Noah Gragson won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series opening race at Daytona, winning in a three-lap shootout that would end under caution.
For Gragson, this marks his first ever NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in his 37th career start.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity,” Gragson told FS1 post-race. “Man I’m speechless right now, I didn’t think this would come. I spent a lot of time with Dale Jr. this week talking for about two hours. Wanted to be a better speedway racer. He told me ‘go have fun, wreckers or checkers, you got to manage your gaps, be there at the end and just lead the damn thing.’ That’s what we did.”
For Jr Motorsports, this is their third straight win in the February race at Daytona.
Driver No. 9 had to rebound from a speeding penalty on Lap 32. This was the fifth time in the last seven races that the winner rebounded from a penalty during the race.
Gragson led 15 laps of the race and beat out Harrison Burton, Timmy Hill, Brandon Jones and Chase Briscoe rounding out the top five.
Harrison Burton earned his best finish (second) in his 10 Xfinity Series starts and his second top five place finish.
The race would end under caution due to a massive wreck on the back straightaway on the final lap.
The late-race restart was set up by a wreck on a restart with seven laps to go.
The wreck collected Jeb Burton, Austin Cindric, Ryan Sieg, Brett Moffitt and others. It started when Briscoe, who took the lead moved up to block Gragson as the field entered Turn 3. Harrison Burton, running behind Gragson had to check up and was turned by Cindric. Burton collected Jones before turning back into the wall.
The wreck would result in a red flag that would last nearly eight minutes.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will head to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Feb. 22 in the running of the Boyd Gaming 300. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
Stage 1 Winner: Jeb Burton
Stage 2 Winner: Justin Allgaier
Race Winner: Noah Gragson
Growing up in Las Vegas, Noah Gragson did not necessarily grow up around the racing world. At a very young age, he was involved with stick and ball sports like basketball and football, as well as extreme sports, like mountain biking.
To Gragson, racing was just an east coast of the United States deal. However, everything shifted at the age of 10 and 11.
Gragson was friends with Riley Herbst. Herbst invited Gragson to one of his races in an off road champion truck series event outside of Las Vegas. According to Gragson, the racing bug was caught and that is what he wanted to do. However, when that bug hit, it was during the economic recession.
The bug did not die in Gragson’s heart. His dad would bring him to Pole Position Raceway, a go-kart circuit in the Las Vegas area. The family would go as many weekends to Pole Position for one and a half to two years when an opportunity arose to race in the Bandelero’s at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Bullring”.
During his time at the Bullring, Gragson found racing success. He moved up to the Legend’s division in 2014. While in that division, Gragson won the Young Lion Road Course championship as well as beginning to drive in the Super Late Model Division.
He also became a member of the NASCAR Next program in 2012. This program selects drivers that have a proven record of success and possess the necessary talent and skills to continue going up the NASCAR ladder. This program helps drivers develop the necessary professional skills and grow their marketability. Drivers are selected to join the program from input among veteran drivers and industry executives. NASCAR believes that these drivers will be the next face in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
In 2015, Gragson moved to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. In just his third start, Gragson scored the victory at Tucson Speedway in Arizona. During that season, Gragson won one more race, scored one pole, seven top-five finishes, and 11 top-10 finishes while finishing second in the points standings and winning Rookie of the Year.
In 2016, Gragson continued to race in the K&N Pro Series West, but also added the K&N Pro Series East to his resume. During the season, Gragson collected two wins in East and West. In the West, he scored eight top-fives, 12 top-10’s, and led 73 laps. In the East, he scored four top-five’s, six top-10’s, and led 16 laps.
Because of his impressive steps, Gragson signed to race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).
Signing with KBM was a dream come true for Gragson. About four to five years ago, Gragson swung by the KBM shop. When he walked into the shop for the very first time, he was amazed at the trophies that showcase the success of Busch and KBM. While there, Gragson dreamed of being able to step into the shop as a driver for Kyle and Samantha.
Driving for Kyle may seem daunting to many young drivers, but for Gragson it’s a special opportunity since both drivers were born and raised in the Las Vegas area. Gragson believes the opportunity to be able to talk to a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion is an advantage to him because not every young guy has the opportunity to do so. Gragson can call up Busch and ask him what the nuisances of a specific track are and how to approach the weekend. Gragson not only leans on Busch for advice, but Christopher Bell, his teammate. Gragson is using this opportunity to be like a sponge and soak up every bit of information he can.
