air for a grinding crash in Turn 3. That put the race into overtime.

The first overtime saw Annett maintain position as the battle raged at the front of the field. That battle ended with a multi-car crash in Turns 3 and 4 that eliminated front-runners Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and JRM teammate Zane Smith, among others. When the track was ready to go green again, Annett lined up fourth for the final restart, directly behind Busch. As the field flowed toward Turn 1, Annett edged to third place and pushed Busch down the backstretch to Turn 3. Battling with John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Dillon and Gragson, Annett lost out on a last-lap, last-corner lunge from Gragson to end up fifth at the checkered flag.

Busch won the race, followed by Nemechek, Gragson, Dillon and Annett. Ryan Sieg, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe, polesitter Cole Custer and Justin Haley rounded out the top 10.

Michael Annett, driver No. 1 Pilot Flying J team

“It’s really exciting and it is just the confidence that we talked about coming out of Daytona and what that would do. It was a really strong day; we didn’t fall into the top five, we were top-10 all day. We earned a lot of segment points today, too. It was a lot of fun knowing that 1.5-mile tracks are the majority of our schedule and we had a really strong Pilot Flying J Chevrolet today. Just an awesome job all day by our Pilot Flying J team. We had good speed, Travis (crew chief Travis Mack) and the rest of the team had it dialed in. On two of our three pit stops today, we didn’t make any changes, just tires and fuel. It’s been a great start to the year so far.”

Zane Smith

Zane Smith made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on Saturday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his No. 8 team in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Chevrolet. After running among the top 10 in the Boyd Gaming 300, Smith was relegated to a 24th-place finish after being caught in an incident in the overtime finish and left with nowhere to go.

The rookie driver rolled the No. 8 Camaro off the grid for the 200-lap event in sixth place, after qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather and set per the rulebook, by 2018 owner points. On lap 15, Smith relayed to his team that his The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Chevrolet was tight. At the time, however, the 19-year-old driver was running fifth quickest in the field and in the 10th position. As the long run continued, the tight-handling condition only grew worse. Smith fought to remain within the top 15 throughout the second half of the stage, as it wasn’t until the end of Stage One—where the team finished 14th—that Smith took a visit to pit road for adjustments.

Although the team took the time to make multiple changes to the chassis of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Chevrolet, Smith picked up two positions on pit road and began Stage Two in 12th place. In the opening laps of the restart, the No. 22 of Austin Cindric made slight contact with Smith. With reports of minimal damage by spotter Tab Boyd, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Chevrolet stayed on track. Remaining focused, Smith continued to run near the top 10 until he was once again plagued with the tight handling as the stage end neared. When Stage Two concluded, Smith was in the 15th position.

Prior to the final stage, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas team made further adjustments to their Chevrolet as they pit for fresh tires and fuel. Smith restarted in 14th and claimed two positions within the first five laps. It was on lap 115 that The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas team began to report the news of quick speed. Smith was back logging lap times that were among the top five. At that point, Smith was finding himself once again making his way through the field and back into the top 10. Crew chief Taylor Moyer called Smith to pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 146 for four tires, fuel and an adjustment. With 30 laps to go in his NXS debut, the California native was running in 10th place. On lap 188, the caution flag was displayed. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas team elected to remain on track to maintain their running position. Smith restarted in 11th with just six laps to go. With only one lap remaining, the yellow flag returned, sending the race into overtime. Moyer took advantage of the caution and brought Smith to pit road for fresh tires and fuel, lining the No. 8 Chevrolet up in 12th. On the restart, the No. 2 of Tyler Reddick went for a spin, which left Smith had nowhere to go. Ultimately, when the checkered flag waved, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas team was scored in 24th place.

Kyle Busch won the 300-mile NXS event and was followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Noah Gragson, Austin Dillion and Michael Annett to round out the top five.

Zane Smith, driver No. 8 The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas team

“We started out pretty good. We just needed to be a lot better on the long runs. We had some pretty good short-run speed in our Cosmopolitan Chevrolet, and that’s what hurts the most about that final green-white-checkered (flag) run – we would have been able to make ground. We had a good restart and I was rolling along the top when the No. 2 spun and I had nowhere to go. I hate it for my team, but we’ll learn from today and move on to Bristol.”

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier was racing well inside the top 10 during Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when a mechanical issue forced the driver of the BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevy to the garage, ending the team’s day early. The Illinois native was scored with a 31st-place finish.

After qualifying was canceled for the second week in a row due to rain, Allgaier rolled off the grid in the seventh spot. At the drop of the green flag, he wasted little time advancing his position, making his way to third by the end of the first lap. He continued to battle within the top five and on lap 15, he radioed to the team that the BRANDT Chevy was getting tight. As the stage went on, the condition worsened, but he fought through it to finish Stage One in the seventh position on lap 45.

Under the stage-ending caution, Allgaier came to pit road for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments to try to help with the tight-handling condition. He took the green for the second stage in the ninth spot and slid back a couple positions, but then started to work his way back forward. By lap 64, Allgaier was up to fifth. With the stage getting near its end, the JR Motorsports driver relayed to crew chief Jason Burdett that the No. 7 was tight on corner exit and in the center of the turns. When the green-and-white checkered flag waved to end Stage Two on lap 90, Allgaier was in the sixth position.

Burdett called Allgaier to pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and more adjustments. Starting the final stage in 10th, Allgaier made his way to fifth within four circuits. On lap 109, he radioed that the BRANDT Chevy remained tight. Still, he continued to battle for position until a few laps later when he reported that the BRANDT Camaro might have lost a cylinder. He remained on track, but after completing 119 laps, he went to the garage unable to continue. Allgaier was scored with a 31st-place finish.

Kyle Busch won the race and was followed by John Hunter Nemechek and Noah Gragson, with Austin Dillon and Michael Annett rounding out the top five.

Allgaier currently sits seventh in the NXS point standings, 43 points behind leader Christopher Bell.

Justin Allgaier, driver No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture team

“Unfortunately, I’m not sure exactly what happened. I think something broke inside the engine. It’s just a shame because everybody at the Hendrick Engine Shop works really hard. We have very, very few issues. I know those guys will be right on top of finding out what happened. I hate it for everybody at BRANDT Professional Agriculture. We had a big group of people here. I thought we had a solid top-five car at the end there, we just don’t have anything to show for it.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • July 27 05:00 PM ET
    U.S. Cellular 250Iowa Speedway
  • August 3 03:00 PM ET
    Zippo 200Watkins Glen International
  • August 10 03:00 PM ET
    B&L Transport 170 at Mid-OhioMid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • August 16 07:30 PM ET
    Food City 300Bristol Motor Speedway
  • August 24 03:00 PM ET
    CTECH Manufacturing 180Road America

XFINITY Series Standings

After ROXOR 200

New Hampshire Motor Speedway | 7/20/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick8120
2Christopher Bell756-56
3Cole Custer736-76
4Justin Allgaier666-146
5Austin Cindric649-163
6Noah Gragson #596-216
7Chase Briscoe #568-244
8Michael Annett567-245