Iowa Xfinity Race Recap: Noah Gragson

(Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Start: 4th
Finish: 6th

Noah Gragson and the No. 9 Switch team showed what perseverance is all about in Sunday’s 250 at Iowa Speedway. Gragson and company rebounded from an early tire issue that dropped the team as low as 26th, two laps down, and fought their way back to a sixth-place finish. The result nets Gragson and the team their fourth consecutive top-six finish.

Gragson’s day started off strong. He qualified fourth for the 250-lap race, a result which tied his season-best effort. When the green flag waved, Gragson immediately went to work with the Switch Chevrolet. With the action picking up at the front of the field, he snagged a spot and drove to third. A few laps later, Gragson found himself wheel-to-wheel with the No. 7 and 18 cars and relinquished third but held serve on a spot inside the top five. As the laps clicked off in the opening stage, Gragson radioed crew chief Dave Elenz to report that “something felt weird” on the right-front tire.  A caution 12 laps shy of the stage-ending caution brought the field to pit road, and in addition for fresh tires and fuel, the No. 9 team made adjustments to help the handling for Gragson. He went on to end Stage One in fourth.

With the onset of Stage Two, Gragson drifted back to eighth, reporting it “felt like something broke” on his race car. While the field stayed under green, Gragson dropped onto pit road to the attention of the crew where a loose wheel turned out to be the culprit. Despite quick work by the Switch pit crew, Gragson emerged back onto the racing surface in 26th, scored two laps down.

The rest of the race became a matter of playing sound strategy to get their track position back. It just took time over the remainder of the race. On three separate occasions Elenz elected to take the wave around. It was a tactical decision that netted positive results in the race’s closing laps and left Gragson fighting to be the first car one lap down and in position for the free pass. Gragson fended off challenges for the sought-after position but occupied it when the caution flag flew with 16 laps to go. Now back on the lead lap, Gragson came to pit road for his last set of tires under caution, making him one of the few cars with the benefit of fresh rubber. He restarted 14th and diced his way through the field, rapidly finding a spot among the top 10 and then climbed four spots further to take the checkered flag in sixth.

Christopher Bell won the race and was followed to the line by Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton and Zane Smith.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“I feel like we were really fast and had a good Switch Camaro all day. Something happened with the car in Stage One and set us back, and we ran two or three laps down. It was rough but we hung in there. Somehow, we came back and finished sixth. I think that’s a true testament to this JR Motorsports / Switch team and our mentality, and that’s just not to quit. We keep on going every chance we get. We have a strand of good finishes over the past few weeks. It feels good collecting these top 10s.”