Toyota NCWTS Kansas Post-Race Report

by Official Release On Sat, May. 12, 2018

Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Kansas Speedway
Race 6 of 23 – 250.5 miles, 167 laps
May 11, 2018

3rd, Stewart Friesen*
4th, John Hunter Nemechek*
5th, Johnny Sauter*
*non-Toyota driver

1st, Johnny Sauter* 275 points
2nd, NOAH GRAGSON 240 points
3rd, Grant Enfinger* 214 points
4th, BRETT MOFFITT 213 points
5th, Ben Rhodes* 213 points
18th, SPENCER DAVIS 94 points
22nd, DAVID GILLILAND 72 points
23rd, TODD GILLILAND 71 points
25th, HARRISON BURTON 66 points
*non-Toyota driver
**unofficial point standings

· Tundra driver Noah Gragson was victorious in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Kansas Speedway.
· The Las Vegas native started from the pole position, won both stages and led the most laps (128 of 167 laps) to claim his first victory of the season and secure his place in the playoffs.
· This is Gragson’s second career NCWTS victory after also winning at Martinsville Speedway last fall.
· Toyota driver and NCWTS team owner Kyle Busch finished second to give his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) there fifth one-two finish since its inception in 2010.
· This is the third win this year by a Tundra driver and 173 since entering the series in 2004. Likewise, this is KBM’s 67th NCWTS victory – all of which have been in Toyota Tundras.
· Toyota driver Brandon Jones made his first NCWTS of the year and finished ninth for his 16th top-10 finish in 36 series starts.


NOAH GRAGSON, No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Finishing Position: 1st

What does this win mean to you after everything you went through last week?

“This is such a relief for a driver that had a hard week last week battling for the win between myself and Johnny Sauter. We came back stronger this weekend with two consecutive poles in a row. Led the most laps today. Man, this is a pretty damn cool moment. I’m so thankful for everyone at Safelite, Switch, Toyota, TRD – everyone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), Samantha and Kyle Busch – my parents, my mom definitely. Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I know you’re watching in Italy with dad right now, I love you guys. Thank you so much for everything you do. It’s so awesome to get here with Safelite AutoGlass. First win of the year and we’re going to the playoffs and I can tell you there’s going to be a lot more wins this year with this group behind me. We had solid pit stops all day.”

What was it like taking four tires early and chasing down all the trucks to regain the lead?

“Man, I thought I came out of the pits and I thought I was going to be the leader. They told me that Johnny (Sauter) was stretching on fuel, so I thought maybe I’m running second. Then they said the 52 (Stewart Friesen) and 4 (Kyle Busch) were a half lap ahead and I thought that was for the lead. I passed the 4 and then I passed the 52 and then they said the 13 (Myatt Snider) is the leader. I was like, ‘Dang, how many leaders are there going to be?’ We made it happen there at the end. Solid pit crew. They did an amazing job with pit stops today. We executed perfectly today and we got the job done. Thanks to Safelite AutoGlass, Switch and Toyota for allowing this dream to happen.”

What were your biggest challenges tonight?

“We had plenty of challenges with our Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra tonight. Not in a bad way from the Toyota Tundra handling standpoint. My Tundra handled perfectly all night. Strategy there at the end. Green flag pit road stops were a challenge. I worked on it during practice and I made sure I wasn’t going to make any mistakes there on the last stop and that’s the one that paid off. There at the end, I thought I was going to come out the leader but I didn’t, and there were guys in front of me. Heck of a job by everyone at Safelite AutoGlass, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Switch, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and my mom and dad who make this possible.

Did you have extra pressure tonight?

“No, I don’t think so. It makes my job easier. I can’t say enough how much Kyle Busch Motorsports helps. They work their tails off. They are the best in the business and it definitely shows. I have so much confidence in myself. Last week doesn’t have any remark on me right now. I put that away and just going into the future from here.”

How do you compare this win to your first, especially considering the tribulations you experienced last week?

“This has been a dream of mine to be back in victory lane. It’s been a real privilege to be able to do it with my Safelite AutoGlass team, and my team leader Rudy Fugle (crew chief). He just walked away. He’s been the leader of this team and he’s changed me as a driver this year. He’s made me better as a person, not only on the track but off the track, too. Just trying to better myself no matter what I’m doing. I’ve changed who I am this year, not in a bad way, just more so looking for the positives and trying to get the most out of myself. It is so awesome to be back in victory lane with all the Safelight guests that came out today. It’s been a real privilege to be able to drive these Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundras and I’m just so fortunate for the opportunity.”

