Written by Adrian Beecher
Ty Gibbs seized the day with a NASCAR Xfinity Championship on Saturday night at Phoenix Raceway after leading 104 of 200 laps.
Gibbs led the field to the drop of the green flag to get the Xfinity championship race underway. After starting 5th, Noah Gragson had worked his way up to 2nd, 2.5-seconds behind Gibbs No. 54 machine by lap 10.
Twenty-seven laps into the race, Allgaier joined the party, moving up from 11th to 3rd place, though still 5.5-seconds behind leader Gibbs.
On lap 31, the No. 08 of Brandon Brown blew a tire and slammed into the turn two wall, bringing out the caution.
None of the championship four drivers elected to pit under the caution. Gibbs would get a great restart to maintain the lead, which he would carry through the end of stage one.
Gragson would finish the stage in second, followed by the other two championship contenders, Allgaier in 3rd and Josh Berry in 4th.
At the stage end, all four drivers would come down pit road for tires, gas, and adjustments.
The biggest loser on pit stops was Josh Berry, with a 19-second stop, slotting him back in 15th. Allgaier had a 17.2-second stop and saw himself in 10th coming off pit road. Gragson was just in front of him in 9th. Gibbs was in 5th out of the pits after four cars stayed out and elected not to pit. In the No. 48, Nick Sanchez would lead the field to the drop of the green flag to get stage two underway.
It would take Gibbs just one lap to make his way around the top four and get back into first.
Then on lap 61, the No. 66 of JJ Yeley took a spin and found himself backed into the wall. The Championship Four would roll around and not hit the pits.
On the restart, Sammy Smith would overtake Gibbs for the lead. The two would then get into a battle with side-by-side action for the next three laps. All the while, Gragson had moved up to third and set his sights on Gibbs and Smith.
On lap 69, Gragson would take the battle three wide as he dropped down to the bottom of the track and moved in front of Gibbs for second. Though, Smith bested the battle for the lead. However, the focus was now on the battle for 2nd and 3rd. This was between Gragson and Gibbs, who battled nose-to-tail for the next five laps.
Then on lap 75, Gragson would carry momentum into the bottom of turn one and took over the lead from Smith, leaving Gibbs back in 3rd.
The battle up front ensued as Allgaier found his way back up front, with Gibbs in his sights through the windshield; the two passed Smith and made it a one, two, three battle for the lead and the title.
On lap 79, Gibbs would draw in the No. 9 of Gragson and make the pass on the inside for the lead. Allgaier would move past the No. 9 a lap later, putting Gragson back into third with Gibbs pulling away in 1st and Allgaier in 2nd.
That is how stage two would wrap up. Berry would end the stage back in 10th to round out the Championship Four.
On the pit stops, it was Justin Allgaier coming out 1st, with Gibbs in tow. The No. 54’s teammate, Brandon Jones, pulled out 3rd, and Gragson peeled out 4th. Berry still saw himself back in 10th after the cycled stops.
On the restart for the final stage, it was Allgaier on the inside and Gibbs on the outside. It would be a lap of battle for the lead before Gibbs took his No. 54 back to P1 and started to march away from the field.
However, a lap later, with 99 to go, the caution would come out as the No. 18 of Smith and the No. 1 of Sam Mayer would get into some anticks that would collect a slew of other cars in their skirmish in turn-four, including the 23, 26, 34, 39, 45, and 98.
The green flag would drop again with 92 laps to go, with Gibbs on the outside and Allgaier on the inside. All the while, Gragson was nipping at the back of the No. 54. Gibbs would extend himself into first. At the same time, Gragson would follow suit, passing the No. 7. However, Allgaier wouldn’t give up the spot easily, and the two teammates actually made contact, minimal but still noticeable.
Shortly thereafter, yet again the caution would waive, with an incident involving the No.18 of Smith again. This time it included the 34, 35, and 91.
We went back green with 84 to go. Gibbs and Gragson went to battle this time. It would be Gragson taking the lead shortly thereafter. However, Gibbs would not relinquish space.
Allgaier got in on the action with 78 to go, getting to the back of the No. 54. As this battle heated up, Gragson had extended his lead to 0.2-seconds. Allgaier went to the high side to work his way around Gibbs to take 2nd.
This information was relayed to Gragson from his team, and he moved his drive-line nearer to the outside wall. With 70 to go, Gragson’s lead had grown to nearly a half-second. To add to the excitement, the Championship Four was now running one through four, with Berry moving up to fourth.
With 57 laps to go, the battle for second started to heat up as Gibbs made some adjustments to his line and got to the outside of the No. 7. This fired up Allgaier as he went for a pass on Gragson for the lead as he drew near. He could not make the pass and scraped the wall going as high as possible.
The battle ensued, and with 52 laps to go, Allgaier would complete the pass for the lead with Gibbs in tow. With 50 laps to go for the title, Allgaier had a half-second lead on Gibbs in second, and Gragson was back to third with Berry over 2.7-seconds back in 4th.
Gibbs would start to slowly draw in the No. 7. However, on lap 154, the caution came out as the No. 77 of Dillon Bassett blew an engine. As all four Championship drivers prepped for their final pit stops, this would tighten things.
The money stop was won by Gibbs with a sub-14-second stop, the lone of the four. Allgaier came out 2nd with a 14.2-second stop, followed in third by Berry. The No. 9 of Gragson had a dismal stop that lasted 18.8-seconds, which slotted him out of the pits 8th.
We would go back green with only 36 laps to go, with Allgaier on the inside and Gibbs on the outside. It would be the No. 7 to the lead, and then the No. 54 crossed him over and took the lead. Then with 35 to go, the caution came back out as the No. 9 of Gragson tapped into the back of the No. 19 of Brandon Jones coming out of turn two and sent him for a spin into the pitlane.
We went back green with 30 to go and Gibbs was again on the outside with Allgaier on the inside and the No. 8 of Berry in tow of the No. 54 of Gibbs. Gragson was back in 7th.
Allgaier would take over P1 through the first lap, and Gibbs would continue to draw in the No. 7. Meanwhile, Gragson had drawn up to third as Berry got into the wall and dropped out of the top 10.
With 25 laps to go, the top three drivers were within a half-second of each other, with Allgaier leading the way. With 23 laps to go, Gibbs would take the lead, only to relinquish it on the next lap to Allgaier. With Gibbs again regained it with 21 to go, only again to relinquish it to Gibbs the following.
With 19 to go, Gragson made the pass of the No. 7, and the chase was on with the No. 54 more than 0.6-seconds ahead of the No. 9.
Gragson would try with all he had to get to the No. 54, as he was able to draw it down to just 0.2-seconds. However, Gibbs would hold him off and take home the title with a lead of 0.397-seconds.
Image Credit: Birton Gilbert