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Gragson Rebounds With Impressive Martinsville Run

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Noah Gragson’s season didn’t start off as well as he hoped, with a Lap 2 crash at Daytona, finishing 26th, followed by a 14th in Atlanta after a Lap 1 incident.

These performances left the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver in need of an early season rebound.

Martinsville is known as one of the toughest tracks in NASCAR with rookies often struggling because of the steep learning curve. 

After Gragson’s rough start, running well at the half-mile seemed unlikely. However, he qualified ninth and proved that experience may not always be the key to success. 

Gragson ran consistently in Stage 1, finishing eighth and then worked his way up to fifth early in Stage 2. However, contact with Chase Briscoe on Lap 100 sent the No. 18 spinning.

“We started off in the ninth position and started working my way up through the pack and got dumped by (Chase Briscoe),” Gragson said. “Fell to the rear and my crew chief Marcus Richmond had some really good calls on the top of the box today.”

With no damage from the spin, Gragson was able to work back through the field, restarting the Final Stage eighth. He maneuvered his way into the top-five quickly, establishing himself as one of the four drivers to battle for victory.

After catching the top three – Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, and Johnny Sauter, Gragson ran in third for a majority of the final stage.

A late caution involving contact between leader Bell and Austin Cindric set up a duel to the finish.

As Elliott pulled away to win, Gragson hung onto fourth, scoring his best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish in his fifth start. His previous best result came with a 14th-place run at Atlanta.

Former KBM driver William Byron experienced similar struggles to begin his rookie season and also broke through at Martinsville to score his first career top-five.

If Gragson continues to follow Byron’s lead, a strong stretch may be ahead for the No. 18 team as five of Byron’s seven wins in 2016 came in the summer.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz is a New York native with aspirations of entering the public relations field in NASCAR. Schultz attends UNC Charlotte and studies communications with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz edits podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio and is a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He is also the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.