Could Gragson Add Another Victory To His Resume At Phoenix?

Noah Gragson

Last year Noah Gragson made his very first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. With the huge learning curve he faced that day, Victory Lane seemed like a mirage off in the distance, but this year is a different story. With one win in the books already, the 19-year-old rookie sees winning at Phoenix as his goal.

Gragson has actually made two starts at the one-mile oval. In 2015, he competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix. He completed all 101 laps, but did not get the finish he wanted having to settle for 14th place. Last year was another new experience making his first start in a Toyota Tundra. To help him prepare for running the full season in 2017, Gragson went to Phoenix and Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway to compete and absorb as much information as he could. He did what he needed to do by once again completing all of the laps and gaining experience from his 16th -place finish. Victory Lane was the last thing on his mind that day.

Now the Las Vegas native returns to Phoenix for the third time with new goals and a new outlook. Coming off his win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last month, Gragson has more confidence, skill and knowledge than before. He also has a veteran crew chief who knows how to win at Phoenix. Marcus Richmond guided Timothy Peters to the checkered flag in 2015 and has three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 11 starts there.

Now it is up to Gragson to put all the pieces together by using what he learned in his previous two starts at Phoenix, along with the experience he has gained at similar tracks this season to fight for the win. Having won the pole at both Iowa Speedway in Newton and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon earlier this year, Gragson clearly has the speed it takes to succeed on smaller tracks. If he can start up front and remain there for 150 laps Friday night, his mirage will come into focus as he drives his Switch Tundra into Victory Lane.

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

You made your first NCWTS start at Phoenix last year. What did you learn from that experience?

“Since it was my first truck race, I was trying to take everything in and figure out how to race a truck. I had to figure out the track and how to race against a new group of drivers I’d never raced against before. Now I feel a lot more comfortable with the tire and the aero, so hopefully I can be a lot better when I get there Friday. I won’t have as much to learn, so I can spend more time trying to help make the Switch Tundra faster.”

Having one race at Phoenix under your belt, what is your focus this year?

“Winning the race is my ultimate focus this time. Before I just wanted to learn about the truck, the tire and the track, but now I feel like I can actually contend for a win. I feel like we’ve been good at the flat, short tracks like New Hampshire. We sat on the pole there and led the first 40 laps, and that’s a lot like turns three and four at Phoenix. Hopefully I can take some of that experience I gained at New Hampshire and apply what I learned from last year to contend for the win.”

Being so close to Las Vegas, do you feel like Phoenix is another home track for you?

“It will be good to go back out west since it’s my second-closest race to home. I’ll have quite a few family and friends at the race. My parents and grandparents will be there, along with a few friends from California, so it will be fun to have all of them there supporting me. I’m used to racing in the dry heat, so it will be nice to get back to that before the humidity next week in Homestead.”

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

What is the most challenging aspect of Phoenix for a crew chief?

“I think trying to keep track position and making sure your driver is out front for the last stage. You don’t want to get your pit strategy off and put yourself in the back, kind of like we did last weekend at Texas. It’s tough when you have a good truck, but can’t capitalize on a good finish, so track position is definitely key.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-042: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-042, for Friday’s Lucas Oil 150. Gragson has raced this Tundra five times this season. His best finish was fifth at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

KBM-42 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 6

0

10.5

9.5

44

 

Notes of Interest:

Noah Gragson 2017:

  • Won his first NCWTS race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on 10/28

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

  • Has posted one win, four top-five and 13 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.1 across 21 NCWTS starts this season

  • Won the prestigious Winchester 400 Champion Racing Association Super Series race at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway driving for KBM on 10/8

  • Competed in the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., and Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., earning one top-five and two top-10 finishes

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 13th in owner points and 11th in driver points after collecting one win, four top-five and 13 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 (65), 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 65 wins, 36 poles, 158 top-five and 253 top-10 finishes across 415 starts since originating in 2010

  • Ten different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 33. Christopher Bell, Erik Jones and William Byron have each collected seven victories, Darrell Wallace Jr., has five wins, Denny Hamlin has produced two victories while Noah Gragson, 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 @ Phoenix International Raceway

  • KBM drivers have collected five wins, three poles, 642 laps led, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.9 across 17 starts in the desert

  • Owner-driver Kyle Busch collected the team’s first win at the one-mile track in 2011, Brian Scott claimed the win in 2012 and Erik Jones won two consecutive races in 2013 & 2014 and Daniel Suarez went to Victory Lane in November 2016

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 win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 11 starts as a NCWTS crew chief at Phoenix. He took the checkered flag with Timothy Peters behind the wheel in 2015.

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

9/15

Chicago

Gragson

6

8

150/150

0

Running

489/11th

9/23

New Hampshire

Gragson

1

15

174/175

40

Running

519/11th

9/30

Las Vegas

Gragson

13

13

144/146

12

Running

548/11th

10/14

Talladega

Gragson

8

14

95/95

0

Running

571/11th

10/28

Martinsville

Gragson

5

1

200/200

10

Running

625/11th

11/3

Texas

Gragson

2

10

147/147

9

Running

663/11th

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

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