Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Cessna Chevrolet Camaro, earned valuable stage points in both Stage One and Two and overcame a pit road penalty late in the final stage to earn a fourth-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The result is Gragson’s second top-five of 2019 and moves the JR Motorsports driver up to eighth in the championship standings.
Gragson took the green flag for the 200-lap event from the 10th position and fought inside the top 10 throughout the opening stage, racing up to seventh by lap 34 despite reporting to crew chief Dave Elenz that he needed some help with the front turn rolling through the corner. Although not handling to his liking, the driver of the Cessna Chevrolet maintained his track position in the closing laps of Stage One to take the stage-ending caution on lap 45 in seventh, earning four valuable stage points in the process.
Prior to the beginning of Stage Two, Elenz called Gragson to pit road for four tires and an air-pressure adjustment in the hopes of improving the turn in the corner. Returning to the track in fourth following the stop, Gragson continued to battle for position inside the top five and took advantage of a lap 71 restart to drive into the third position. Once inside the top three the Las Vegas native held his own, ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag in third and earn an additional eight stage points.
During the stage-ending caution, Elenz called Gragson back to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment, sending Gragson out for the ensuing restart in third. Once back underway, the driver of the Cessna Chevrolet pressed forward, consistently running inside the top three until a lap 140 caution period provided another opportunity to come to pit road for adjustments. However, a penalty during the stop forced Gragson to move to the end of the longest line for the lap 146 restart, meaning that the rookie driver took the green flag in 18th.
Despite the loss of track position Gragson remained unfazed, quickly rejoining the top 15 and was ultimately up to 13th before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 156. While under caution, the decision was made to go for track position and keep Gragson on the track while a handful of the leaders came to pit road. This decision paid off as the 20-year-old moved up to the fifth position for the lap 162 restart. Although back inside the top five, the fresher tires quickly prevailed and Gragson was shuffled back to 12th before an opportune caution on lap 169 allowed the JRM driver to return to pit road for the final set of sticker tires.
As a result of the stop, Gragson found himself in the 13th position but was able to take advantage of two quick cautions to improve eight positions and rejoin the top five.
Once back in the top five the driver of the Cessna Chevrolet continued to move forward, ultimately gaining one additional position in the final laps to take the checkered flag in fourth.
With the result, Gragson has now earned two top-fives and four top-10s in 2019 and improves to eighth the championship standings.
Tyler Reddick earned the victory, with JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gragson and Justin Haley rounding out the top five.
Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Cessna team
“What a day for our Cessna team. We fought hard all race long and overcame some adversity and we were able to come home with a really solid finish. I can’t thank everyone enough on this JRM Chevrolet enough. They never gave up all race long and we were able to keep fighting. It made today a lot of fun and hopefully we can keep that going as we head to Pocono.”