While driving full-time in the trucks, Gragson also has been running select ARCA Racing Series events with Venturini Motorsports. Gragson has already ran at Daytona International Speedway in ARCA. He will also race this weekend at Talladega, as well as, the second Pocono and Chicagoland. He chose to go with Venturini Motorsports because he saw how fast their Toyota’s were. Gragson also has saw how successful the organization was in winning at every track on the ARCA schedule. In 2015, Gragson, who was not racing for them at the time, believed that Venturini was the team to beat.
The first two races of the truck season were not what Gragson was hoping for. He crashed at Daytona in the opening laps to finish in the 26th position, while at Atlanta, he finished 14th after making a mistake on the opening lap. Because he has not had the experience on mile-and-halves, Gragson is learning everything he an about the trucks. “The aero is different than what I am used to in K&N,” said Gragson. “You can follow a guy on the short tracks and be right in his footsteps and once he messes up, you pounce on him. On the 1.5-miles, you really have to go where he is not. When you are stuck to him in the airwaves, you have no downforce making it hard.”
Despite the lack of experience, Gragson is proud that Marcus Richmond, his crew chief, and team are rallying behind him to build up his confidence.
As a young driver in the trucks, Gragson deals with the month long break from Atlanta to Martinsville to Kansas. Gragson only has five races under his belt, but would love the chance to get to learn more about the trucks by racing in them. Despite the break, Gragson relies on Busch, Richmond, and his teammates to help learn the nuances with the lack of experience.
Like his career, the sports scene in and around the Las Vegas area is booming. While Las Vegas Motor Speedway is getting a second date, the area is also getting a National Football League and National Hockey League team. Gragson believes that is huge for Vegas for the “businesses, the hotels, just the whole atmosphere in Vegas”. When he was racing at the “Bullring”, he always dreamt of racing on the “big track” and is excited to have that opportunity to live out his dreams.
Gragson believes that the competition enhancements across all three series is a success.
“I feel like it creates a bit more drama. In the past, I felt the races get strung out and single file, not enough racing. But now, they take guys group them up, takes it back to your traditional K&N/Short track racing. You get a halfway break etc. I feel like it’s a win-win for everyone. It creates drama for the fans, fans are happy. the TV providers happy because they get commercials in. For us, we get to take a sip of water and relax our fingers.”
Although the season is young in the Camping World Truck Series, Gragson has set goals in what he wants to accomplish. His main goal is to learn as much as he can because many of the tracks on the schedule or ones he has not seen before. “Hopefully next year I can come back to these tracks, but our main goal is to win races and a championship. to be realistic, i want to learn. with learning, the races will come, the finishes will come. You just gotta keep digging and striving to get better and better,” said Gragson. Although he has not seen many of the tracks, he is most looking forward to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in September because road courses are where he found the most success in the K&N Series.
Social media is an important part of Gragson’s life. Gragson uses Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat as ways to interact with the fans. Gragson loves to interact with fans on social media. He believes that fans come to the racetrack to see their favorite driver and get an autograph while social media provides fans the opportunity to see what drivers go through on a day-to-day basis outside of the racetrack atmosphere.
You can follow Gragson on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter on @NoahGragson.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl.— The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season started out terrible for Noah Gragson and his Kyle Busch Motorsports team.
Shortly after qualifying, Gragson and his team learned that team Jeff Merritt, a team mechanic, lost his wife Stephanie after injuries sustained in an automobile accident two weeks ago.
“One of my guys back home, Jeff, we had a hard loss a couple of minutes ago,” Gragson said. “His wife passed away. They got in a car wreck over the offseason. He worked really, really hard on this truck. We’re going to go out there and drive as hard as we can today for him, for Stephanie.
Gragson was hoping to win the race for Jeff and his family
However, Gragson was involved in an accident on the third lap, where he was spun by Chase Briscoe.
“I’m fine. NASCAR does a great job with the safer barriers and making these trucks safe. I’m fine. I took a few hard hits out there. Just a bummer. I didn’t want to end the race like this, but I had a good time for the lap I got. Felt like the 29 (Chase Briscoe) hit me in the wrong part of the bumper going through the tri-oval, it just got me loose and it got pointed into the outside wall. Just very thankful for the opportunity to come out here to Daytona, racing in front of the fans” said Grayson after the accident.
Grayson would be scored in the 26th position.
Despite racing with a heavy heart, Gragson is optimistic about next weekend in Atlanta.
“We’re going to go out to Atlanta next weekend and hopefully get the W.”