It’s been a long time coming for the Las Vegas native who is competing for his first championship. this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Noah Gragson started racing in the Truck Series in 2016 in the final two races of the year at ISM and Homestead.
Since then, he’s become a fan favorite among the younger and older fans. Gragson is slowly but surely gaining popularity and a solid fan base every year. He is currently in the top five fan vote for the most popular driver in the Truck Series, which speaks volumes to his rising star status. Certainly, winning a championship could improve the odds of him winning the popular driver award.
How Gragson Got Here? Gragson won at Kansas in May solidifying a spot in the Playoffs. It wasn’t easy before that, however, as he crashed at Daytona to start the season. He ran second at Atlanta, 12th at Las Vegas in the March race, fifth at Martinsville, and wrecked out at Dover after trying to take the lead from Johnny Sauter in the final laps. Gragson’s moment to shine came at Kansas, where he started first and finished first, after leading 128 laps. Since then, he’s been consistent by winning stages, leading laps, and running up front. He also has a couple of poles at Chicago and Kentucky, which are Homestead-like tracks.
When the playoffs began at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Gragson was following close behind teammate Todd Gilliland, who was also seeking his first win. Gragson made a dive bomb move and took both of them out for the win and a decent finish. At Vegas and Talladega, he had finishes of 18th and 13th. Gragson was leading on the final lap before he got taken out at Talladega for the win.
Coming into ISM, he was 18 points above the cut line, needing a solid points day. After the dismal Texas race, Gragson was determined to win and he almost pulled it off, but it didn’t come without challenges. He started on the pole and finished second, and eighth, respectively in both stages. However, during a caution, Gragson slid through his pit box causing him to lose several spots. He rebounded and was back as the leader on lap 136. Enfinger, who also was fighting for a win the Championship 4, was ahead of Gragson at times in the race. Had Enfinger won, Noah would have been knocked out of the contention for the championship. But the Las Vegas native pulled it off on a late race restart and held off an aggressive Enfinger to claim his spot in the Championship 4.
Gragson’s Chances? Since he made his debut in 2016, Gragson has two starts at Homestead with finishes of 15th and 18th. In last year’s race, he finished three laps down. That’s not good enough to become champion unless something catastrophic happens to the other three which would be a rare case, but it has happened before.
Final Analysis – For right now, it would be Gragson’s last truck race for quite a while, as he moves up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series to drive for the No. 1 JR Motorsports team in 2019 replacing the retired Elliott Sadler. It would end on a sweet note for the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver if he’s able to lock up the championship. In 2018, Gragson has one win, four top fives and 13 top 10s, and 187 laps led along with four DNF’s and three poles. Another notable, if he wins the championship, Noah would be the third KBM driver to win it and the second youngest to win the championship in the Truck Series at the age of 20.