Texas Recap: Noah Gragson

(Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, earned stage points in both Stage One and Two and led for 13 laps in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Texas Motor Speedway before an inopportune caution cost the JR Motorsports driver his top-10 track position, ultimately leading to a 13th-place finish. With the result, Gragson has placed 13th or better in each of his nine starts in his NXS career.

Gragson lined up for the 200-lap event from the 16th position but wasted little time charging forward, improving four positions to 12th by lap 34 while reporting to crew chief Dave Elenz that the Switch Chevrolet was feeling really good through the corner. The Las Vegas, Nev. native’s climb didn’t stop there, as Gragson drove into the top 10 just before the completion of the opening stage to take the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 45 in the 10th position, earning a valuable stage point in the process.

After pitting for four tires and no adjustments during the stage-ending caution, Gragson returned to the track to begin Stage Two in the sixth position before taking advantage of a rash of quick cautions to drive up to second. Then, following a lap 70 restart, Gragson powered into the race lead, driving by eventual race winner Kyle Busch to lead the ensuing 13 laps before the caution flag was displayed once again. During this caution period, the decision was made to bring the driver of the Switch Chevrolet to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment to set Gragson up for the beginning of the final stage. As a result of the stop, Gragson took the lap 87 restart in fifth before ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage Two on lap 90 in sixth, earning an additional five valuable stage points.

Due to pitting just prior to the end of Stage Two, the decision was made for Gragson to stay out to begin the third and final stage, moving the 22-year old driver up to the fourth position for the lap 98 restart. After initially maintaining his track position inside the top five, Gragson reported that he had gotten loose rolling through the corner, ultimately sliding the driver of the Switch Chevrolet back to seventh before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 125. Elenz took the opportunity under this caution to bring Gragson back to pit road in the hopes of alleviating the loose-handling condition.

Returning to the track in ninth, Gragson quickly marched back up to the fifth position before the loose condition returned, shuffling the JRM driver back to 10th as a long green-flag run dominated the second-half of the final stage. As the laps began to wind down, Elenz opted to make a strategy call as the window opened for the lone round of green flag pit stops and chose to bring Gragson to pit road on lap 185 for two tires and fuel. However, a caution just three laps after the pit stop thwarted Elenz’s strategy call and trapped Gragson a lap behind the race leaders. Despite losing a lap, Gragson took advantage of the caution period to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap as the race leaders all came to pit road.

Once back on the lead lap, Gragson pressed forward and was able to gain two positions in the final laps to take the checkered flag in 13th.

With the result, Gragson remains eighth in the championship standings after six NXS events, 77 points shy of the series lead.

Busch earned the victory, with Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe and JRM teammate Jeb Burton rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“I want to thank all of my guys on this JR Motorsports team for their hard work this weekend. We had a really fast Switch Chevrolet all day long today, but just couldn’t catch a break with that caution coming out right after our green-flag pit stop. But today had a lot of positives and we are continuing to make gains every time we come to the racetrack. Hopefully we can keep this going and unload just as quick next week in Bristol.”