Pocono Recap: Noah Gragson

(Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, battled back from a pit road speeding penalty to earn a sixth-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Pocono Raceway. The result is Gragson’s second consecutive top-10 finish and his fifth overall through the opening 12 races of the season.

Gragson took the green flag for the scheduled 100-lap event from the 15th position but took advantage of three quick caution periods to race into the top 10 by lap 20. The driver of the Switch Chevrolet’s climb forward didn’t stop there as Gragson drove up to seventh before a tight-handling condition had developed in the closing laps of the stage. Although not handling to his liking, Gragson remained inside the top 10 to take the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage One on lap 25 in the 10th position, earning a valuable stage point in the process.

While under the stage-ending caution, crew chief Dave Elenz called Gragson to pit road for four tires and an air-pressure adjustment, lining the JR Motorsports driver up for the ensuing restart in 11th. In a stage dominated by a long green-flag run, the Las Vegas native continued to fight for position inside the top 15, despite reporting that he was still tight rolling through the distinct corners of Pocono. In the end, Gragson took the green-and-white checkered flag to end the caution-free second stage in 11th.

Prior to the beginning of the third and final stage, Elenz brought Gragson back to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment in the hopes of improving the handling in the corner. Gragson returned to the track following the stop in 14th, but took advantage of a three-wide move to drive up to 10th. Gragson’s march continued throughout the green flag run that followed as the driver of the Switch Chevrolet raced up to seventh before the lone round of green flag pit stops began.

Opting to play with some strategy, the decision was made to stay out until the very end of the pit stop cycle, which moved Gragson up to the third position before coming to pit road on lap 83. However, a penalty for speeding on the entry of pit road forced the 20-year-old driver to serve a pass-through penalty under green. As a result of the penalty, Gragson was shuffled back to the 19th position. Even though the pass-through affected his track position, Gragson continued to fight, ultimately driving back up to 13th before the caution flag was displayed on lap 92. Elenz called Gragson back to pit road during the caution period to make a chassis adjustment, sending the Switch Chevrolet back out for the lap 97 restart in ninth.

After narrowly avoiding an incident in Turn One just after the restart, Gragson found himself scored in the eighth position, which lined the rookie driver up as the fourth car on the outside line for NASCAR’s version of overtime. This positioning proved to be beneficial as Gragson charged forward to gain two positions in the final laps to take the checkered flag in sixth.

The result is Gragson’s second consecutive top-10 finish and keeps the JRM driver eighth in the championship standings.

Cole Custer scored the victory, with Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, JRM teammate Ryan Preece and Christopher Bell rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“We had a really good day with our Switch Chevrolet. Dave (Elenz, crew chief) and all the guys on this JR Motorsports team worked hard all weekend long and we were able to come away with another good result. Hopefully we can continue to build off of these last two weeks and have another strong race next weekend in Michigan.”