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Noah Gragson Records Sixth-Place Finish in Hard-Fought Las Vegas Race

Noah Gragson finishes sixth Las Vegas Motor Speedway Pennzoil 400 2024 Stewart-Haas Racing

Photo Credit: Gavin Baker, NKP, Courtesy of Ford Performance

Noah Gragson finished sixth in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That sentence in and of itself is something that seven months ago would have seemed unfathomable. But here we are.

It was an incredible day for the 25-year-old racer, who had to bounce back from an L1 penalty stemming from illegal roof rail deflectors confiscated from his car at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend.

Despite the adversity surrounding Gragson over the past week, the driver had a very fast No. 10 Fanttik Ford Mustang, evidenced by his second-place speed in Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series practice session. Unfortunately, Gragson admittedly under-drove his car in qualifying and wound up with a disappointing 30th-place qualifying run.

“You can see the speed that [the Ford Mustang Dark Horse] had in qualifying, not for me because I drove like a sissy out there,” Gragson said, “but with the other guys they have three poles so far this year, so we’re going good.”

However, even with the subpar qualifying performance, Gragson and his Stewart-Haas Racing team knew he had a great car under him. Gragson just needed to have a stress-free event, where he could methodically work his way to the front.

He got it.

And at the end of possibly the most complete race he’s ever had at the NASCAR Cup Series level, Gragson emphasized how confident he is in his team.

“These guys are good,” Gragson said of his race team. “It feels good to do it in front of the hometown crowd. I was battling Ty [Gibbs] and Ross [Chastain] there at the end for a top-five. I really wanted a top-five, but coming from 30th to sixth I’m just really proud of everyone’s effort.”

When the green flag was waved to start Sunday’s race, the action was intense immediately. Drivers began to fan out three-wide, and Gragson was among the many jockeying for position in the opening laps.

By the first caution of the race on Lap 10, Gragson had moved inside the top-20.

Gragson would keep his head down and take what the race gave him, and as the race featured a long green flag run to close out Stage 1, Gragson’s car got better and better as the laps clicked away.

By the end of the opening Stage, the driver of the No. 10 Ford Mustang had climbed to 16th.

For the majority of Stage 2, Gragson would remain seemingly stuck in 16th to 18th position, but a caution near the end of the Stage for a spin by Christopher Bell allowed Drew Blickensderfer to play a little bit of strategy to gain Gragson some track position.

Gragson would remain on the track, while several drivers hit pit road, and he inherited the 13th position. Gragson would hold serve as he finished Stage 2 in 13th.

While Gragson would flirt with the top-10 for the duration of the final Stage, he would finally surge inside the top-10 by passing Austin Dillon with 35 laps to go in the race. It was at this point in the race that Gragson’s car came to life.

A caution for a spin by Corey LaJoie with 33 laps to go re-racked the field and gave Gragson a chance to make up some real ground. He capitalized.

On the ensuing restart, Gragson sliced his way to the middle of a three-wide pack. Gragson would blast past Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Ty Gibbs by the end of the first lap of green.

Gragson would get up to as high as fifth with 20 laps to go, and he had Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney in his grasp, but he would eventually get shuffled back to sixth, where he would remain as the checkered flag flew.

For Gragson, in his first season in the Ford Performance camp, and his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Sunday’s sixth-place effort marked the second top-10 through the first three races of the year.

While his ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500 felt good, Gragson is proud of how the new Ford Mustang Dark Horse competed at a traditional 1.5-mile intermediate oval.

“This is the first true testament,” Gragson stated of the new body for the Ford teams. “I don’t know. Blaney was up there and maybe a couple of other guys in the Ford camp, but this Mustang Dark Horse is bitchin’. It’s fast and it’s been really good.”

While it was a successful day at his home track, Gragson knows he’s just scratching the surface of his potential with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“Yeah, we definitely need to be better and I need to clean some stuff up,” Gragson explained. “Really, other than that last restart, I don’t think I had any net gains on restarts, so I need to keep working on that. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but overall it’s a good stepping stone to where we’re at right now.”

As Gragson and his team continue to figure out all of their areas of weakness, they’ll look to claw their way up the ranks from their current 34th-place points ranking. It’s no easy task, but Gragson feels he and his tight-knit group are up for the challenge.

“We’re gonna take this and get back into the positives in points and just keep on working, keep on learning and becoming better than we were yesterday, and just keep that attitude,” Gragson said. “I think we’ve got the tightest group in the garage. They’re awesome to work with and I love every one of them.”

Sunday, at Las Vegas, Gragson drove like a potential Playoff contender, and his team executed at the highest level as well. If Gragson and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team can continue building momentum, the 35-point penalty that they suffered following Atlanta may soon become nothing more than a distant memory.

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