Did you have something to prove here today?

“You’re always going to have a bit of that chip on your shoulder. I was battling for the win last week and we were really fast. We had another Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra last week and didn’t get the job done. I raced the Xfinity Series race and that really helped my confidence get back to where it needed to be and just being able to surround myself with everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. All the fans for being so supportive of me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I got a lot of positive comments. I read all those comments, good or bad from the fans and they keep me going. There’s a little bit. I knew we had a fast Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra. We sat on the pole. You always want to go into a race where you feel like you should have won the weekend before and you really want to go dominate that race all day long and I felt like that’s what we did today. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity without my team. They work so hard and bust their tails every single day. Just very fortunate.”

Did you feel the choice to pit early was going to be the race-winning move?

“No, I thought I sped about – I was trying to pile my rear brake into it because my first pit stop I got in there and locked up and got a little sideways so I kept dialing rear brake down which would help me get straighter into the pit box, but it turned back to the right. When we went down pit road during that green flag pit stop, I was pumping the brake and I saw my tachometer and I pushed it one more light and there’s a blink of an eye when I saw what I normally run one red light and I was running two on the car, and that wasn’t good. I kind of had a little bit in the back of my head, like I hope they don’t catch me for speeding and they didn’t. Just a hell of a call by my crew chief Rudy Fugle and the pit crew for doing a phenomenal job on pit road all weekend. They really stepped up their game from last week. We lost spots pretty much every race before this and they came in stronger and knew what they had to do and did their jobs. We just executed all day. They kept telling me when I came off pit road – so we took four tires – and they kept telling me like, ‘The 21 (Johnny Sauter) is the leader in front of you but he’s running out.’ So I’m like, ‘Okay.’ I thought I was leading, but then they said that about the 21 and if I’m running second, that’s not bad. I passed the 21 and they said, ‘Okay, the 52 (Stewart Friesen) and the 4 (Kyle Busch) are running first and second right now and they are on two tires. I was like shoot, I’m a half second faster than them, so I thought I could run them down with 20 laps to go and they said I was going to be alright, so I ran them down and passed Kyle then I passed the 52. I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I’m the leader, it’s game over.’ Then they said you’re in second right now to the 13 (Myatt Snider). I asked, ‘How many leaders are there going to be?’ It just kept me focus all night and I’m all over the walls and can barely sit still for longer than probably 25 seconds. My spotter, Tony Hirschman got me through all the lap traffic and I think that paid big dividends tonight.”

What’s been the biggest difference in confidence from last year to this year?

“My mile-and-a-half program last year was, my performance was very low and that’s just coming from short track racing and moving up to these mile-and-a-half tracks and not having the experience racing these tracks. I was almost, not literally, but at an all-time low suicide watch, not literally – that is not – don’t put that as quotes as being serious. I was at a pretty big low and very disappointed with myself and didn’t know how I was going to break out of that hole and carry on until about the late summer months and then I started figuring it out. I really struggle with the mile-and-a-half racing. With Charlotte, Kansas right there – I just made mistakes and didn’t know what to expect as a rookie. This year it’s different coming into these races. I know what I need to do, I know what my Toyota Tundra needs to feel like in practice to be able to be good during the race and how my Toyota Tundra is going to handle behind guys. I’ve learned that air and can really execute now. It’s all about gaining that knowledge of just learning from all my mistakes last year and trying to capitalize on that this year.”

Do you feel you are a championship worthy contender?

“I felt like that pretty much all year. A lot of that is being able to work with Rudy Fugle (crew chief) and the team. I feel like they are the best team in the business and it shows year in and year out. Rudy, they say he has the magic touch and I don’t know if I believe in that, but there’s stuff in there that he’s able to do. He’s a very, very good coach. I’m thankful for all my experiences with Marcus Richmond and the team I worked with last year at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I learned a lot from them, and I feel like working with Rudy Fugle now, I’m doubling my knowledge and I’m gaining on my notebook and he’s telling me what I need to be looking for and stays on me. As silly as this sounds, he’s like a father figure to me, just trying to always push me to be better whether it’s on the race track or off the race track, he’s trying to tell me to make the right decisions. He stays on me about that and I feel like it’s paying off and I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been, most confident I’ve ever been. I’m just the most fun I’ve ever had behind the wheel of a race car. Being able to work with Rudy Fugle, he’d be very stern and hard, and I wasn’t going to be able to make a joke, I’m the outgoing type and he’s taught me there’s a time and a place for everything and when we’re at the race track it’s the time to be business and all work. I feel like we are definitely a championship contender, definitely to be able to work with Rudy Fugle and the rest of – it’s a real privilege to be at Kyle Busch Motorsports.”

