Noah Gragson Is Heading To Gateway, Where Temps And Competition Is Heating Up

Noah Gragson

As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) heads to the Midwest, the temperature and the competition are both increasing. The forecast calls for highs in the 90s and the intensity on the track will be even hotter. Rookie Noah Gragson is coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes and won his first career pole last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. After a two-day test at Gateway Motorsports Park last month, he feels confident heading back to the 1.25-mile oval in hopes of parking his Switch Tundra in Victory Lane.

Gragson had a big week leading up to last week’s race at Texas. He posted a video on Twitter of him eating a large portion of wasabi if he received 500 retweets. He received over 1,100, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. The video was replayed on “Race Hub,” “NASCAR America,” ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and even “Mike and Mike.” Gragson followed that up with his high school graduation walk at Texas Motor Speedway, where he decided to forego the ceremonial kiss on the cheek from the track’s “Great American Sweethearts,” and went for the lips instead. The video has over 8,000 views on his Facebook page. He did some racing there as well, winning his first career NCWTS pole, leading 13 laps (his first laps led in NCWTS competition) and rallied from two laps down to finish seventh.

This weekend at Gateway, the 18-year-old would like to improve on last weekend by not only starting first, but finishing first as well. Gragson, along with his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) rookie teammates Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton and Myatt Snider, spent two days testing at Gateway in May. It was time well spent since he had never been there and used the opportunity to get the feel of the track and build speed throughout the test. His other KBM teammate, Christopher Bell, is also a valuable resource as the defending winner of last year’s Drivin’ for Linemen 200. KBM teams have won twice at Gateway, last year with Bell and in 2014 with Darrell Wallace Jr.

The heat will be on Saturday at Gateway, but Gragson is prepared for the challenge. After two days of testing, watching hours of past races, conversations with his teammates and crew chief (Marcus Richmond) and a fast Switch Tundra, it’s time for Gragson to turn up the temperature on the competition.

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Switch Tundra:

What did you learn testing at Gateway for two days last month?

“It’s definitely different than any track I’ve been on before. I was treating it like a road course because both corners are fairly different. Turns three and four are fairly flat, long and sweeping, while turns one and two are really narrow, tight and slightly banked. You have to treat them as two different corners like you would corners on a road course. I felt like we got a handle on the track and made some positive gains in the test, so I’m ready to go back there and execute.”

It’s going to be extremely hot Saturday. Does being from Las Vegas help you cope with the heat better, or is it the same for everyone?

“I’m going to try and not worry about the heat and stay focused the whole time. I just need to work on hydrating myself before, during and after the race. There will be so much humidity at Gateway, which is something I’m not used to as much. Vegas is a dry heat so I’ll kind of be out of my comfort zone, but there are plenty of hot races coming up, so I’ll get used to it.”

Talk about your wasabi video getting so much attention in the national media last week. Did you think that would happen?

“Last week was a really big social media week for me. I ate the wasabi and I was retweeted by Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., for it. So many national shows picked up the video, even ‘Mike and Mike’ on ESPN. Then I did my graduation walk at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend and I decided to kiss the two girls on stage and qualified on the pole, so it was a really great week for me on social media. I don’t know if I can keep that going, but I’m going to try to keep our momentum of top-10 finishes going. We’ve had a lot of speed these last few races, but something has gone wrong, or we’ve made mistakes. We have all the pieces to the puzzle, we just need to finish putting them together.”

Marcus Richmond, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Switch Tundra:

What things did you work on during your test at Gateway last month?

“It took a little bit to get up to speed. We spent the first half of the day getting Noah comfortable with the track, and then it rained out the afternoon. The second day we really hit it strong. We worked on our long runs and making sure he was secure in the turns. It was a good test for us and I think we’ll be in good shape when we unload Saturday morning.”

 

How much of the data will change since it will be 30 degrees hotter than when you tested?

“The heat will make a difference. I think if you were already tight, you will be tighter and if you started out loose, you will free up even more. Hopefully we can have a good balance and the track will be just a little slower than when we tested.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-025: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-025, for Saturday’s Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park. This is the same Tundra Christopher Bell drove to Victory Lane at Gateway last year.

