The driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro just repeated some unique NASCAR history. Noah Gragson became the first Xfinity Series driver since Elliott Sadler to post four top-three finishes in the first four races of the season while winning at Phoenix Raceway.
Gragson achieved this goal in dominant fashion on March 12. He entered the United Rentals 200 at Phoenix Raceway with a third-place finish at Daytona International Speedway and runner-ups at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Gragson then led 114 of the 200 laps and built up a significant lead over Brandon Jones and the rest of the field.
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The last time an Xfinity Series driver achieved this feat was the 2012 season. Sadler, who drove the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, began the year with a third-place finish at Daytona International Speedway. He followed it up with a win at Phoenix Raceway, a third-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and another win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Sadler ultimately finished the year second in the championship standings behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Kevin Harvick is the other driver to kick off an Xfinity Series season with four consecutive top-three finishes. He finished second during the first four races of the 2005 season. He returned to the Xfinity Series three weeks later and won at Bristol Motor Speedway.
1 Person Ties Gragson & Sadler Together
The fact that Gragson joined Sadler in a unique category is fascinating in itself, but there is another factor that makes the stat even more interesting. Both drivers had the same crew chief when they achieved their early-season success.
Luke Lambert, the man who sits atop the No. 9 pit box, was the crew chief for Sadler during the 2012 season. He guided the No. 2 team to four wins and a total of 15 top-five finishes. Fast-forward to 2022, and he has Gragson on a similar path of success after the first four races of the season.
Lambert is a new addition to the No. 9 team. He replaced Dave Elenz after the 2021 season while Gragson’s former crew chief headed up to the NASCAR Cup Series and Petty GMS Motorsports. The early indication is that this pairing is one of the most successful in the Xfinity Series.
Gragson Brought Lambert Back to Victory Lane
The win was Lambert’s first as an Xfinity Series crew since the 2012 season. It was also his first since a previous Cup Series win at Phoenix Raceway with the Rocket Man.
Lambert’s lone win in the Cup Series took place during his tenure with Richard Childress Racing and Ryan Newman. He served as the crew chief of the No. 31 team from 2014 until 2018, a run that includes a second-place finish behind Kevin Harvick in 2014 and a trip to Victory Lane.
Newman’s 18th career win — his final as a full-time driver — took place during the 2017 season. He headed to Phoenix Raceway with Lambert on the pit box and led six laps before holding off Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch on the final run to the checkered flag. He also used a unique strategy by staying out during the final caution and taking the lead for overtime instead of heading to pit road.
Newman’s gamble paid off as he snapped a 127-race winless streak that dated back to the 2013 Brickyard 400. He then celebrated in Victory Lane with Lambert.