How did you feel after climbing the fence this time after your victory?

“I actually did get pretty close. So, I climbed up (the fence) and I was sitting up there and was trying to take my time and let everything sink in. I probably stayed up there a little longer than I should have. I was pumping up the crowd who was awesome tonight. They were cheering for me and I hope we put on a good show there at the end. I climbed down and was like, ‘This is not happening again – no way!’ I was close to puking. I almost got there like halfway up, I was like (gagging noises) and then I held it in. That’s a step in the right direction for me. We’re making gains all over the race track, off the race track, puking and hopefully I can get a quarter of the way up and then an eighth of the way up, and then not up at all. Just trying to keep it down. It’s all water – I didn’t eat much today. I think that’s what it is, it’s just water that would come up.”

RUDY FUGLE, Crew Chief, No. 18 Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Talk about the race tonight and Noah’s performance.

“Yeah it started back in Stage 1,which was cruise control. And the second stage was pretty pressured and Noah had to show a lot poise and stay after it discipline. He did all of those things. And I think that helped him handle everything in the final stage. He made that green flag stop and I knew somebody was thinking was two but I didn’t think anyone thought far enough ahead and I don’t think our teammate was even doing it. Once I saw the lap times, I just said stay after it and do your thing. No need to rush it. He did a really good job taking care of his stuff. A lot of people try to get too much and he trusted the plan and got there.”

Were you confident that pit strategy was going to pay off at the end?

“For sure. The No. 24 took two tires there earlier and all day long that four tires were the way to go. He had to run so many laps on them. And them racing each other was helpful, too. I didn’t think there would be any problem getting there.”

KYLE BUSCH, No. 4 Cessna Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Finishing Position: 2nd

Did you know the 18 was going to overtake you for the win?

“The 18 (Noah Gragson) was coming, but if I could have got by the 52 (Stewart Friesen), when I got ran through the grass, I could have gotten enough of a gap to hold the 18 off. They were faster than us and deserved to win the race. They were better than us all weekend. We just didn’t have it in this Cessna No. 4 Tundra today. I thought we were close and the truck felt after about 15 laps, it took too long to come in. There on that last run we didn’t make the adjustments, we took two tires and got way too tight. Shoulda, coulda, woulda – awesome run by those guys. They were fast and deserved it. They needed a boost and they got one. They’re going to race for a championship, so hopefully this will help them get going.”

Did you talk to Noah Gragson after last week to help him refocus and come back with tonight’s victory as his team owner?

“I’d like to think I had something to do with it. Him and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) have a great relationship in what they can talk about and what they can do. It certainly shows a lot of character out of that team and those guys that they’re able to come out here and win tonight and shake that off and put it behind them. Obviously we talked this week and had a great conversation. He took everything in stride. It was just a way to make all this better because he knows he’s racing for a championship and he’s ready to show the competition he’s ready for that.

Talk about your race and Noah Gragson’s performance.

“We had a pretty good truck. We certainly came with a couple things different than what Rudy (Fugle, crew chief No. 4 Tundra) and Noah (Gragson) came with. We tried two different packages to see what was better. I think we learned which one was better. I thought we were going to be pretty close. But I couldn’t get going on the short-run. Any time we put tires on it, it wouldn’t fire for five to eight laps and we finally it would get going. Once it got going, I could run some guys down but it was hard to pass once everybody was rim-riding around the wall. That made it difficult for us there at the end. Getting behind the No. 52 was hard as well but Noah did a great job coming through with his four tires and making the right moves to get the lead.”

If you can’t win, are you happy one of your trucks got the win?

“Absolutely. It makes a little easier when I am not the one in victory lane but one of my trucks and drivers are ahead of me.”

Do you accept Stewart Friesen’s apology?

“Not at the moment.”

