Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 PUBG Mobile Chevrolet Camaro, successfully advanced to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs following a seventh-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 elimination race at Dover International Speedway. With the result, Gragson has now finished eighth or better in the last seven NXS starts and heads into the second round of the playoffs as the eighth seed, just 12 points behind the fourth and final cutoff position with three races remaining in the Round of 8.
Gragson avoided near disaster when the green flag waved for the final race in the Round of 12, narrowly missing a spinning No. 18 off of Turn 2 to move into the top five in the opening lap. Lining up fifth for the ensuing restart, Gragson continued to fight for position until he was forced into a three-wide situation and shuffled back to eighth. Despite the loss of track position, Gragson pressed on, improving two positions over the final 20 laps of Stage One to take the green-and-white checkered flag in sixth and earn five valuable stage points.
During the stage-ending caution, the driver of the PUBG Mobile Chevrolet radioed to crew chief Dave Elenz that he needed help on the entry of the corner. Elenz then opted to bring Gragson to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment, sending the JR Motorsports driver out for the beginning of Stage Two in the third position. Gragson remained inside the top five throughout the caution-free second stage, battling with Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer before taking the green-and-white checkered flag in fourth. The stage result also earned Gragson an additional seven stage points in the process.
Prior to the beginning of the third and final stage, the Las Vegas native returned to pit road for four tires and another round of chassis adjustments. However, an issue during the stop with the air gun forced Gragson to make a return trip to pit road, sliding the rookie-of-the-year contender back to 16th for the coming restart. Undeterred by the loss of track position, Gragson charged forward, needing just 15 laps to rejoin the top 10. The driver of the PUBG Mobile Chevrolet continued his climb up the leaderboard from there, racing up to seventh before being called to pit road during the lone round of green flag pit stops on lap 159.
Although initially appearing to be a routine stop, an issue with the left-rear caused a delay that ultimately trapped Gragson off of the lead lap as an inopportune caution came out just a handful of laps later. Utilizing a never-give-up attitude, Gragson powered forward, gaining five spots to race back into the top 10 and into the free pass position just before the final caution of the day was displayed on lap 187.
Lining up in seventh for the final restart of the afternoon, Gragson maintained his top-10 track position throughout the closing laps to ultimately record his 17th top-10 finish in the last 19 races and lock himself into the Round of 8 in the NXS Playoffs.
The top-10 result also gives Gragson a career-high streak of seven-consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to his eighth-place finish at Road America in late August.
Custer earned the victory, with JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and Briscoe rounding out the top five.
Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 PUBG Mobile team
“We fought hard today with our PUBG Mobile Chevrolet and were able to rebound from some issues late in the race to bring home another top 10. I can’t thank these guys enough on this JR Motorsports team for all of their work. It feels good to move on to the Round of 8 but we know that we still have work to do to make sure we get to Homestead as part of the Championship 4. I’m ready to get going.”