There are many factors which go into winning a race. Having a truck which handles well, an engine with the best horsepower, learning the fastest way around the track and a little luck goes a long way. Not only does a driver need all of these things, but the benefit of clean air as well. Not air without pollen, or smog, but aerodynamics - getting your truck out front where the aerodynamics of other trucks won't affect your handling. The air is something rookie Noah Gragson is still learning about at every intermediate track, including this weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
The Las Vegas native's only previous racing experience at Charlotte is in a Legend's car where aerodynamics did not play a role on such a small track and slower speeds. Luckily, Gragson was able to test his No. 18 Switch Tundra earlier this month on the 1.5-mile oval to get a feel for it. Although it took some time for him to figure out turns one and two, by the end of the night his lap times were similar to his Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) teammates Christopher Bell and Busch himself.
Returning to Charlotte for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 will be very different from the test. Instead of doing single-truck runs, the 134-lap race will have 32 trucks on the track fighting for position which stirs up a lot of dirty air. While the terms side draft and downforce may sound like something from a college engineering class, they do play a huge role in every race on bigger tracks and getting the feel of it takes time for a young driver moving up into a new series.
Gragson can take what he has learned so far at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway to help him get through traffic on Friday night. Much like any sport, the more experience you have the better you will get. Finding the clean air will be one of the keys to success.