Homestead Xfinity Series Recap: Noah Gragson

(Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Start: 10th
Finish: 4th

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 PUBG Mobile Chevrolet Camaro, closed out the 2019 season with a strong fourth-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s season finale for the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With today’s finish, Gragson concludes the 2019 NXS campaign with a total of nine top-fives, 22 top-10s and an overall average finish of 9.3. The JR Motorsports driver also with the result scored his 19th top-10 in the final 23 races, dating back to Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

Gragson lined up for the 200-lap event from the 10th position after fighting a loose-handling condition during Saturday morning’s qualifying session. Despite the loose condition, the driver of the PUBG Mobile Chevrolet marched forward once under green, utilizing the outside line to race up to the sixth position before the first caution flag of the day was displayed on lap 4. Gragson fought inside the top 10 following the restart, maintaining his track position until a lap 32 caution provided crew chief Dave Elenz an opportunity to play with some strategy. With several of the leaders opting to come to pit road, Elenz made the call to keep Gragson out on the track, moving the JRM driver up to second for the lap 37 restart.

With the help of a strong restart, Gragson raced into the lead for the first time on lap 38 and held on to the top spot for two laps before the fresher tires from the cars behind prevailed. Fighting for all the track position he could in the closing laps of the stage, Gragson was ultimately shuffled back to 11th when the green-and-white checkered flag was displayed to end Stage One on lap 45.

During the stage-ending caution, Elenz called Gragson to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment after the 21-year-old driver reported that he was still fighting the loose-handling condition. Returning to the track following the stop in 11th, Gragson again pressed forward, taking advantage of a second stage dominated by long green flag runs to race back into the top 10 and up to sixth by the time Stage Two came to a close on lap 90.

Then, prior to the beginning of the final stage, the driver of the PUBG Mobile Chevrolet returned to pit road for four tires and another round of adjustments after reporting that he needed help with the rear-end security rolling through the corner. A strong stop by the pit crew gained the Las Vegas native two positions on pit road and sent Gragson back out for the ensuing restart in fourth. From there Gragson pressed forward, utilizing the outside line to charge into the race lead. Gragson would remain out front for the eight laps that followed before a tight-handling condition through the center of the corner shuffled the rookie driver back to fifth. Gragson would then maintain his top-five track position until a lap 122 caution period provided Elenz with another chance to make adjustments to the PUBG Mobile Chevrolet.

Gragson returned to the track for the lap 127 restart in third following another strong stop by the pit crew, but was quickly shuffled back to ninth after getting forced into a three-wide situation in between Turns 1 and 2. Undaunted by the loss of track position Gragson pushed on, taking advantage of strong long-run speed to drive back up to sixth before the lone round of green flag pit stops began on lap 160. After pitting for the final set of fresh tires Gragson continued to climb forward, using the momentum built by running up next to the wall to march back into the top five.

In the closing laps, Gragson would battle with the No. 98 of fellow rookie driver Chase Briscoe before taking the final checkered flag of the 2019 season in the fourth position.

Tyler Reddick scored the season-ending victory, with Cole Custer, Briscoe, Gragson and Christopher Bell rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 PUBG Mobile team

“Tonight was fun. To be able to run up by the wall like we were and to make up time like we did all day long was really awesome. It was just a really fun night overall and I can’t thank everyone on this PUBG Mobile team enough. We fought hard all year long and learned a ton as a group that has me really excited for what next year will be for us. I’m just really proud to be a part of this team and to be a part of JR Motorsports. This is a great group and I can’t wait to see what we can do next year.”