Noah Gragson’s Season Has Has Its Share Of Highs An Lows

Noah Gragson

The final race of the season at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway can mean a lot of different things for different drivers. For one driver, it will culminate in a championship and having his name in the NASCAR history books. For some, it’s putting a disappointing season behind them to start with a clean slate in 2018. For Las Vegas native Noah Gragson, the season finale falls somewhere in between. While not in contention for the 2017 championship, his rookie season has been full of highs and lows, which is expected for most young drivers moving up into a new series. The 19-year-old has learned from his experiences, both bad and good, and is already looking toward the future.

Gragson had his share of defining moments in the No. 18 Switch Tundra during his rookie season. He notched his first win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) last month at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and earned the coveted grandfather clock. He nearly won with a second-place finish on the road course in Canada. He also showed impressive speed by winning three poles at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Iowa Speedway in Newton and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He has led 187 laps so far and hopes to add at least one more to that total Friday night, leading the final lap.

It has been a steep learning curve for Gragson facing a variety of new tracks and figuring out the aerodynamics of racing a truck. It’s also a challenge to learn how to race against a new group of competitors in the NCWTS. This is not just any group of competitors either, it’s an interesting mix of wily veterans like Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, other rookies such as Chase Briscoe and Grant Enfinger, and even his own Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, Christopher Bell. He was learning all of this while also completing his high school degree in April.

Friday night’s race is a milestone for Gragson. Whether he wins the finale, or not, he has many achievements to be proud of this season and many more to come in the future. It’s like the end of the school year, but without yearbooks to sign. Some of his competitors, like Bell, will be moving on to start his higher education in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. His fellow rookie classmates look ahead to their sophomore year where they won’t be the underclassmen any longer. But as the drivers part ways for a few months off, they are already looking ahead to the start of the 2018 season.

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

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

“It was my first race on a mile-and-a-half track and I really didn’t understand the aero, dirty air and side drafting yet, so going back this year I’ll have more of an idea of what to expect and how to prepare going into the race. I learned all night and got better on my restarts, so it was a productive race for me. I can definitely use that knowledge for this race on Friday.”

Knowing there are four drivers racing for a championship, will you race them any differently?

“I will definitely race them differently than I will race my teammates, but all of those guys deserve a clean race to fight for the championship. Christopher (Bell) can win the driver’s and owner’s championship for KBM, and Myatt (Snider) can help get the owner’s championship for the No. 51 team. If I can help their chances, not by wrecking anyone, but if we can help them a little bit we’ll definitely do that.”

How would you recap your 2017 season?

“We’ve had speed, we’ve had three poles and we’ve got a win checked off the list, so now it’s all about trying to prepare for the future. Looking back on it, we’ve had a lot of highs and lows, probably more lows than highs, but I’ve become a much different driver over the course of this season. I’ve grown a lot and feel like I’ve improved a lot from the beginning of the year. I am always trying to learn from the mistakes I made earlier in the year and not make them again. I definitely want to end the season on a high note with another win Friday night.”

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

With one race to go, how would you recap your 2017 season?

“I feel like it’s been a really good year from where we started at Daytona. It was my first year here at KBM too, so I had to learn the team and work on my communication with Noah. It’s been a good turnaround from the first four, or five races. We’ve been solid here at the end of the year and I think that we can continue that this weekend.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-041: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-041, for Friday’s race. Gragson raced this Tundra at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway earlier this year. Kyle Busch won in this truck at Chicagoland Speedway in 2016.

KBM-41 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 4

1

6.3

11.5

95

 

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 11.3 across 22 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 12th in owner points and 10th 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, 37 poles, 158 top-five and 255 top-10 finishes across 418 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 @ Homestead-Miami Speedway

  • KBM drivers have collected four wins, 247 laps led, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.9 across 17 starts at Homestead

  • Owner-driver Kyle Busch scored wins for KBM in 2010 & 2013, Darrell Wallace Jr., won in 2014 and William Byron in 2016

  • Christopher Bell will be contending for KBM’s second Driver’s championship, while Bell and Myatt Snider’s teams will both compete for KBM’s sixth Owner’s championship Friday night

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 three top-10 finishes in 10 starts as a NCWTS crew chief at Homestead. His best finish was third with Timothy Peters 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

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

11/10

Phoenix

Gragson

2

15

142/150

55

Accident

703/10th

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

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