Although a rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), 19-year-old Noah Gragson is no rookie to road course racing. In fact, he has been looking forward to this race all season and knows he has a great shot at his first NCWTS victory this weekend north of the border at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) in Bowmanville, Ont.
Gragson had three road course victories in 2016. In the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West he claimed two wins at the Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville and finished second at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway after leading 34 of 64 laps. In the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East he took the checkered flag at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville after leading eight laps.
A win on Sunday at CTMP would not only be his first in the Truck Series, but it would also secure his place in the eight-driver playoffs. With only two races remaining in the regular season, there is a lot on the line for Gragson to outrun his competitors on the 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course. He is currently 10th in the playoff point system, 34 points out of eighth, which is the cutoff to make the 2017 NCWTS playoffs. Although not impossible to make it in on points, a win would be a guarantee.
His Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team has prepared a new No. 18 Switch Tundra for this weekend. Chassis KBM-049 will make its debut and hopefully end its inaugural run in Victory Lane. Gragson’s crew chief, Marcus Richmond, nearly made it there last year as his driver Cole Custer battled through the grass coming to the finish line, but came up just short in second place behind John Hunter Nemechek.
In the four races held at CTMP since 2013, there have been four different winners. The last two winners, Nemechek (2016) and Erik Jones (2015) were both 19 when they won. In fact, Ryan Blaney was the oldest driver to win this race at the age of 20 in 2014, and Chase Elliott was the youngest at only 17 in 2013. Bet your loonies that Gragson could likely become the next teen to win in Canada.
Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Switch Tundra:
You have had quite a bit of success on road courses. What is your secret to success turning left and right?
“I don’t really have a secret, but it comes from my background of growing up racing Legend cars and racing at a little, indoor electric go-kart track in Las Vegas. I really liked doing that, so some friends of mine helped me develop my road racing skills. I spent two or three days at a road course in New Mexico where I learned the fundamentals of braking and turning. It sounds easy, but braking on a road course is like an art form. There is a lot of technique as to how you slow the car down, not just jamming on the brakes.”
Have you been looking forward to this race all season?
“This has been circled on my racing schedule all year as the race I’m most looking forward to the most. I won three consecutive K&N road course races last year and finished second to Chase Elliott in Sonoma. I feel like the playing field is more level for me on a road course as opposed to an oval, based on the experience I have versus some of the other drivers.”
How much would it mean to win this race and secure your spot in the playoffs?
“Just winning my first truck race would be huge. That is really my main focus this weekend. I’m not going to be happy with second, or third or any further back. I would be pretty disappointed in myself if I can’t get the job done. Marcus Richmond (crew chief) and the guys at KBM have worked really hard on this new Switch Tundra for me, so I’m not going to be happy anything less than a win.”
Marcus Richmond, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Switch Tundra:
Noah has been successful on road courses in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, how will that translate to the truck?
“I think he definitely has a knack for road racing. He’s done really well and catches on really fast. He’s done well in the TRD simulator, so hopefully he’ll catch on quickly at CTMP as well and we’ll have a shot at the win.”
As a crew chief, do you enjoy road course races?
“I love it. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has been really good for me as a crew chief. I’ve had a chance to win up there a couple times, but come up just one corner short. Hopefully we can finally get the win this time. We’ve got a new truck to take up there, which I feel really good about.”
Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:
KBM-049: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-049, for Sunday’s race at CTMP. This is a new Tundra.
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 12.1 across 14 NCWTS starts this season
Is currently 10th in the NCWTS playoff standings, 34 points out of the eighth and the final playoff spot
Competed in the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.
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 (63), 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 63 wins, 34 poles, 147 top-five and 238 top-10 finishes across 393 starts since originating in 2010
Nine different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 33. 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 @ Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
KBM drivers have collected one win, 19 laps led, five top-five and six top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 9.8 across 11 starts north of the border
Erik Jones led 19 laps and brought home the victory in the 2015 event at the 10-turn road course
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, two top-10 finishes and one pole in four starts as a NCWTS crew chief at CTMP. His teams’ best finish was last year when Cole Custer finished second to John Hunter Nemechek in an exciting duel to the checkered flag.