Photo: Luis Torres/Motorsports Tribune

‘We Got Beat’: JR Motorsports Trio Misses Out on 2022 Xfinity Title

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

AVONDALE, Ariz. – JR Motorsports came into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Phoenix Raceway with three chances at coming away with the title, but when all was said and done, they would fall short of that goal.

Of the three JRM Chevrolets, Noah Gragson came the closest to bringing another championship to the team before moving up to the Cup Series in 2023, but would have to settle for second place, finishing 0.397-seconds behind Ty Gibbs.

Gragson, who won eight times in 2022, including at Phoenix earlier this season, looked to be JRM’s best bullet to take down Gibbs and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team, but a miscue on pit road late in the race dropped Gragson back in the field and he just ran out of time to catch Gibbs by the time the checkered flag fell.

As Gibbs performed his celebratory burnouts, Gragson climbed from his car on pit road, slammed his helmet down on the roof of his car, put his hands on his hips, and just looked on with disappointment on his face wondering what could have been.

“Just the execution on pit stops. We needed to be better as a Bass Pro Shops team all around,” Gragson said. “Still proud of everyone’s efforts. Thought we had a really good car there in the second half. Restarted eighth on the last restart and got up to second. Just too tight there at the end. Still super proud of everybody.

“Just didn’t have enough for him at the end. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I was going to drive it in if I was any closer and get that POS. Definitely sucks to lose to someone like that.

“This Bass Pro Shops team was really good all year. Eight wins, led the most laps, most top-fives, but came up one race short. Just so thankful for everyone at JR Motorsports. This sucks.”

The elder statesman of the JR Motorports stable, Justin Allgaier, led four times for 26 laps, but with his engine possible going south in the closing laps of the race, he was left to watch the battle for the lead and the championship out of his windshield from third place.

Saturday marked Allgaier’s fifth Championship 4 appearance, but once again, it was another driver hoisting the trophy at night’s end.

“I think tonight was a difficult one, but like Noah said, Ty had the best car,” Allgaier said. “They executed all night. They made good adjustments. They beat us on pit road. They did all the right things. I was pretty disappointed we got the lead there, and there was some things I would do over if we got it back.

“We made good adjustments on our car, we just — at the end there we just — as the sun went down, we just got a little too free. I was hanging on for all I had. I ran into the fence three or four times. Not sure that the motor isn’t blowing up. I mean, we were puffing out; I could see it, I could smell it. I’m pretty sure I broke some parts going across the apron a couple times.

“Wasn’t the ideal race for us, for sure, but we led a bunch of laps.

“And I think probably the hardest part for me, and I just told Dale this on pit road, the fact that none of us from JR Motorsports went to Victory Lane.”

Last, but not least, was Josh Berry making his first appearance in the Championship 4 in his first full-time season in the Xfinity Series.

Of the four drivers, Berry struggled with the handling on his No. 8 Chevrolet, eventually making contact with the wall late in the race and fading to 13th place at the finish.

“We struggled all weekend just being really, really free, just kind of hanging on,” Berry said.

“The first stage went all right for us. We worked our way to fourth. Some of those guys had pitted, but then lost some track position on pit road and just got mired back in like 10th. Then made a pretty big swing at it finally. We were just behind on adjusting all day. We should have just been more aggressive on adjusting it, even from yesterday.

“Like I said, just didn’t have it there when it counted.

“Got up there to fourth a couple times, but we were kind of just hanging on to those guys. Like I said, just a tough day, but you’ll have those in racing.”

Afterwards, JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. went around to all three of his championship contending drivers to offer words of encouragement as they will look to rebound in 2023 and make another run at the title.

“It’s really disappointing. We got beat,” Earnhardt said. “Ty Gibbs and Joe, they’ve got an amazing program, and Ty’s a talent. They did everything right today. We raced them hard and they raced us hard. It was a good, clean battle.

“It’s a blessing to have a shot at it, to be honest with you. You’re going to win championships if you show up enough and I’m blessed that we’re competitive.

“Certainly, we’ll have to retool and try to come back and be better. That’s what we’ll work on in the offseason. We’ll get the group together and build the morale back up and retool and come back strong.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.