|Gragson (left) with Hailie Deegan|
at Sonoma last year.
PHOTO: Brock Beard
Last month, Gragson began his second full season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series by winning the season opener at Daytona, his first series victory. He then finished 4th in Las Vegas, where he became the center of controversy after he made contact with Myatt Snider in the final laps, triggering the last caution of the race. Following a crash down the backstretch at Fontana, Gragson was called to the NASCAR hauler before opening practice in Phoenix. The conversation cost him practice time, but not another strong run – he recovered to finish 7th, lifting him to 6th in the point standings.
On Friday in Atlanta, Gragson was set to practice with the rest of the XFINITY Series, though without the crowd in attendance amid the spread of COVID-19. His #9 Axalta / Echo Park Chevrolet was barely off the hauler when NASCAR pulled the plug completely, cancelling the weekend’s track activities in addition to next week’s in Homestead.
As teams headed home, a plan was hatched to hold a sim race on Sunday. Dubbed the Replacements 100, the iRacing event had Gragson among the 37 entrants. The 100-lap race would match a selection of drivers from all three of NASCAR’s top national divisions against a number of top sim racers. This included William Byron and Parker Kligerman, who both operate eNASCAR teams in addition to their own careers in NASCAR itself. Also among the entrants were a number of NASCAR spotters and crew chiefs. Kevin Hamlin found trouble in qualifying when his #33 broke loose off Turn 4 and slammed the outside wall.
|The trailing pack of seven cars on Lap 1. |
Snider and Allgaier are the white and orange cars in front.
SOURCE: iRacing, Podium
For reasons yet unknown, Gragson did not start Sunday’s race. He was also credited with a 36th-place finish, 101 laps down in the 100-lap race, and one spot behind the space left blank in 35th. When the race started, seven black cars had already broken off from the pack into a group of their own. Some distance ahead of them were Justin Allgaier and Gragson’s Las Vegas rival Myatt Snider, who promptly caused the first incident of the afternoon.
Coming off Turn 2 on the first lap, 29th-place qualifier Snider was racing 26th-place qualifier Justin Allgaier for the bottom lane. The contact sent Snider head-on into the inside wall, but did not draw a caution. Snider was on pit road on Lap 3 when the yellow finally came for an incident involving car #158, which veered unexpectedly into the outside wall in Turn 2, then bounced back into traffic. Snider ultimately reset and recovered to finish 25th.
The Bottom Five was ultimately filled by accidents, though the lineup changed several times as drivers used their reset. Among those who recovered were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who briefly ran in the 34th spot after his #88 Filter Time Chevrolet was collected, only to earn 8th at the finish. Truck Series sophomore Tyler Ankrum’s #30 Chevrolet took 34th in the final running order ahead of Kevin Hamlin, who after his qualifying miscue took 33rd in his #33 Chevrolet, seven laps in front. Jonathan Davis rounded out the group in his #6 Chevrolet.
As of this writing, further sim races are being planned throughout the week.
*Gragson has yet to finish last in any of NASCAR's top three series.
*Car #28 has just one last-place finish in a Cup race at Atlanta - March 18, 1991, when Davey Allison's #28 Havoline Ford crashed after 56 laps of the Motorcraft 500. Curiously, due to a rain delay and limitations for broadcasting postponements, this Cup race remains the last one where broadcasted footage of the finish is not available. It was also the next-to-last victory of Ken Schrader's career.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #28-Noah Gragson / +101 laps
35) (space left blank)
34) #30-Tyler Ankrum / +86 laps
33) #33-Kevin Hamlin / +79 laps
32) #6-Jonathan Davis / +75 laps