Third for Gragson in Vegas Homecoming

(Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, earned a hard-fought third-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 20-year-old rookie driver improved seven positions in the closing laps and overcame two green-white-checkered restarts to earn the top-five finish. With the result, Gragson has now recorded three top-five and five top-10 finishes in just six career NXS starts.

For the second weekend in a row, rain forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying, leading to the field being set by owner points, per the rulebook. As a result, Gragson took the green flag for the scheduled 200-lap event from the fourth position. After initially battling for position inside the top five, Gragson reported to crew chief Dave Elenz that the Switch Chevrolet had shifted toward the tight-side rolling through the center to the exit of the corner. Despite not handling to his liking, Gragson continued to fight for position inside the top 10 throughout an opening stage that was dominated by long green flag runs, ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag in the 10th position.

During the stage-ending caution, Elenz called Gragson to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment in the hopes of improving the handling of the Switch Chevrolet. The Las Vegas, Nev. native returned to the track following the stop in the seventh position and maintained his top-10 track position until the tight-handling condition unfortunately returned. With the handling woes persisting, Gragson was shuffled back to the 13th position by the time the caution-free second stage came to a close on lap 90.

Prior to the beginning of the final stage, the driver of the Switch Chevrolet returned to pit road for another round of chassis adjustments and four fresh tires. After lining up for the lap 97 restart in eighth, Gragson quickly reported that he was still tight rolling through the corner. This handling condition remained until the JR Motorsports driver came to pit road during the lone round of green flag pit stops on lap 147. Gragson left pit road following the stop in the 11th position but was unfortunately caught one lap behind the race leaders. However, an opportune caution on lap 188 provided Elenz with the chance to keep Gragson out on the track to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap.

Now back on the lead lap, Gragson pressed forward, moving up to the seventh position just before the caution was displayed coming to the white flag. While under caution, the driver of the Switch Chevrolet came back down pit road for the last set of fresh tires. Returning to the track in seventh, Gragson raced up to sixth before the caution came out once again on lap 205, setting up the second attempt at NASCAR Overtime.

Lining up for the final restart in sixth, Gragson made a daring three-wide move on the outside of Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap to take the checkered flag in the third position. With the result, Gragson has now recorded three top-fives and five top-10s in six career NXS starts.

Kyle Busch brought home the victory, with John Hunter Nemechek, Gragson, Austin Dillon and JRM teammate Michael Annett rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“We never gave up today with our Switch Chevrolet. Dave (Elenz, crew chief) made some great adjustments all race long that put us in a position where we could make a run toward the front there in the end. We fought hard all day and came home with a really solid finish that we can build off of moving forward. We all know what the goal is at the end of the day and that is to get to Homestead, and finishing like today is what we need to do to make sure we get there at the end of the season.”