Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, scored his seventh top-five finish of the 2019 season on Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after taking the checkered flag in the third position. With the result, Gragson has scored 13 top-10s in the last 15 NXS races and has improved to an average finish of 7.0 over that same stretch.
Gragson lined up for the penultimate event of the NXS regular season from the 13th position and maintained his track position inside the top 15 throughout the opening run of the 100-lap event. Then, during a lap 14 caution period, crew chief Dave Elenz opted to bring the driver of the Switch Chevrolet to pit road after Gragson had reported that he had developed a tight-handling condition rolling through the corner. Returning to the track following the stop in 19th, Gragson charged forward, improving 11 positions to seventh before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 22.
With the majority of the leaders choosing to come to pit road, Elenz decided to keep Gragson on the track, moving the JR Motorsports driver up to the third position for the ensuing restart. Gragson continued to fight for position inside the top five for the remainder of the opening stage, ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 30 in the fourth position, earning seven valuable stage points in the process.
Choosing to stay out during the stage-ending caution, the 21-year-old rookie driver took the green flag to begin Stage Two in the second position. After battling inside the top five for much of the second stage, Gragson reported to Elenz that the tight-handling condition had returned to the Switch Chevrolet. This handling condition, coupled with the older tires than the cars behind him, shuffled Gragson down the running order in the closing laps of the stage to take the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 60 in 10th.
During the stage-ending caution, Gragson returned to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment in the hopes of alleviating the tight condition. The driver of the Switch Chevrolet began the final stage after the stop in ninth, but was quickly shuffled back to 13th after getting forced into a three-wide situation. Gragson continued to ride in 13th until a lap 78 caution provided Elenz with another chance to work on the handling of the JRM Camaro. Following the four-tire stop, Gragson lined up for the lap 84 restart in 16th and quickly marched forward, improving seven positions to ninth before the field fell under the yellow again on lap 87.
After narrowly avoiding a multi-car incident during the lap 92 restart, Gragson moved up to the fifth position. On the ensuing restart, Gragson drafted with JRM teammate Justin Allgaier to race into the top three and ultimately take the checkered flag in the third position.
The third-place result is Gragson’s third finish inside the top three this season and his seventh inside the top five.
Kyle Busch earned the victory, with JRM teammate Allgaier, Gragson, JRM teammate Jeb Burton and Justin Haley rounding out the top five.
Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team
“Today was a really good day for this Switch Chevrolet and for JRM as a whole. To have three cars in the top five is pretty awesome and I am incredibly thankful for all of the hard work each and every person at JRM is putting in to these cars each week. We battled hard today and were able to come away with another really strong run. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going next week in Vegas and carry it on through to the start of the playoffs.”