Justin Allgaier wins EchoPark 250 amid Gragson, Hemric fight

NASCAR Cup Series star Martin Truex Jr. dominated in his first Xfinity Series race in over a decade, but a late speeding penalty resulted in Xfinity regular Justin Allgaier winning his first race of the season. However, this was nowhere near the biggest story after Saturday’s EchoPark 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. On pit road, both drivers’ team-mates Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson got together, both in their cars and physically after the race.

Points leader Austin Cindric started on the pole for the race. A.J. Allmendinger failed pre-race inspection thrice and was sent to the rear, as were MBM Motorsports team-mates Chad Finchum and David Starr after switching cars. Truex began his first Xfinity event since 2010 in eighteenth.

Cindric led the first six laps before Truex sliced through the field to take the lead. The two-time Xfinity champion dominated the rest of the segment en route to the stage win, while cautions came out on laps 22 (competition yellow), 37 (Dexter Bean‘s spin), and the final lap. Bean’s spin set up a one-lap dash to the stage conclusion, during which Brandon Jones was clipped by Brett Moffitt on the backstretch. Jones spun up and wedged Moffitt into the wall, with Gragson also being sent into a spin while Timmy Hill brushed the wall.

Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Harrison Burton, Allgaier, Justin Haley, Michael Annett, Cindric, Jeremy Clements, Josh Berry (who ran the Camping World Truck Series race earlier in the day), Hemric, and Colby Howard rounded out the top ten. Being a Cup driver, Truex was the lone top-ten finisher to not receive stage points.

The second stage ran clean as Truex dominated the segment. Allgaier, Haley, Burton, Riley Herbst, Myatt Snider, Jeb Burton, Clements, and Brandon Brown also scored top-ten stage finishes.

Although Truex appeared poised to drive off to his fourteenth career Xfinity win, his prospects went out the window on lap 114 when Mason Massey‘s spin resulted in a caution, during which Truex was hit with a speeding penalty on pit road. The infraction gave Allgaier the lead as the race resumed. A wreck involving Burton and Clements on lap 119 resulted in another yellow, as did Berry and Ryan Sieg on lap 133. The latter caution allowed Howard to lead laps under yellow before Allgaier retook the spot for the restart.

Allgaier led the final 27 laps to win his first race of the season, the fifteenth of his career, and first at Atlanta. Truex was able to rebound from his penalty to finish second.

“We got back up there, but was kind of out of tyres at that point,” Truex said after the race. “We got close, but the last ten laps, the right rear was really smoked off. I just had to use too much to get there[.]”

However, the main headline of the race came when Truex’s JGR team-mate Hemric confronted Allgaier’s JR Motorsports brethren Gragson after the race, resulting in fisticuffs being thrown. The two had tangled on pit road earlier in the race when Gragson reversed into Hemric’s car. Hemric explained afterward that Gragson “crammed it into reverse and backed up. Punched a hole in the nose of our car.”

“(Gragson) had no idea what was going on out on the race track,” Hemric said. “We come down pit road and the guy pitted behind us when you accelerate when I was pulling into my box and it made me have to steer around the guy going to the #9’s box. I backed up and yes, it messed up both of our pit stops. I backed up and he decided to put it in reverse and cram into the right-front fender and knock a hole in our Poppy Bank Toyota Supra nose. We had to pit again and fix it. That was completely deliberate and it was absolutely ridiculous. Where I come from, you get your eye dotted when you do stuff like that. […]

“Like I said, there’s a hole in the front of my car and he got popped in the eye, so from where I stand we are in pretty good shape.”

“18 was in our pit box when I was turning into our pit stall,” Gragson tweeted. “He backed up into his. I was out of position in the box and had to back up to get into my box. Unintentional backing into him. If they’d show the full replay, you’d see I didn’t just back into him for no reason.”

He later tweeted a video of the pit road incident.

The 22-year-old has drawn considerable attention since the start of the season after tangling with various other drivers, effectively turning him into a heel. After a wreck with Starr while leading at Homestead, sparking a media storm that led to condemnation of his actions from those like Fox announcer Mike Joy, Gragson openly embraced his reputation by tweeting, “If you’re talking about me, I’m doing my job.”

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 6 7 Justin Allgaier JR Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
2 18 54 Martin Truex Jr.* Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 163 Running
3 5 20 Harrison Burton Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 163 Running
4 30 9 Noah Gragson JR Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
5 3 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 163 Running
6 7 98 Riley Herbst Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 163 Running
7 27 1 Michael Annett JR Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
8 13 11 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 163 Running
9 11 18 Daniel Hemric Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 163 Running
10 35 39 Ryan Sieg RSS Racing Ford 163 Running
11 9 2 Myatt Snider Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 163 Running
12 10 51 Jeremy Clements Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet 163 Running
13 1 22 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 163 Running
14 20 4 Landon Cassill JD Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
15 12 26 Santino Ferrucci Sam Hunt Racing Toyota 163 Running
16 19 92 Josh Williams DGM Racing Chevrolet 163 Running
17 36 36 Alex Labbé DGM Racing Chevrolet 163 Running
18 15 44 Tommy Joe Martins Martins Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
19 26 0 Jeffrey Earnhardt JD Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
20 17 66 Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports Toyota 163 Running
21 23 15 Colby Howard JD Motorsports Chevrolet 163 Running
22 37 78 Jesse Little B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet 162 Running
23 28 17 Cody Ware SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet 162 Running
24 14 74 Bayley Currey Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet 162 Running
25 2 10 Jeb Burton Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 162 Running
26 21 48 Jade Buford Big Machine Racing Chevrolet 161 Running
27 38 61 David Starr MBM Motorsports Toyota 161 Running
28 31 47 Kyle Weatherman Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet 161 Running
29 24 07 Joe Graf Jr. SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet 161 Running
30 25 23 Blaine Perkins Our Motorsports Chevrolet 160 Running
31 34 6 Ryan Vargas JD Motorsports Chevrolet 160 Running
32 32 99 Mason Massey B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota 160 Running
33 4 68 Brandon Brown Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet 160 Running
34 39 5 Matt Mills B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet 156 Running
35 29 90 Dexter Bean DGM Racing Chevrolet 156 Running
36 33 52 Gray Gaulding Jimmy Means Racing Chevrolet 150 Running
37 16 19 Brandon Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 132 Running
38 22 8 Josh Berry JR Motorsports Chevrolet 130 Accident
39 40 13 Chad Finchum MBM Motorsports Chevrolet 59 Brakes
40 8 02 Brett Moffitt* Our Motorsports Chevrolet 39 Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points

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