Although Noah Gragson does not have any experience at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, he does have plenty of experience being a student. The high school senior has a lot to learn at the half-mile track this weekend, but he feels prepared for the test ahead of him Saturday in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250.
Part of the learning process is taking experience you already have and adapting it to something new. That is Gragson's plan this weekend. The 18-year-old rookie has quite a bit of experience on road courses, so he intends to use that knowledge and apply it to Martinsville. On the surface, it may sound like a strange plan, but really the similarities are there. Road courses have long straightaways and tight turns, which is how Martinsville earned its nickname "The Paperclip." Sure, there are no right-hand turns this weekend, but it makes sense to Gragson and his veteran crew chief Marcus Richmond.
Richmond is no rookie at Martinsville. In fact, he has two wins as a crew chief in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series there. His first victory came with Dennis Setzer in 2008 and he claimed another win with Kevin Harvick in 2012. In 19 starts, Richmond's truck teams have two wins, four top-five, 11 top-10 finishes and led 456 laps. Last fall, Richmond earned his most recent top 10 at Martinsville with another young driver, Cole Custer.
Gragson has done his homework for this weekend and is as prepared as he can be for the test ahead of him in his No. 18 Switch Tundra. He has studied videos of previous races, talked to fellow drivers and crew chiefs about what to expect and has run simulations. But unlike many of his tests in high school, this one will definitely be graded on a curve.