Noah Gragson made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut Friday night at Richmond. The 20-year old driver from Las Vegas, NV had an impressive showing finishing second on a track that requires a finesse touch from the driver’s seat. Even with the great debut, Gragson feels there could have been a different outcome.
Richmond is known for being a track at which a driver must take care of their equipment, especially tires. It’s very easy to burn up a set of tires quickly by running too hard early in a run. Tire management is a key to success at the .750 mile track.
When tire management is so crucial, the veterans in the field usually shine while rookies or less experienced drivers struggle. This was not the case Friday. Gragson handled the situation very well, looking like someone who had been driving these cars and at this track for years.
Gragson competes full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but that series does not compete at Richmond. Gragson has 29 starts in the NCWTS and has visited victory lane once at Martinsville.
Near the end of the second stage, Gragson says he found a way to run well on old tires and, like a veteran, he was saving it for later in the race. “I found something there at the end of the second stage on old tires and I just kept it in the back of my mind, saved it to the end of the race. With about 20 to go I started thinking about it and with about 18 to go I couldn’t really wait much longer. I tried it and I gained about two to three car lengths on Christopher (Bell) and rolled pretty close up to him.”
As the final stage dwindled down, it was time to make his move, but Gragson’s team had different advice. Gragson continued, “And, then my spotter Rick Carelli told me not to use it too soon, so I backed off and caught some lapped cars there at the wrong time there at the end and never really got to use it again. Just looking back on it I probably should have stuck to my own and done it and went along and passed him, but man I wish I could just go back there and do that again. I probably would’ve had a different outcome.”
Had Gragson been able to utilize his plan, it could have been a phenomenal story. If this performance is any indication, there will be many more chances for Gragson to prove himself.