It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson. He has been dealing with the mental anguish of his father being arrested for a fatal DWI, while also trying to hone in on his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory. Saturday, at Michigan International Speedway Gragson took another step toward achieving that goal as he secured his career-best finish.
Gragson’s impressive runner-up effort didn’t come easy though, even if it looked like it’d be smooth sailing in the early portions of the race.
After starting the day from the fourth position, Gragson was calmly showing top-five speed all throughout the first Stage. However, Stage 2 is where things got interesting. While coming to pit road under yellow, Brandon Jones checked up in front of Gragson, and there was nowhere the driver of the No. 9 car could go except into the rear of the No. 19 car.
“It was challenging,” Gragson said of his day. “We got ourselves in a hole there in the second stage during the pit stops. I think [Jones] checked up and I hit him. Just nowhere to go on pit road.”
This crumpled Gragson’s left front bumper area at the ultra-aerodynamic sensitive Michigan. As a result, Gragson would stay on pit road for additional repairs, and in doing so he would give up his track position on a day where passing a car was as hard as passing a kidney stone. However, the ear mark of the last few weeks for Gragson and his No. 9 race team has been never giving up.
Gragson buckled down and made all of the moves he needed down the stretch. His team rewarded his effort on the track with a pit strategy that put him in a sequence to have a chance at winning late in the race. Ultimately, Gragson came home second.
“Great effort by everybody on my Switch team at JR Motorsports,” a prideful Gragson said. “They never quit just like me, we just keep on going until the finish. Strong three weeks for myself and this team, we just gotta keep on digging.”
Over the last three races, Gragson has two top-five finishes and his worst effort over the span was a sixth-place effort in Pocono. He and the No. 9 team have momentum starting to roll on their side after a sluggish start to the season.
Things have improved so much, and so rapidly that Gragson actually walked out of Michigan disappointed with his runner-up finish.
“I want to win,” Gragson stated emphatically. “I want to beat that damn [No.] 2 [car] so bad, but man. Just frustrated but I know we can race with these guys.”
If Gragson keeps racing with the fire he has had the last few weeks, a win surely is just around the corner.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.