Noah Gragson Prepares For Another Grueling Race At The Last Colloseum

Noah Gragson

This week fans do not have to travel to Rome to watch the gladiators battle in the Coliseum. They only have to get to Tennessee to see “The Last Great Colosseum,” Bristol Motor Speedway, where these gladiators will trade horses for horsepower. Rookie Noah Gragson will be making his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at Bristol under the lights on Wednesday night in the UNOH 200 and his armor will his No. 18 Switch Tundra.

Although it will be his first Truck Series start at the famed half-mile oval, he has raced there twice in other series. Most recently he competed in the CARS Super Late Model Tour at Bristol in May driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). Unfortunately, he was taken out of contention in an accident on lap 10. He also made one start there in 2016’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race when he finished 12th.

Gragson will not enter the arena alone for this event. With the addition of a fourth KBM Tundra for this race, he will have some knowledgeable teammates to lean on for information. Owner-driver Kyle Busch has won twice at Bristol in the Truck Series (2010 and 2013), Christopher Bell led 101 laps in last year’s NCWTS race and Harrison Burton captured a win (and a sword) earlier this year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race leading 68 of 70 laps.

With three races remaining in the NCWTS regular season, Gragson is still fighting for his place in the NASCAR playoffs. With five drivers locked in on wins, only three spots remain and he is currently 44 points out of making it into the elite eight. A win at Bristol is the ultimate goal for Wednesday night, and Gragson is up for the challenge. He knows it will not be easy, but he has never backed down from a challenge (or a dare).

Gragson will have 200 laps to prove he is a worthy opponent and intends to leave “The Last Great Colosseum” as the winning gladiator with a sword, trophy and a spot in the playoffs.

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

Talk about your two previous starts at Bristol?

“My previous experience there will help me quite a bit, just knowing how to get on pit road and the characteristics of the race track. I’ll be in a different type of vehicle being in the truck, but for the most part it should be the same. I haven’t really had a lot of experience with the VHT on the bottom. When I ran the CARS Super Late Model race in May was the only experience I have with the VHT, but it was three weeks after the Cup race, so it was pretty worn off by then. I have a rough idea of what to expect.”

Describe a lap around Bristol?

“Racing at Bristol reminds me of that Gravitron ride at the state fair. You go inside, lay up against the wall and it starts spinning you around really fast and the gravity holds you against the wall so you can’t move. That’s what it feels like to go around Bristol. Your head is pinned to the right side of the headrest because there are so many G-forces from the high speeds and banking. It’s utter chaos and you are always racing someone side by side, whether for the lead, or 15th place or a lapped car. That’s what makes it so difficult.”

If the NCWTS drivers could pick a driver introduction song, what would your song be and why?

“There are a lot of Tennessee fans there so maybe the Alabama fight song to make them all fired up. I did an appearance for the track in Knoxville, Tenn., a couple weeks ago and wore an Alabama hat and the track president (Jerry Caldwell) brought me a Tennessee hat. It would just be fun to get the crowd all riled up. I only root for Alabama because my friend Brandon McReynolds is a big fan.”

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

Is Bristol one of the toughest races for a crew chief because everything happens so fast?

“It’s hard to hit the perfect balance because you are always loose in and tight off, so you can have 10 different combinations of set-ups which will work. It just depends on what your driver likes and what your truck needs at that moment. There is a lot going on in a short period of time, driver feedback is a very big part of it and the track changes a lot, so there are a lot of variables.”

How will the VHT change how you approach this race?

“It definitely affects the track a lot. If it’s on the bottom you will have to run it and as soon as it starts wearing out, which usually doesn’t happen in time for trucks to move up, but if it does we’ll have to have a truck that’s versatile and can move up to the middle groove.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-041: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-041, for Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol. This is the same Tundra Kyle Busch won with at Chicagoland Speedway last September and Daniel Suarez finished fifth with at Texas Motor Speedway last November. Christopher Bell placed 25th with it due to an accident at Dover in June.

 

KBM-041 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 3

1

7.0

10.3

95

 

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 nine-top 10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.9 across 13 NCWTS starts this season

  • Is currently 10th in the NCWTS playoff standings, 44 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 nine 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 mostOwner’s championships (five)

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

  • Has collected 62 wins, 33 poles, 146 top-five and 236 top-10 finishes across 389 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 @ Bristol

  • KBM drivers have collected two wins, three poles, 387 laps led, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.7 across 14 starts at Bristol

  • Driver-owner Kyle Busch claimed both of KBM’s victories at Bristol in 2010 and 2013

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 five top-10 finishes in 10 starts as a NCWTS crew chief at Bristol. His teams’ best finish was sixth with Cole Custer in 2016 and 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

8/12

Michigan

Gragson

5

7

100/100

0

Running

382/9th

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

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