Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Cessna Chevrolet Camaro, rebounded from heavy damage sustained during a lap 36 incident in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to earn a fifth-place finish. The result is Gragson’s second top-five in the last three NXS races and his 10th top-10 in the last 11 races dating back to Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. The JR Motorsports driver has also increased his point advantage over the 12th and final playoff position to 134 points with five races remaining in the regular season.
Gragson lined up for the 75-lap event from the eighth position and wasted little time moving forward, taking advantage of a lap 6 restart following an early caution to drive up to seventh. Gragson’s climb toward the front continued throughout the long green-flag run that followed, as crew chief Dave Elenz opted to work with some strategy and keep the driver of the Cessna Chevrolet on-track while a number of the leaders came to pit road. The strategy call to stay out proved beneficial as Gragson worked his way into the top five in the closing laps of the opening stage to take the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 40 in the second position. The stage result also earned Gragson nine valuable stage points.
During the stage-ending caution, Elenz called Gragson to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment after the driver of the Cessna Chevrolet reported that he was tight rolling through the distinct corners of Mid-Ohio. After taking the lap 23 restart in 16th due to a variety of pit strategies, the Las Vegas native charged forward, needing only five laps to move back into the top 10 before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 28. Gragson remained inside the top 10 through two additional cautions before contact following a lap 36 restart sent the 21-year-old driver for a spin that ultimately resulted in damage to both the right-front and back bumper of the Cessna Chevrolet.
After pitting numerous times for repairs during the caution that ultimately ended Stage Two, Gragson was forced to additionally serve a pass-through penalty once the final stage began. The penalty was due to not being able to get all the way to the very rear of the field once the race was back under way because of Gragson initially pitting while pit road was closed for repairs. Undaunted by the penalty, Gragson persevered and pressed forward, utilizing only 11 laps to move the Cessna Chevrolet from 26th to the 10th position.
Gragson continued his march back through the field following a lap 56 caution that saw the rookie-of-the-year contender take just six laps to rejoin the top-five. Gragson maintained his top-five track position for the final 11 laps, battling with Tyler Reddick and AJ Allmendinger before taking the checkered flag in the fifth position.
With the result, Gragson has now recorded a top-10 finish in 10 of the last 11 NXS races and a top-five finish in two of the last three.
Austin Cindric scored the victory, with Christopher Bell, Allmendinger, Reddick and Gragson rounding out the top five.
Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Cessna team
“We overcame a ton of adversity today with our Cessna Chevrolet. We had to come from the back twice and fight our way back to the front. I can’t thank all these guys on this JR Motorsports team enough. We continue to show that we will never give up and it paid off with us coming home with a top-five finish. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going and have another strong weekend next week in Bristol. I’m already ready to get there.”