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XFINITY

Road Course Visit Surfaces at Right Time for Noah Gragson

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With the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs on the horizon, all the competitors are hopeful to lock in their spots with trips to victory lane.

Noah Gragson could easily be the next driver to do so.

His rookie season did not start off smoothly, with just one top-six finish in the first 10 races. The team showed speed, however lacked the ability to finish off the events with clean finishes. Between pit road penalties, contact on track, or an inability to make the right adjustments, it seemed Gragson would fade in the second half of these races.

Though being able to spend time with crew chief Dave Elenz, the pair was able to find chemistry together, and the finishes have been there since. Compared to the first half of the season, Gragson has posted seven top-six finishes in the last nine races, with just one finish outside the top-10. 

There is also confidence in the young driver, as he has grown to believe in his JR Motorsports’ team ability, and they have entered the weekend set on running up front – rather than just hoping for improvement. 

No, he has not reached the level that the big three have attained. However, he has made progress and there’s good reason he could take the next step this weekend at Watkin’s Glen.

Although he has never ran the road course in New York, Gragson has proved that he can get the job done turning both left and right. In his pair of NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, he was a threat for the win on both occasions. He finished second in 2017, and wrecked while battling teammate Todd Gilliland for the lead in 2018. Oh, and he won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race earlier this year at Sonoma Raceway.

“I really enjoy racing on the road courses and I’m really excited to get that stretch of the season started this weekend in Watkins Glen,” he said. “We were able to knock the rust off earlier this year in Sonoma with the K&N car and were fortunate enough to come away with the victory. Watkins Glen is definitely a different kind of animal than Sonoma but I am really looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend with our West Herr Chevrolet.”

A victory this weekend could give Gragson the extra boost of confidence that he needs moving into the rest of the summer. It proved vital when he was in trucks, as winning at Martinsville Speedway to finish 2017 provided the footing to begin a playoff run in 2018, where he finished second in the standings.

The win at Watkins Glen would come at the perfect time, considering the NASCAR Xfinity Series will visit two more road courses before the playoffs. 

While Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing have taken up the headlines, JR Motorsports has been waiting behind them for their turn in the limelight. It could be begin right now this weekend with Gragson at Watkins Glen.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.