Noah Gragson Is Still Fighting For A Playoff Berth

Noah Gragson

With only four races remaining in the regular season of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), Noah Gragson is still fighting for a spot in the eight-driver playoffs. Five drivers have already punched their tickets to the playoffs with wins this season, which leaves three spots left to fill. Gragson is not giving up on making it into the playoffs in his rookie campaign.

 Gragson felt that Eldora Speedway in Ohio would be his wild-card race and was concerned about how he would fare in the points after his dirt debut. He exceeded his own expectations and posted a top-10 finish. He left Eldora only seven points out of eighth place, which is the cut-off to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, an accident the following week at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway set him back to 37 points out of eighth. Now his best shot is to win one of the next four races.

 The 19-year-old has never even been to the state of Michigan, let alone Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, but that has not deterred him from keeping his eye on the prize – a trip to Victory Lane. Since the trucks do not race at Auto Club Speedway in California, the sister track to Michigan, this will be Gragson’s first race on a fast, two-mile oval. He has spent hours watching races from the last two years there, when his KBM teammate Christopher Bell nearly won last year and his owner Kyle Busch did win in 2015. Both Bell and Busch will be in the truck race this weekend battling for the win themselves.

 Although Gragson has yet to win this year, the Switch Tundra he will be driving at Michigan is a proven winner. Busch led 90 laps en route to the win with this Tundra in its first outing at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May. He also raced it at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta last month where he finished sixth.

 Gragson is hoping he’ll have the luck of the Irish Hills on his side this weekend at Michigan. Rather than a pot of gold, he wants to claim one of the final three spots in the NCWTS playoffs.

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

This will be your first start on a two-mile track. How will this differ from your previous experience?

“I’ve been talking to Marcus Richmond (crew chief) and it seems like a superspeedway since you are pretty much wide open all the way around Michigan. It’s all about drafting and working with your teammates and other Toyota teams to ultimately get out front. My goal is to work together with my teammates Christopher (Bell) and Kyle (Busch) to get out front and then we’ll duke it out for the lead at the end of the race.”

The accident in Pocono two weeks ago set you back in the points. How do you rebound with only four races to go before the playoffs begin?

“We just have to go win. That’s really the only thing you can do to have any hope of making it into the playoffs. I’m not really worried about the points now since we’ve only got four more races before the cutoff. If you win, you are in and that’s what we have to do at this point.”

Since you have never been to Michigan, what have you learned about it so far?

“I’ve watched the truck races from the past two years at Michigan to see what lines the fast trucks run. It’s a fast race since it’s only 100 laps, so you have to make every lap count. It’s a really wide track with opportunities to pass and different lines you can run. Handling will be important, as well as drafting. It looks like a lot of fun, so I’m ready to jump in my Switch Tundra for practice on Friday afternoon.”

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

What is the key to winning at Michigan?

“Running wide open is the key at Michigan. We need to have a solid truck in the draft. It would be great if our three KBM teams could run together to help each other out, but it’s so hard to plan for since we don’t know where we will come out of the pits, where we will qualify and you can’t hurt yourself to try to help your teammates.”

Is winning pretty much the only option to make it into the playoffs with four races remaining?

“We were pretty good on points after Eldora, but the accident in Pocono really set us back. That really put us behind, so winning is for sure our best option. We definitely have to win to get in now, but we’ve got some good tracks coming up for Noah in these final four regular-season races.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-045: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-045, for Saturday’s LTi Printing 200 at MIS. This is the same Tundra Kyle Busch won with at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and finished sixth with at Kentucky Speedway in July.

 

KBM-045 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 2

1

15.5

3.5

90

 

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. He also finished fifth at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in July

  • Won first career NCWTS pole at Texas Motor Speedway on 6/9 and second at Iowa Speedway on 6/23

  • Has posted two top-five and eight-top 10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.3 across 12 NCWTS starts this season

  • Is currently ninth in the NCWTS standings, 37 points out of the eighth and the final playoff spot

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

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 11th in owner points and ninth in driver points after collecting two top-five and eight top-10 finishes this season

  • 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 (62), most wins in a single season (14 in 2014) and most owner’s championships (five)

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

  • Has collected 62 wins, 33 poles, 144 top-five and 233 top-10 finishes across 386 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, Christopher Bell has earned six triumphs, Darrell Wallace Jr., has five wins, Denny Hamlin has produced two victories while Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott each collected one trophy

  • 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 @ Michigan

  • KBM drivers have collected one win, 253 laps led, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.6 across 14 starts at Michigan

  • Driver-owner Kyle Busch claimed KBM’s lone victory in the Irish Hills in 2015

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 one top-five and five top-10 finishes in nine starts as a NCWTS crew chief at MIS. His team’s best finish was third with Ty Dillon in 2013.

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

6/17

Gateway

Gragson

7

9

160/160

0

Running

209/10th

6/23

Iowa

Gragson

1

6

200/200

16

Running

255/9th

7/6

Kentucky

Gragson

11

5

150/150

32

Running

299/9th

7/19

Eldora

Gragson

10

7

150/150

0

Running

329/9th

7/29

Pocono

Gragson

8

24

39/60

0

Accident

345/9th

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

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