Bass Pro Shops/Winchester Racing: Noah Gragson Kansas Advance

Stewart-Haas Racing

●  Two months ago, in just the third race of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series campaign at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Noah Gragson finished an impressive sixth. It was his third career top-10 and it came in his 42nd career Cup Series start, but only his third points-paying start with Stewart-Haas Racing. Since then, the driver of the No. 10 Bass Pro Shops/Winchester Ford Mustang Dark Horse has scored four finishes of 12th or better, including a career-best third-place drive two weeks at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and another sixth-place run last Sunday at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway. Las Vegas’ 1.5-mile oval is similarly structured to the 1.5-mile oval Gragson will visit this weekend – Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, host to Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 – and he’s eyeing the intermediate-style track for a Las Vegas-esque performance.

●  After the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gragson was mired a dismal 42nd in the championship standings. In the nine races that have followed, Gragson has clawed his way to 21st in points, a gain of 21 positions.

●  Last Sunday at Dover, Gragson made his milestone 50th career NASCAR Cup Series start. Three of those starts have come at Kansas, making the D-shaped oval in America’s Heartland one of the rare venues where Gragson has run multiple Cup Series races. In his first two Kansas races in 2022, Gragson earned a pair of 18th-place finishes. In his return to Kansas last May for the AdventHealth 400, Gragson finished 29th.

●  Gragson has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Kansas and, collectively, they are emblematic of his growth as a racecar driver. The Las Vegas native finished 13th in his first Xfinity Series start at Kansas in October 2019 and then scored a 15th-place finish in his return to the track in July 2020. Two strong runs at Kansas followed in October 2020 and October 2021 when Gragson led a total of 22 laps, but crashes left him with finishes of 36th and 35th, respectively. But in Gragson’s fifth and final Xfinity Series start at Kansas, he put a whole race together and punctuated it with an exclamation point. In September 2022, Gragson qualified fifth and then led three times for 20 laps, including the final 18, to take the victory. It was the 10th of his 13 career Xfinity Series wins.

●  Before that NASCAR Xfinity Series triumph at Kansas, Gragson had already put his name on the track’s list of winners. In May 2018, in his second and final NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start at Kansas, Gragson dominated. He won the pole with a lap of 30.564 seconds at 176.678 mph and proceeded to lead five times for a race-high 128 laps, pacing the field for all but 39 of race’s 167 laps.

●  Gragson’s Kansas debut came in the ARCA Menards Series. On Oct. 14, 2016, an 18-year-old Gragson started eighth and finished fifth in the Kansas 150.

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 10 Bass Pro Shops/Winchester Ford Mustang Dark Horse

You finished sixth earlier this year at Las Vegas – a 1.5-mile oval that has similar characteristics to Kansas. While that race was back in March, can what you learned in Las Vegas translate to Kansas?

“I think the mile-and-a-halves are the bread and butter for our program. Specifically, it seems like we’ve had good speed at the two we’ve been at, we’ve had good pace. So with that being said, it definitely is one that interests me, going back to a mile-and-a-half. I’m looking forward to Kansas, Darlington, Charlotte and the rest of the mile-and-a-halves this year just because I feel like that’s probably where I excel at, now, as a driver. I used to love the short tracks and felt like I was really good and only got wins on short tracks. Now, I feel like I’m terrible at the short tracks and better at the intermediate-style tracks.”

How much of a factor is the wind at Kansas?

“I haven’t really noticed the wind too much at any racetrack. I know it gets pretty bad at Vegas and some other tracks, but I don’t really feel it too much in the car. A lot of guys are pretty sensitive to it but, I don’t know why, I haven’t been able to notice it in huge amounts.”

Kansas is a track where you have a decent amount of NASCAR Cup Series experience with three starts at the 1.5-mile oval. You’ve got two 18th-place finishes and one run of 29th. What has that place been like for you in a Cup car?

“I’ve always run pretty strong at Kansas. I don’t know if it’s necessarily my favorite track, but it’s definitely been a good track and I’ve figured it out, gotten an Xfinity win there, a Truck win, and have run well during the Cup races. Haven’t finished great, but ran great.”

You have five starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Kansas. Those first four starts were a bit of a struggle, but that fifth start was impressive. You qualified fifth and led three times for 20 laps, including the final 18, to take the win. How’d you do it, and how satisfying was it to take the checkered flag?

“It was either hit or miss there. We always ran well there but never finished well. But once I finally figured out how to put a whole race together, we ended up getting a win. The same thing happened in Trucks, too. The first year I went there, had decent speed but just didn’t capitalize on the entirety of the day. That’s kind of how the Cup races have been, too. Nonetheless, it’s a fun track and, to be able to put it all together, it’s good.”

That Xfinity Series win at Kansas was not your first win there. You won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Kansas in 2018, and pretty handily, too. You won the pole and led five times for a race-high 128 laps, and the race only went 167 laps. It was only your second-ever start at the track and you beat your boss at the time, Kyle Busch. How’d you do it?

“It was probably bigger just to win the race, in general. It was definitely a little sweeter because Kyle was in it, but we had a lot of speed that year and, once again, didn’t capitalize on the races where we had that speed and had shots to win. I got the pole, we won the first stage, the second stage, and ultimately won the race, so it was kind of a perfect day, a perfect weekend. That was a pretty cool moment.”

You ran an ARCA race at Kansas in 2016 and finished fifth. At that time, it was one of the bigger tracks you had raced on. What were you experiencing as an 18-year-old competing at Kansas? 

“It was crazy. I never dealt with aero too much and having to move myself around, so learning on the fly and trying to figure that out and how to position your car just so you could have the best aero positioning was big, and that place was fast, learning how to drive around that place. I wish I could go back to that day knowing what I know now, I probably would’ve won that race. But with that being said, I was doing all I could to try and figure it out on the fly, and as I’ve gained experience, I’ve definitely learned a lot since that day.”


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