Notes of Interest

● The Grant Park 165 Sunday on the streets of downtown Chicago is the third of five road-course races on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 10 Bass Pro Shops/Winchester Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Stewart-Haas Racing, finished 34th in the series’ first road-course race of the year March 24 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. He then placed 26th in the series’ second road-course stop June 9 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. After Chicago, the next road-course race is Sept. 15 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with the final road-course race coming Oct. 12 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.

● In last year’s inaugural street race at Chicago, Gragson started 23rd and finished 25th, completing all 78 laps for Legacy Motor Club.

● Across the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Gragson has made a total of 40 road-course starts – five in Cup, 21 in Xfinity, two in Trucks, two in ARCA and 10 in K&N – amassing four wins, 16 top-fives and 27 top-10s with 167 laps led.

● Gragson’s four road-course wins all came in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, and three were earned in a one-week stretch in September 2016. Gragson swept a pair of K&N Series West races at the Utah Motorsports Campus in Tooele, beating Todd Gilliland on Sept. 10 and then besting him again on Sept. 11 when Gragson took the lead from Gilliland on the last lap. Six days and 2,219 miles later at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, Gragson scored his third straight road-course win, this time in the K&N Series East where he beat Justin Haley. Gragson’s fourth and most recent road-course win was earned in the 2019 K&N Series West race at Sonoma.

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 10 Bass Pro Shops/Winchester Ford Mustang Dark Horse

What was your impression of the Chicago Street Race after the checkered flag dropped on last year’s inaugural event?

“We fired off really fast in practice. We were in the top-10, but then it seemed like everybody else kept getting faster and we kind of stayed the same. It was tough to race in the rain. I usually like racing in the rain, but I hit the wall four or five times and kind of struggled in the race. But that was last year and this is a new year. I’m going into it open-minded.”

How did your preparation in the simulator match up with the reality of the Chicago Street Race?

“There was a little more grip in certain areas and it was a little rougher in certain areas, but it was pretty good overall. We fired off really good in practice. That tells me the sim gave me good confidence when I got out there.”

Take us through a lap around Chicago. Were there any parts of the track where you enjoyed hustling the car, and what parts turned out to be a challenge?

“The biggest challenge for me was going into turns three and four, at the end of the straightaway on Lakeshore Drive. And then you get that double right-hander, it’s pretty rough through there, and finding a good brake zone and constant flow through there is pretty tough. And then around the fountain was pretty fun. It’s definitely a high-commitment corner. You’re hitting the racetrack and are kind of all over the place. You definitely have to be up on the wheel around that track.”

Can you take anything from your two road-course races this year at COTA and Sonoma and apply them to Chicago?

“Yeah, Chicago is a street course, but the same principles apply. Our stuff wasn’t very good at COTA, but it actually was pretty good at Sonoma. Hopefully, the car has speed like Sonoma instead of COTA, where it was tough to get around the track. The car had more grip at Sonoma and went through the corners better. Turn 10 was a handful at COTA, and every corner you were on the ragged edge, where you could flow better at Sonoma. That gives me some added confidence going to Chicago.”

Talk about what’s going on inside the racecar at Chicago. How much are you thrashing around, grabbing gears, hitting the brakes, smashing the gas? Is it controlled chaos?

“Usually on a road course you’re always swatting flies in there, just kind of all over the place with your hands, and you’re driving one-handed, you’re shifting, trying to focus on your brake pressure and where you brake bias is so you’re not locking the fronts, but you’re also not locking the rears. And getting your downshifts, getting your upshifts, not spinning the tires on exit, having grip, there’s a lot to it.”

With Shane van Gisbergen’s win at Chicago last year, it really shined a spotlight on Australian Supercars drivers. How much did you know about SVG and Supercars prior to his win last year?

“I knew he was super good in Supercars, but he flat-out kicked our ass and made us look kind of silly. To come in and win your first race is a pretty special feat in the Cup Series. He definitely does a good job on the road courses and I definitely admire his skills quite a bit. I never really watched any of the Supercars races, but I’ve always followed those kinds of guys. They have a pretty cool style and it’s always cool when you see guys you’ve followed on Instagram for a couple of years come over and do well. Yeah, they’re pretty good, they’re pretty aggressive, and they drive hard.”