Noah Gragson Has One More Chance To Make The Playoffs

Noah Gragson

While Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago is known as the “Magnificent Mile,” Noah Gragson is hoping Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet will be his “Magnificent Mile-and-a-Half.” Gragson needs a win Friday night to make the NASCAR playoffs in his rookie season. Winning at Chicagoland would be truly magnificent.

Gragson has never raced at Chicagoland before, but has shown improvement throughout the season on the many 1.5-mile tracks on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule. After having clutch issues at Kansas Speedway in May resulting in a 28th-place finish, Gragson has not finished outside the top 10 on a 1.5-mile track. In fact, he scored his second top-five finish of the season at Kentucky Speedway in July. He will get some extra experience at Chicagoland on Thursday running the ARCA Racing Series event for Venturini Motorsports.

He has momentum on his side coming off his best career NCWTS finish (second) at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks ago, and a trip to Victory Lane last weekend when he returned to The Bullring at Las Vegas. In front of his hometown crowd, Gragson passed the points leader on a restart with nine laps remaining in the 50-lap NASCAR Super Late Model race and held on for the checkered flag. Gragson climbed the fence to celebrate after earning his 14th career win at the 3/8-mile track.

Taking the same Switch Tundra he finished fifth with at Kentucky, Gragson would like to do more fence climbing on Friday night. With 47 points separating him from eighth place, the final cutoff for the playoffs, he is in a must-win situation. He has his eye on the prize and knows what he needs to do. He has 150 laps to achieve his goal and have a magnificent night at Chicagoland.

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

What is your approach to the final races of the season?

“I definitely have one goal and that is to win races. Thankfully the team I’m with, Kyle Busch Motorsports, provides fast Toyota Tundras week in and week out. I’m looking forward to the next few races coming up this month. I’ll be going home to race at Las Vegas at the end of the month which I’m really excited about. I have one more opportunity to get into the playoffs at Chicagoland this weekend if I can win the race.”

How do you prepare for such an important race when you have never raced at this track before?

“I’ve practiced at the simulator at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and been working with my crew chief, Marcus Richmond, to prepare. Preparation is going to be key for this race so we’re going to be watching a lot of film, trying to stay focused all weekend and not make any mistakes. I’ve never been to Chicagoland so it will be tricky, but as long as I can do my job and be focused, that will be the main goal. Running the ARCA race on Thursday will be good to learn the track, but the truck will be different aero-wise and it will be harder to pass in the truck race.”

How do you feel about your rookie season in the NCWTS so far?

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been harder than I thought it would be. Moving up into the Truck Series is very different than any other time I’ve moved up to the next level in racing. The jump from Legends cars up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series wasn’t that bad, but moving up to the Truck Series is a whole different kind of talent. Racing against veterans like Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and my KBM teammate Christopher Bell, they have a lot of experience and being a rookie, the mile-and-a-half tracks are very tricky because of the aero and dirty air sensation. Things are constantly changing with the balance of the truck. It’s been kind of a rude awakening, but I’m very fortunate for the opportunity to be in the position I am. It’s been a year of learning and I have a little bit more to learn, but I feel we can contend for wins in the coming races.”

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

How much have you seen Noah progress on the intermediate tracks this season?

“From day one he’s had a lot of speed off the trailer and running by himself, and he’s definitely improved on restarts which is key. He kind of struggled early in the season on restarts and now he’s getting better at it every week. He’s definitely getting better with running in traffic, making passes and executing when it’s time to go and managing the dirty air. Hopefully this weekend we can capitalize on that and execute.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-042: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-042, for Friday’s Chicagoland 225. Gragson previously raced this Tundra at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway (14th), Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (ninth) and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (fifth). Christopher Bell also raced this truck at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway last year (eighth).

 

KBM-42 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 4

0

11.0

9.0

0

 

Notes of Interest:

Noah Gragson 2017:

  • Earned his best NCWTS finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., when he finished second on 9/3

  • 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 three top-five and 10-top 10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.5 across 15 NCWTS starts this season

  • Is currently 11th in the NCWTS playoff standings, 47 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 in driver playoff points after collecting three top-five and 10 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, 148 top-five and 239 top-10 finishes across 396 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 @ Chicagoland Speedway

  • KBM drivers have collected four wins, 400 laps led, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.1 across 15 starts

  • Kyle Busch has claimed all four wins for KBM (2010, 2013, 2014 & 2016) at the 1.5-mile oval and has led 344 of the team’s 400 laps

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 seven starts as a NCWTS crew chief at Chicago. His teams’ best finish was third in 2015 with driver Timothy Peters.

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

8/16

Bristol

Gragson

4

15

202/203

0

Running

418/9th

9/3

Canadian Tire

Gragson

6

2

64/64

0

Running

458/9th

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

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