 

KBM-25 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 7

1

6.9

5.1

116

 

Notes of Interest:

Noah Gragson 2017:

  • Earned his first top-five finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by finishing fourth at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in April

  • Won first career NCWTS pole at Texas Motor Speedway on 6/9

  • Has posted one top-five and four-top 10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.9 across seven NCWTS starts this season

  • Is currently 10th in the NCWTS standings, 29 points out of the eighth and the final playoff spot

  • Competed in the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

Noah Gragson 2016:

  • Made first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in November where he completed all the laps to finish 16th. Finished 15th the following week at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway

  • Returned to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West where he earned two wins, eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 14 starts to finish third in the driver point standings

  • Competed in 13 of 14 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races claiming two wins, four top-five and six top-10 finishes

Noah Gragson 2015

  • Finished second in the final NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver point standings as a rookie after posting two wins, one pole, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 13 starts

  • Claimed his first victory at Tucson (Ariz.) Speedway battling with his teammate for the win

  • Recorded first career pole and led 176 laps to win at Meridian Speedway in Meridian, Idaho

Noah Gragson 2014

  • Started racing Bandoleros at The Bullring at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway

  • Moved up to compete in Late Models

  • Competed in the INEX Legends car racing series, winning the 2014 Young Lion Road Course championship

Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Tundra:

  • The No. 18 team is currently 10th in points after collecting their fourth top-10 finish and first pole of the season at Texas

  • Five members of this year’s No. 18 Tundra team were a part of last year’s No. 4 Tundra team which collected one win, 197 laps led, nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes across 23 starts and made the inaugural Championship Four in the Chase

KBM NCWTS Program

  • Holds the NCWTS records for most career wins (60), most wins in a single season (14 in 2014) and mostOwner’s championships (five)

  • Erik Jones earned the organization its first-ever NCWTS Driver’s championship in 2015

  • Has collected 60 wins, 32 poles, 140 top-five and 223 top-10 finishes across 370 starts since originating in 2010

  • Nine different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 32. Erik Jones and William Byron each collected seven victories, Darrell Wallace Jr., has five wins, Christopher Bell owns four, Denny Hamlin has produced two victories while Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott each collected one triumph

  • With Bell’s victory at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway KBM has at least one win at all 21 tracks on the 2017 NCWTS schedule

KBM NCWTS @ Gateway Motorsports Park

  • KBM drivers have collected two wins, 258 laps led, three top-five and four top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 14.6 across nine starts at Gateway

  • KBM’s Christopher Bell was victorious in last year’s event and Darrell Wallace Jr., won in 2014

Richmond’s Record:

Entering the 2017 season, Marcus Richmond had collected nine wins, 11 poles, 52 top-five and 107 top-10 finishes across 222 races in his 11 seasons as a crew chief in the Truck Series. The veteran crew chief has been to victory lane with five different drivers (Ty Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Dennis Setzer) and has recorded at least one win every year since 2012. The North Carolina native’s drivers have finished inside the top five in the Truck Series championship standings four times in the last five seasons, including a runner-up finish in the standings with Ty Dillon in 2012. His most recent stop was at JR Motorsports last season, where he guided Cole Custer to two poles, four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes over the last 16 races of 2016. Richmond joined KBM in December 2016 to coach rookie Noah Gragson in 2017.

Richmond has two top-five and four top-10 finishes in six starts as a NCWTS crew chief at Gateway. His best finish was second place with Dennis Setzer behind the wheel in 2008.

Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 18 Switch Toyota Tundra 2017 NCWTS Box Score:

Date

Site

Driver

Start

Finish

Laps

Laps Led

Status

Driver Pts./Pos.

2/24

Daytona

Gragson

12

26

1/100

0

Accident

11/22nd

3/4

Atlanta

Gragson

10

14

130/130

0

Running

34/17th

4/1

Martinsville

Gragson

9

4

250/250

0

Running

70/11th

5/12

Kansas

Gragson

4

28

68/167

0

Clutch

79/13th

5/19

Charlotte

Gragson

15

9

134/134

0

Running

111/13th

6/2

Dover

Gragson

8

9

199/200

0

Running

145/10th

6/9

Texas

Gragson

1

7

167/167

13

Running

181/10th

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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