Noah Gragson set to cash in on "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity"
The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is off to a rousing start for Noah Gragson but the biggest party may be yet to come.
Gragson, 21, earned his first career series win last weekend in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, joining a distinguished list of JR Motorsports drivers who have together won the event seven times.
If that wasn’t a confidence builder enough, thanks to a change in the 2020 schedule, the series’ next stop this weekend is at Las Vegas, Gragson’s hometown, and where he has found much success in his racing career.
“It’s huge. It’s huge not only going to Vegas but to be able to spend quality time with my family and get the win here early on in the season, first race of the year,” Gragson said. “We're locked into the playoffs.
“We’ve got five playoff points and some good points throughout the race. We scored points in all three of the stages (of the race). I’m really proud of this team.
“I’m really proud to be able to go back to Vegas. I’ve got some friends and family there. I’m going to spend some quality time with my family and try and get prepared.”
Following his first series win at Daytona last weekend, Gragson is looking to become just the fourth different driver to win the first two races of a Xfinity season; joining Dale Earnhardt (1986: Daytona, Rockingham), Chad Little (1995: Daytona, Rockingham) and Tony Stewart (2008: Daytona, California).
Gragson has made two series starts at Las Vegas, earning one top-five (third in this race last season) and two top-10 finishes. His average finish at Vegas is 4.5 – series-best among drivers entered in this weekend’s race.
After struggling through a difficult first fulltime season in the Xfinity Series last year, Gragson put in extra effort – both on the track and off – in preparation for his second season.
Even before his reached Victory Lane, his crew chief, Dave Elenz, lauded his driver’s performance in the event during an in-race interview from the team’s pit box.
“The time is now; the opportunity is now. I just need to execute here this year, and it’s a big year for me. I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try and be the best I can be,” he said.
“I know when I lay my head down at night, if I feel like I've done all the reps in the gym, I've prepared the best I could, I'm spending good quality time with my team, if I feel like I've done everything to the best I can with no regrets, then no matter the result, you can’t control the results necessarily, you can just control what you can do.
“If I feel like I can do everything possible to make me better and lay my head down at night, then I’ll be satisfied regardless of the results.”
Gragson has had a solid NASCAR career thus far but with several top-level rides available next season in the Cup Series, a strong sophomore season in Xfinity could determine whether his name enters those conversations.
“I know for sure where his heart is and where his mind is on his craft and that he wants it badly and that he wants to do what he needs to do and work hard to be successful,” team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said of Gragson.
“He’s very young, and I was disappointed with last year, and I think he was, too, and we certainly had had a lot of success with Dave and that program, but it just was a tough year for whatever reason.
“This year will have its ups and downs just like they all do, and we'll work with Noah to try to give him the best opportunity to succeed.”
Noah Gragson earns first Xfinity Series win at Daytona
NASCAR weekend schedule at Las Vegas