Gragson wiggles past Allgaier to win Xfinity race at Bristol

Justin Allgaier (No. 7) and Noah Gragson lead the restart during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Cheddar’s 300 race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Gragson wiggles past Allgaier to win Xfinity race at Bristol

  • Noah Gragson had to race Chase Briscoe and Brandon Jones in a two-lap overtime finish but beat them both to claim the checkered flag

BRISTOL, Tenn: Noah Gragson squeezed past JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier with four laps remaining, a move that caused Allgaier to crash, and Gragson held on at Bristol Motor Speedway for his second win of the season.

Gragson also won the season-opening race at Daytona to begin his second year with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race team. Gragson was winless in 2019 in his first full season in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

His victory Monday night was set up by a caution with 13 laps remaining that wiped away Allgaier’s lead. The Chevrolet teammates lined up side-by-side for the restart with seven laps remaining but Allgaier cleared him on the restart.

Gragson chased him and as he passed Allgaier for the lead, Allgaier wiggled into the wall and crashed for a caution.

“I really apologize to Justin and the (number) 7 team, that’s not how I want to race,” Gragson said. “I saw a position open up, he kind of slipped off the bottom and I tried to slip to the bottom and I just got too loose.

“This track is like ice right now. We are slipping and sliding.”

Gragson had to race Chase Briscoe and Brandon Jones in a two-lap overtime finish but beat them both to claim the checkered flag. Gragson climbed the fence at empty Bristol in celebration.

He joined Briscoe as the only drivers with two Xfinity Series victories this year and praised crew chief David Elenz for sticking with him and helping him improve at Bristol. He had one top-10 in two Xfinity races at Bristol last year, and one top-10 in a pair of visits to the bullring in the Truck Series in 2018.

“I was terrible here in trucks and Xfinity,” Gragson said. “My crew chief chief believed in me and he wanted me to come back and run with them and Dave Elenz is the man.”

Allgaier led a race-high 156 laps but finished 18th after the wreck.

“I’m more mad at myself for making a mistake and getting off the bottom,” Allgaier said. “But, yeah, we got wrecked.”

Briscoe, who beat Kyle Busch to win at Darlington two weeks ago, finished second in a Ford.

Jones and Harrison Burton were third and fourth in a pair of Toyota’s. The top four are eligible to race for a $100,000 bonus Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Myatt Snyder rounded out the top-five.


Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 52 min 46 sec ago

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.