Gragson Looks At Martinsville

Noah Gragson

Event Overview

● Event: Cook Out 400 (Round 8 of 36)

● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 7

● Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

● Layout: .526-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 400 laps/210.4 miles

● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 100 laps / Final Stage: 220 laps

● TV/Radio: FS1 / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Notes of Interest

● With a 12th-place drive last Sunday at the .75-mile Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Noah Gragson earned his fourth finish of 12th or better in the seven NASCAR Cup Series races held this season. The 25-year-old racer seeks further wealth in the Commonwealth with a second straight dose of short-track racing this Sunday at the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

● Short-track racing is where Gragson’s career began. The Las Vegas native owns victories in two of the United States’ most prestigious Late Model races – the 2017 Winchester 400 at the half-mile Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and the 2018 Snowball Derby at the half-mile Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

● Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Martinsville will mark Gragson’s third career Cup Series start at the track, with his best result being a 25th-place drive in his Cup Series debut there in October 2022.

● Gragson’s tenure at Martinsville outside of the NASCAR Cup Series is impressive. In five career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track, he only has one finish outside of the top-four, and that lone 20th-place result in April 2022 came after Gragson qualified third and led 23 laps before he was caught up in a 15-car accident on the frontstretch 10 laps short of the finish. From 2020 through 2022, Gragson’s finishes in the Xfinity Series at Martinsville were third (October 2020), second (April 2021), first (October 2021), 20th (April 2022) and fourth (October 2022).

● In his NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Martinsville in October 2021, Gragson dominated. Despite qualifying ninth, it only took him 65 laps to make his way to the front and take the lead. Gragson ended up leading six times for a race-high 153 laps, or 59.5 percent of the 257 laps available. When the checkered flag dropped, Gragson had a .064 of a second advantage over runner-up Austin Cindric in a green-white-checkered finish.

● Gragson’s Martinsville history in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is just as impressive. In four career Truck Series starts from 2017 through 2018, Gragson never finished worse than seventh. He came home fourth in his Truck Series debut at the track in April 2017, won in his next Martinsville start in October 2017, and then finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in his last two Truck Series starts in March and October 2018.

● Gragson delivered a gritty performance to earn his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Martinsville in October 2017. He started fifth but never took the lead until lap 191 of the 200-lap race. But those last 10 laps were the only laps that mattered as Gragson pulled out a 1.586-second margin over second-place Matt Crafton.

Overstock.com has joined Stewart-Haas Racing and Gragson’s No. 10 team this weekend at Martinsville. The partnership coincides with the recent relaunch of Overstock.com, home of crazy good deals that offer quality and style for less. Overstock.com is for the savvy shopper who loves the thrill of the hunt, and it includes product categories customers know and love, like patio furniture, home furniture and area rugs, while reintroducing jewelry, watches and health-and-beauty products.

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 10 Overstock.com Ford Mustang Dark Horse

You’re very successful at Martinsville, winning in both the Xfinity Series and Truck Series, where in nine combined starts there – five in Xfinity and four in Trucks – you have two wins, seven top-fives and eight top-10s. What made you so good at Martinsville in those series?

“I think being able to be disciplined and move your line around and, depending on how the rubber’s being laid down on the racetrack, center exit of the corner, and then your proximity off the inside curb, I feel like there are four or five, maybe six different ways you can run a corner at Martinsville in Xfinity and Trucks and with the old Cup cars. You used to have to mount a run, but now you just downshift, so I’m trying to figure that out, but I used to be really good there.”

You finished fourth and first in your first two Truck starts there in 2017. Did you take to the track right away?

“It was pretty natural for me, a lot of heavy braking into the corner, and then just moving around. I watched Kyle Larson when he ran a Truck there. He was in a GMS Truck, maybe the 24 Truck in 2016, and I watched his line around there and how he moved around the racetrack. I utilized that when I first went there and developed more processes as I got around the corner as the years went on.”

Did Martinsville remind you of some of the tracks you raced on out West as you ran Late Models and then the NASCAR K&N Series West?

“Not really. There was nothing really like Martinsville that I had been to before.”

With all that prior success at Martinsville, what makes emulating those accomplishments at the Cup level so hard?

“I think everybody’s pretty locked in trying to figure out what a good car should feel like around there. I feel like the balance of the car changes. It gets really free on the entry of the corner as the run goes on. Just knowing and gaining experience on what you need your car balance to be at the beginning of the run compared to the end of the run. Obviously, the caliber of drivers is really high that you’re racing against, and it’s also pretty challenging to pass there with the downshifts.”

How physical is a race at Martinsville? You’re hard on the brakes at least 800 times, so your lower body gets a workout as much as your upper body.

“It is a physical one. You never stop there. You’re shifting the whole time, so you’re pretty much driving one-handed, and you’re constantly on one pedal or the other with the brake or the gas. So you’re pretty worn out mentally and physically. It’s a demanding racetrack to go out there and run fast.”

Are you a left-foot or right-foot braker?

“I’ve always left-foot braked in a racecar. It’s just natural to me.”

When it comes to on-track contact at Martinsville, what’s OK and what isn’t?

“I guess just don’t spin the guy out in front on you, but if you do have to move him out of the way, you better hope you get away from him so he can’t get you back.”

When do you need to just let something go and when do you need to stand up for yourself and give a shot back?

“I think you race pretty hard to fill a hole on the restarts, but unless you’re racing for the win, or if somebody’s been holding you up for countless laps, there’s really no point because it’s really hard to get to somebody in a Cup car, now. It’s almost impossible, and if you do hit him, you have to hit him going 20 miles an hour faster just because they’re so stuck to the racetrack. Bumping doesn’t do much anymore, but I guess you can knock them out of the way pretty good on entry, and if they get loose on the corner, you can kind of squirt them up out of the way on the entry to the corner.”

How heady are restarts at Martinsville?

“Restarts at Martinsville are challenging just because the inside line is so dominant that with the choose cone you can gain some rows on the outside, but if you don’t get down after a couple of laps, you might fall back and net out a three- or four-spot loss. So, it’s risk versus reward.”

No. 10 Overstock.com Team Roster

Primary Team Members

Driver: Noah Gragson

Hometown: Las Vegas

Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer

Hometown: Decatur, Illinois

Car Chief: Jerry Cook

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Engineer: James Kimbrough

Hometown: Pensacola, Florida

Spotter: Andy Houston

Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina

Over-The-Wall Members

Front Tire Changer: Ryan Mulder

Hometown: Sioux Center, Iowa

Rear Tire Changer: Trevor White

Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Tire Carrier: Tyler Bullard

Hometown: King, North Carolina

Jack Man: Sean Cotten

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Fuel Man: James “Ace” Keener

Hometown: Fortuna, California

Road Crew Members

Mechanic: Chris Trickett

Hometown: Grafton, West Virginia

Mechanic: Beau Whitley

Hometown: Carmel, Indiana

Tire Specialist: Jacob Cooksey

Hometown: Westbrookville, New York

Engine Tuner: Matt Moeller

Hometown: Monroe, New York

Transporter Co-Driver: Steve Casper

Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina

Transporter Co-Driver: Matt Murphy

Hometown: Augusta, Georgia

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

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