Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Gragson Brings Fast Mustang to Sixth in Las Vegas

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

“This Mustang Dark Horse is bitchin’!”

Noah Gragson didn’t mince any words on how he felt about bringing home a superb sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In a race where the four-car organization remained quiet or faltered, Gragson and his No. 10 squad put together a strong showing. Notably, Gragson’s charge towards his third career top-10 finish shined bright in the final 27 green flag laps where he was in a battle for a top-five finish, but was no match for Ross Chastain and Ty Gibbs.

“These guys are good. It feels good to do it in front of the hometown crowd,” said Gragson. “I was battling Ty and Ross there at the end for a top five. I really wanted a top five, but coming from 30th to sixth I’m just really proud of everyone’s effort

A top-10 finish was crucial for Gragson as it came in a time period where the No. 10 team needed a strong result. Not because they’ve haven’t had the race results as a ninth in the Daytona 500 being a highlight, but overcoming a detrimental penalty.

On Tuesday, NASCAR laid the book on Gragson and Ryan Preece’s teams after having their roof rails confiscated prior to last Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Consequently, both drivers and their race teams were penalized 35 points as NASCAR weren’t happy finding finding their rails dented.

Per the rules and regulations, the rails are supposed to remain flat which the No. 10 and Preece’s No. 41 team were caught violating. Prior to Cup qualifying, the parts and Joey Logano’s webbed glove were on full display for the press to see.

In the case of Gragson, the penalty proved to worsen an already rough race in Atlanta as a crash ended his race in 36th. Due to the 35-point deduction, Gragson entered Las Vegas at -6 points which made him the first driver since Justin Haley a year ago to enter a Cup race in the red column for points.

Fortunately for the Nevada native, he wouldn’t have to worry about the huge deficit after racking up 31 points which put him last in points to 34th heading into Phoenix Raceway.

Moreover, when he was able to capitalize on a promising Mustang at the 1.5-mile circuit where superspeedway racing isn’t the word. Instead, it’s all about performance and making most out of the rules package.

“This is the first true testament. I don’t know. Blaney was up there and maybe a couple other guys in the Ford camp,” said Gragson. “It’s fast and it’s been really good. You can see the speed that it’s had in qualifying, not for me because I drove like a sissy out there, but with the other guys they have three poles so far this year, so we’re going good.”

Always room of making improvements, Gragson explained how before the final restart, it was a struggle making gains, but having a solid outcome will paid dividends on proving his belonging in the sport’s top level after an erroneous and shortened rookie season.

“We definitely need to be better and I need to clean some stuff up. Really, other than that last restart, I don’t think I had any net gains on restarts, so I need to keep working on that,” Gragson explained. “I’m still trying to figure it all out, but overall it’s a good stepping stone to where we’re at right now. 

“We’re gonna take this and get back into the positives in points and just keep on working, keep on learning and becoming better than we were yesterday and just keep that attitude. I think we’ve got the tightest group in the garage. They’re awesome to work with and I love every one of them.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a four-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.