A ‘motivated’ team has Gragson focused for the playoffs
Noah Gragson leads the standings heading into the first round of the playoffs. (HHP/Chris Owens)
It’s nearly impossible to find a driver on a hotter streak than Noah Gragson heading into the NASCAR Xfinity playoffs.
The JR Motorsports driver has won the last three checkered flags on the Xfinity Series circuit, moving up to Darlington (SC) Raceway to start September.
As Gragson heads into the first race of the playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet sits in first place in the standings, 46 points above the cut line.
Despite having the highest point buffer of 12 playoff drivers, Gragson doesn’t want to look ahead, with the unpredictability the playoffs can bring.
“I think we’re confident we can win in the Round of 16. We’re confident we can win this weekend in Texas. But at the end of the day, the Round of 16 is what we’re looking at,” Gragson said. “We need to maintain and have strong races. Finish in the top five of those three races, collect stage points.
“Yes, we have playoff points to build on in this first round, but at the same time, anything can happen. We owe you nothing. No matter how your regular season goes, we owe you nothing, even if it’s the round of 16.
“There are guys in the Cup. Look how many of them got in trouble,” Gragson continued. “I know the situation and the circumstances are a bit different with the different series. But, at the same time, we don’t owe you anything. You cannot bet on anything. That being said, yes, I hope we make it to the round of 16. Hopefully we’re still in the playoffs. We have Homestead, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
As Gragson enters the final stretch of his full-time Xfinity Series career before moving to the Cup Series with Petty GMS Racing next season, Gragson’s goal is simple: have fun and win a championship.
The 24-year-old had a shot at winning the title last season, but finished third in the final at Phoenix Raceway.
This time around is Gragson’s last hurrah with the #9 JR Motorsports team, a moment he’s soaking up.
“We’re hungry. We’re confident, we’re motivated, we’re having fun,” Gragson said. for the next few years, do Cup races with Petty GMS.
“Being at JR Motorsports, it’s my fourth year there. We want to win a championship. We’ve been close. We had the opportunity to win a championship last year, we couldn’t do it. We want that same opportunity this year in Phoenix.
For Gragson and the No. 9 team, this season has been about having a tight base as they look to redeem themselves in the playoffs.
“I feel like personally, just try to work hard throughout the week, no matter how the weekends go, good or bad,” Gragson said. “But, trying to work even harder now that it’s the playoffs, and trying to maintain that streak, I don’t know. We’re really pumped up as a team right now. We went to the shop early before the guys start working, and we’re going to be working there at JR Motorsports and trying to bond as a team, trying to have fun.
With the most wins in the Xfinity Series this season (six), Gragson and his team have found a winning formula.
Although the playoffs are a metaphorical reset button, Gragson’s mindset remains focused on the task at hand, knowing that there is still work to be done to achieve the team’s ultimate goal.
“Yeah, we have momentum right now, but you’re only as good as your last weekend,” Gragson said. “We have to maintain that and keep working hard. So I think that motivates me to keep having good races, to maintain that momentum, because I know it’s a crucial and critical time for our team to be able to continue with race-to-race momentum. , and we want it to continue.