Noah Gragson has been looking forward to racing at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway ever since last Friday night when he was taken out of contention after only one lap at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. By the time he changed out of his Switch firesuit, he was already looking ahead to the next race and a shot at redemption.
Through no fault of his own, the 18-year-old rookie was one of the many drivers caught up in a multi-truck accident at Daytona last Friday. He was hit from behind and spun down the track on only the second lap of the race. Although his Switch Tundra was damaged beyond repair, Gragson's motivation was not. He was already focused on his next challenge, the first intermediate-track race of the season at Atlanta.
Gragson was able to spend a day testing at the 1.54-mile oval in January. It was scheduled to be a two-day test, but Mother Nature had other plans when rain washed out the first day. He wasted no time learning as much as he could on the second day, running from morning until evening. It was also the first chance Gragson had to bond with his new crew chief, Marcus Richmond and his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team. From understanding how to communicate with each other, to getting the feel of how quickly the tires wear on the old track surface, Gragson made the most of his day at Atlanta.
With three practice sessions for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) on Friday, Gragson will have plenty of time to practice what he learned at the test and seek additional advice from his owner, and this weekend a fellow competitor, Kyle Busch. While Busch may not share all of his winning secrets with Gragson, he will be a valuable resource to help the rookie driver understand the characteristics of the track. Busch has four wins in the Truck Series at Atlanta, but none of them were in a KBM Tundra. Atlanta is the only track on the NCWTS schedule where a KBM team has not visited Victory Lane at least once.
A solid run at Atlanta on Saturday would definitely help Gragson put the Daytona race in the rear-view mirror. With a month break in the NCWTS schedule following Atlanta, it would also keep his confidence level up while waiting for his next chance to compete in his No. 18 Switch Tundra at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.