Iowa Xfinity Recap: Noah Gragson

(Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Start: 13th
Finish: 4th

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, rebounded from damage sustained in an incident on lap 43 in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Iowa Speedway to earn a fourth-place finish. With the result, Gragson has now recorded eight top-10 finishes in the last nine NXS races and improves the JR Motorsports driver to 120 points ahead of the 12th and final cutoff position for the Playoffs. In addition, Gragson’s top-five finish is also the 300th top-five overall for JRM as an organization, dating back to 2005.

Gragson wasted little time climbing forward from his 13th starting position once the 250-lap event was underway, needing just four laps to drive into the top 10. Gragson march continued until contact with the No. 22 of Austin Cindric while battling for eighth on lap 43 damaged the nose and right-front fender of the Switch Chevrolet. As a result of the damage, Gragson was forced to come to pit road under the ensuing caution for repairs, shuffling the Las Vegas native back to 24th for the final eight-lap sprint to the end the opening stage. Despite the loss of track position, Gragson pressed on, improving nine positions in the closing laps to take the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage One on lap 60 in 15th.

Prior to the beginning of Stage Two, crew chief Dave Elenz called the driver of the Switch Chevrolet back to pit road in order to make further repairs to the damaged right-front fender. Returning to the track following the extended stop in 23rd, Gragson again pushed forward, improving seven positions to 17th before the field was slowed by another caution on lap 73. The rookie-of-the-year contender continued his climb up the leaderboard following the lap 78 restart, taking advantage of a long green flag run to race back into the top 15 and up to 13th by the time Stage Two came to a close on lap 120.

Then, while under the stage-ending caution, Gragson brought the Switch Chevrolet back to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment after reporting to Elenz that he had developed a tight-handling condition rolling through the corner. Lining up following the stop in 13th for the lap 129 restart, the 21-year-old driver quickly raced up to 11th before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 151. After debating between taking their final set of fresh tires or not during the caution period, Elenz made the decision to play with some strategy and called Gragson back to pit road for fuel only while several of the race leaders opted to put on their final set of tires. The strategy call paid off as Gragson improved to the seventh position for the lap 158 restart.

The driver of the Switch Chevrolet continued to fight for position inside the top 10 for the run that followed until an opportune caution on lap 200 provided Elenz with the chance to again work with some strategy. With the majority of the leaders stuck on older tires, Elenz made the call to bring Gragson back to pit road for the final set of fresh tires that had been saved during the previous lap 151 caution.

Returning to the track following the stop in ninth, Gragson methodically worked his way forward, utilizing the fresh tires to charge into the top five over the final laps and ultimately take the checkered flag in the fourth position.

The top-five result is Gragson’s fourth of the 2019 NXS season and the 300th overall for JRM as an organization.

Chase Briscoe earned the victory, with Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Gragson and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“I can’t thank my guys on this Switch team enough. They never gave up all day long and we were able to comeback from getting that damage to our right front to get a really solid top-five finish. It just shows again how this group has no quit in them and will fight to the very end. It makes going to the track a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get this road course stretch going, it’s going to be a fun couple of weeks for sure.”