Gragson looking for redemption at Dover

By Kyle McFadden

May 4, 2018

DOVER, Del.—Noah Gragson is one of many teenagers in the NASCAR garage nowadays, and if there’s one thing that separates him from the talented pack, it’s his two top fives in two career XFINITY Series races.

In his first career NXS start at Richmond earlier in the year, he led 10 laps and came runner-up. Last weekend at Talladega, he placed fourth after starting 20th. And this Saturday, the 19-year-old will make his third NXS start of the season in the OneMain Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway.

Gragson kept his fledgling momentum rolling on Friday, clocking the fastest lap in first practice and the second-best 10-consecutive-lap average in the final session.

“My [No. 18] Switch Toyota Camry is always fast, and that’s all thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing, my crew chief and the rest of the guys. It’s just all about sealing and dealing now,” Gragson told The Racing Experts after final practice on Friday evening. “I feel like we have a pretty good race car.”

This is Gragson’s third season competing in national series sanctioned by NASCAR, and the fourth if you count the K&N Pro Series East. He competed full-time in the Camping World Truck Series last year, racing all 23 events with one win and 13 top 10s in a 10th-place finish in the standings.

When asked what he wants the world to know about him, Gragson said, “I’m going to go out and have fun. Ultimately, [I] get to drive race cars and I’m fortunate. I’m thankful to live out my dream here.”

Gragson will be making his fourth overall start in the NXS race at Dover on Saturday: He got tangled in a wreck in his first trip in the K&N Pro Series East in 2016 and finished 24th.

In last year’s truck race, he placed ninth and in Friday’s truck race he got a little too ancy racing truck series veteran Johnny Sauter and wrecked out of the JEGS 200 with two laps to go battling for the lead for a 20th-place finish.

He led 60 laps and took the lead from Sauter on a late-race restart with 11 laps to go. The two battled for the next nine circuits, beating and banging and pinching each other into the wall.

That’s when Gragson tried to compensate for Sauter’s momentous run coming off Turn 2 with two laps to go and doored the 40-year-old veteran on the low side heading into Turn 3. Gragson subsequently lost control, his backend snapping around and barreling into the wall.

“Extremely disappointed in myself,” Gragson told FS1 before going to Victory Lane to congratulate Sauter. “It was just a racing deal. Not the way I try to race people. I take full responsibility in that. It was 100 percent my fault. Just unacceptable on my part. All I could think about was the mistake I made. I’m just devastated.”

Gragson mentioned his biggest challenge in the NXS at Dover is not to overdrive the turns, something he did Friday evening in the dive-bomb attempt gone awry on Sauter.

Though Saturday will be just his third NXS start, expectations remain fixed on one thing and one thing only: “A win,” Gragson said.


Austin McFadden/TRE