Notes of Interest

● In the past three NASCAR Cup Series races, Noah Gragson has scored his career-best starting spot and his career-best finish. Last weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Gragson qualified third to better his prior career-best starting spot of fifth, earned the previous week at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. And three races ago at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Gragson finished third, besting his prior career-best result of fifth, earned in the August 2022 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. This recent run of top-10s – third at Talladega, sixth at Dover and ninth at Kansas – is part of a six-race stretch dating back to March 31 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, where Gragson has not finished outside the top-20, allowing him to climb from 34th in the championship standings to 19th heading into the Goodyear 400 Sunday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

● The Goodyear 400 will be just the second career NASCAR Cup Series start at Darlington for Gragson. He finished 26th in last year’s Goodyear 400 after starting 29th.

● Gragson’s lack of NASCAR Cup Series experience at Darlington does not mean he’s lacking experience at the 1.366-mile oval. In fact, Gragson has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the “Track Too Tough To Tame,” and he seemed to tame Darlington by scoring an average finish of fourth. His worst finish was eighth, and in his last three Xfinity Series starts at Darlington, he scored two wins and earned one second-place finish. Gragson has a 100 percent lap-completion rate at Darlington and he led a total of 253 laps, nearly 25 percent of the 1,035 laps available.

● Gragson’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Darlington came on Sept. 4, 2021, when he started eighth and led five times for 40 laps, including the final 10, to take the win by .219 of a second over runner-up Harrison Burton.

● Gragson’s second NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Darlington came in his final Xfinity Series start at the track on Sept. 3, 2022. He started second and took the lead on the fourth lap of the 147-lap race. He wound up leading four times for a race-high 82 laps, winning by a .794-of-a-second advantage over his nearest pursuer, Sheldon Creed.

● adorns Gragson’s No. 10 Ford Mustang at Darlington. The partnership amplifies the recent relaunch of, home of crazy good deals that offer quality and style for less. is for the savvy shopper who loves the thrill of the hunt and it includes product categories customers know and love, like patio furniture, home furniture and area rugs, while reintroducing jewelry, watches and health-and-beauty products.

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

You’re building a lot of momentum, especially of late. Can you explain how you’ve been able to consistently run up front?

“I feel like we keep on stacking chips every weekend. We’re enjoying learning with this group of guys and bonding and getting better each and every race. It’s a lot of fun. Drew Blickensderfer, my crew chief, really challenges me to get better each week, and we keep growing on those processes and steps. I’m trying to fine-tune that right now and just keep building each and every week. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

Darlington is known as the track “Too Tough To Tame.” When you went there for your first and only NASCAR Cup Series start last year, did it live up to its billing?

“I feel like I really had a good handle on Darlington when I raced in Xfinity – I’ve won a couple of Xfinity races there. We didn’t really have great speed in the Cup car there last year, which was disappointing because I had higher hopes. It’s a track that gives you different options. You can run the bottom, you can run the top, and the (two ends of the track) are shaped differently. I think the biggest part is just not overdoing it and getting into the wall, but I like running right up against that wall, so it comes a little bit more naturally to me.”

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, you got along with the “Lady in Black.” Seven career starts and seven top-10 finishes, with two wins, including your last Xfinity Series start there. You had command of Darlington in the Xfinity Series. How?

“I think just loved running the top at Darlington. There are only a handful of guys who can really run the top efficiently, building up that precision and accuracy, and it takes a lot of focus to run up there. Just getting comfortable doing it at all the tracks – Vegas, Chicagoland back in the day, Homestead, Auto Club, Kansas, Darlington – those are all places where you run the wall. So all those tracks are really good practice on how to get comfortable and how to run it, and I feel like I’m one of the better guys at running the wall. We had really good runs there, and if we didn’t finish first, we were always second, third, fourth – we always had a shot to win, and we led a lot of laps there. It’s one of my favorite tracks, for sure.”

How much can you rip the wall at Darlington before you rip your car into pieces?

“You don’t want to hit the wall. You want to be as close as you can get, but you don’t want to hit the wall. I actually don’t even go up to the top lane in (turns) one and two. You see a lot of guys drive the bottom of the racetrack on entry, slide up in the center and then turn back down. I kind of just run the middle of the corner through there. I’ve just never gotten a good handle on doing that diamond in (turns) one and two. But (turns) three and four, I’m pretty committed to the fence. Just being smart and not overdoing it. Obviously, the tires wear out and that’s where you see guys bite themselves. They start to get comfortable up there and they gain their confidence by running the wall, but their tires are also wearing out. You think, ‘Man, I could push it just a little more because I have a little more confidence, I’ve worked up to it,’ but you also have less grip, so that’s where you see that place bite you.”

Is there a sense of accomplishment when you finish a race at Darlington?

“It’s a racetrack where I go and if we don’t have a good run, I’m probably more frustrated. Obviously, sometimes you’re speed-limited with the balance of your racecar – you might not hit it every weekend – but having a plan when I go to that track and really knowing what I need to do, I feel like I know that track like the back of my hand. Darlington is one that I feel really comfortable at, so just finishing the race isn’t really a success for me there. It’s about putting together a good day and really maximizing and having opportunity, especially at the end of the race, putting yourself in position. I feel like it’s one of my better tracks, for sure.”

You’re in a NextGen car. You wear a full-face, state-of-the-art helmet, combined with a state-of-the-art firesuit and shoes, and a six-way seatbelt system keeps you secure in a custom-molded seat. Do you ever wonder how a guy like Richard Petty ran 500 miles at Darlington in overalls and whatever helmet he could find, in a car not far removed from what was on the dealership floor?

“That’s all they knew back then. It sounds crazy for us now, but back in the day they still ran it how they ran it because that’s all they knew, right? You know, 20 years from now, we’re going to be looking at today and saying, ‘I can’t believe those guys in 2024 were doing stuff like this, it’s nuts.’ Stuff evolves and you grow and you learn more.”