Notes of Interest

● After beginning 2024 with three finishes of 12th or better in the first four races of the season, NASCAR Cup Series driver Noah Gragson has endured back-to-back 34th-place results. Heading into round seven this Sunday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Gragson is looking to re-rack his Cup campaign on the .75-mile oval.

● Short-track racing is where Gragson’s career began. The Las Vegas native owns victories in two of the United States’ most prestigious Late Model races – the 2017 Winchester 400 at the half-mile Winchester (Ind.) Speedway, and the 2018 Snowball Derby at the half-mile Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

● Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond will mark Gragson’s fourth career Cup Series start at the track, with his best result being a 24th-place drive in his Cup Series debut there in August 2022.

● Gragson’s Richmond record in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is more comprehensive, with seven career starts between 2018 and 2022. It’s more robust, too, with three top-five finishes and five top-10s highlighted by a victory in September 2021. Gragson’s average start at Richmond in the Xfinity Series was seventh and his average finish was ninth.

● Gragson first turned laps at Richmond in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. It was Sept. 10, 2015, when he made his lone K&N Pro Series East start at the track. It began inauspiciously, with Gragson qualifying 32nd. But in the 70-lap race, he put on a show, picking up 22 positions to finish a solid 10th.

● Riding with Gragson this weekend at Richmond is Superior Essex Communications, the leading manufacturer and supplier of communications cable and accessory products in North America. The partnership allows Superior Essex Communications to leverage Stewart-Haas Racing and its NASCAR platform to generate B2B relationships while simultaneously building brand awareness. Richmond serves as a strategic venue for Superior Essex Communications, as the company played a large part in the track’s recent modernization, with its optical fiber cables sending data, graphics and video to the track’s massive infield scoreboard, in addition to a host of other communications needs throughout the venerable facility. Superior Essex Communications is focused on creating the future of smart and sustainable communications by developing technology that connects and respects the world. Government initiatives supported by the company to increase U.S. high-speed internet access for all Americans include the White House’s Internet for All program and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 10 Superior Essex Ford Mustang Dark Horse

The tire wear we saw in the last short-track race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway – did you like it or dislike it?

“I liked it just because it was so much different, and I thought there was a lot of strategy from the driver’s input and how you paced your runs, so with the tires wearing out, it was definitely challenging. The cautions were a question on if they were going to throw a caution or not and we kind of had challenges there on how you needed to pace out the runs. But other than that, I thought it was a lot of fun just being able to manage your tires like a Late Model race.”

It seemed like a return to old-school racing, where tire management was the key to success. In all the racing that you’ve done in your career, was there a track or style of car where you had to manage your tires that you ended up relying on for that Bristol race?

“Growing up short-track racing, you’re always managing your tires at the worn-out racetracks – Pensacola, Tucson Speedway, Greenville-Pickens. You’re always losing grip throughout a run and the more you can save, the more speed you could have at the end of a run. Bristol was a little different – it was the same in a sense, but it was different because you would wear the tire all the way down to the cords where you just blow the tire, so you had to be patient and save your aggression at the beginning of a run and throughout a run just so you didn’t blow the tire all the way out and wear it all the way down compared to Late Model races where you just lose grip as the laps go on, the harder you push.”

How do you save your tires? You have to continue to race, but what is that balance between racing for the position you have now and the position you want to have later?

“You just keep the car a little straighter on exits and if you get to 100-percent throttle at some point, you knock it down maybe 20-percent throttle and you just wait on it, you pick the gas up, and instead of wide open, you might go to 50 percent for a little bit just so you’re not slipping that tire on the surface of the racetrack, not grinding through the front tires, overdriving your entries. It’s challenging, but it’s a lot of fun, too, to be able to out-save the guys in front of you. And then you could see the cords at Bristol on the guys in front of you. You could literally see a white ring around their tires and you’d be like, ‘Alright, I can get that guy easily.’ I mean, they fall off the pace so fast.”

Would you like to see that kind of tire fall-off at Richmond?

“I would like to see the tire pace slowed down as you run rather than the tire wearing out all the way to the cords. I think there are two different ways. At Bristol, the tread wore all the way off to where you didn’t have grip and that’s why you had to pace off your runs. Personally, I’d like it if they’d slow down on the grip loss the harder you push on a tire, just being able to lose grip rather than the tread depth of the tire.”

You only have three NASCAR Cup Series starts at Richmond, but you have seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts there with a good bit of success – a win in 2021 along with three top-fives and five top-10s. What allowed you to achieve that success at Richmond?

“Richmond’s a worn-out racetrack and you have to be really disciplined to drive it low and straight off the corner. Ever since I went there in the K&N days, we had good pace there. It’s a really rhythm track, and being able to be disciplined is important. If you miss the yellow line by an inch, it’s a 30-percent grip loss, so it’s really important to get to the line there, which I like, having to be disciplined, kind of like an old Atlanta.”

How different is a lap around Richmond in a Cup Series car compared to an Xfinity Series car?

“It’s way different just because you’re shifting. A lot of the things that worked in Trucks and Xfinity and the old Cup cars and K&N, it’s a little bit different because you’re shifting and the tires are a lot wider, so you’re going naturally faster through the corner in the new Cup cars. But the same keys of getting down to the bottom are a big focus.”