What’s Noah’s biggest weakness that you’re working with him on?

“There are weaknesses in general with people. And weaknesses with me that I am still trying to work on. But as far as Noah goes, I think he comes across a little bit wore out or emotional after a race. I think he does put a lot of pressure on himself because it’s what guys in his position, and what I did when I was in position do. You live and breathe this stuff. It’s all you want and what you want to do for a living. You have to make it. And he hasn’t made it yet. Obviously he is doing a really good job of working his way in winning this race here at 1.5-mile track, which is a challenging track and running up to the wall there at the end – which is exactly what Homestead (Miami Speedway) was really impressive. He should take a lot of confidence from that into the rest of the year with his team and race for a championship.”

Do you think Noah running the Xfinity Series had a role in boosting his confidence here tonight?

“Absolutely, I think it was really good for him to have those experiences. It gives you some better opportunities to see where you’re at and where you stack up against the competition when you’re able to go up to another series and feel it out a bit. The (NASCAR) Xfinity Cars drive a little better than the Trucks. I am not surprised that guys get to the Xfinity level and trust the vehicle a little bit more once they get there. I think that helped him get a confidence boost of being able to come here and know what he feels and what he wants in his vehicle.”

Does tonight’s performance make Noah championship ready?

“Yes and no. I am not going to say he’s going to go to Homestead and win the race tomorrow. I think this obviously gives him confidence for him and his team and the ability they have on 1.5-mile tracks. He stomped our butt here this weekend and beat one of the best in myself. We were lengths ahead of third place all night long and Noah had a good enough truck that he was driving away from me at points and doing a good job with it. He should take some credit in that and keep it going throughout the rest of the year. You have to be good everywhere.”

Did he show you something by coming back after last week and finish this race with a win?

“Yes and no. I deal with him at the shop and so does Rudy. We know what Noah is and what he is like and what his character says about him. I think what he did was make a statement and prove to his competition that he’s not a fluke. And that he can come out here and do a great job. And when it comes down to the end of the year, he has the ability to put bad days behind him and go out next week and stomp the competition.”

Were you thinking about getting the NCWTS wins record tonight?

“Certainly. If it happens, it happens. Everybody asks me about it each week so I am well aware of it. We gave up a chance to win at Atlanta (Motor Speedway) and we did win at Las Vegas (Motor Speedway) and finished second here. We have a pretty good run going of good finishes and have done a good job. All of Kyle Busch Motorsports seems to be doing a good job. Really pumped and excited for what Rudy has been able to lead this company to and what the other crew chiefs are doing in his footsteps as well. My next race is Charlotte (Motor Speedway) in the No. 51. I have no more races in the No. 4. I am looking forward to my races in the No. 51.”

Wasn’t there pack racing at Vegas and why was that different than Kansas tonight?

“I never ran one lap in the race wide open. Vegas you can run the whole race wide open. Certainly in the beginning of the run anyone at Vegas can run wide open so there are guys closer together. The more you can run wide open and rely on the draft to suck up down the straight away to keep connected to the group. That happens. Then they are just losing time to the guys that can stay in the gas so it created more separation here. Charlotte (Motor Speedway) will be more like this or a little between the two. You can’t race side-by-side. As much as we’d like to, anyway. The trucks get so loose on the inside of someone else. Side-by-side thing is tough but Charlotte will be more like here with the bumps.”

How important is it your drivers have passion for the sport?

“It’s really good because it shows how much they want it. I know that there are a lot of guys that want it too. Ben Rhodes is one. Brett Moffitt is one. Those guys do an amazing job as well. They’re with different teams and they have had results. But none may be as much as the guys who have been in the KBM fold. We certainly feel like we have three really good teams. People would say there is an A, B and C program. I keep trying to run with the two teams at least and that we’re doing a good job of those teams how I race to be able to put a Brandon Jones in there or a Spencer Davis or someone else to run just as well as I can.”

How do you expect Todd Gilliland to perform in the truck full-time heading into Charlotte?

“I’m looking forward to it. There is a lot of things that are challenging that the 1.5-mile tracks that make this racing really tough but the closer you are to the front, the better the truck is, the better chance you have at being able to perform and outshine the competition. Todd is at every one of our meetings and is in the shop all of the time. And he’s taking it all in and listening up and writing stuff down. Hopefully it’s a seamless transition for him to the get in the truck full-time.”

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