By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Noah Gragson’s astounding win streak in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was bound to come to an end at some point and on Saturday at Talladega, it did just that as he finished 10th in the Sparks 300.
Charging from the back of the field to start the race, Gragson finished the first two stages in the top-10. He was making his move late in the race on leader Austin Hill before a block from Hill slowed his momentum and he was unable to regain the track position needed to make another run at the lead and a possible fifth-straight victory.
“I thought we had a decent Bass Pro Shops Camaro,” Gragson said. “Not the worst, but not the best. Struggled with being loose all day. Couldn’t make the moves or be aggressive on the wheel to go to the top or go to the bottom and fill holes and whatnot…
“Just super proud of our team. We really wanted that fifth win in a row. Had a shot at it like I said, but just fell apart. Just so grateful to be racing in the Xfinity Series. There are so many badass drivers here and so much fun.
“We’ve had our good days. I knew it would eventually come to an end. We’re going to go to the ROVAL prepared and as confident as ever and try to go win that one.”
With another solid superspeedway finish in the books, he will now turn his attention toward Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, where he will climb behind the wheel of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in relief of Alex Bowman, who is on the sidelines this week due to concussion-like symptoms stemming from a crash at Texas last weekend.
“I really just want to do a good job for those guys. Have a solid day for them. Get good points and hopefully get Alex back in the car next weekend,” Gragson said.
“[Crew chief] Greg [Ives] said ‘What’s your plan?’ I said ‘going to go out there and lead every lap, lead every stage and win the race.’ Obviously, that’s way easier said than done. We want to be aggressive all day. Stay out front and get up there and contend for it at the end of the day.”
While Gragson would have liked for it to be under different circumstances, he added that getting to drive for Hendrick Motorsports is the best opportunity of his career and a chance to drive top quality equipment before jumping into the Cup Series full-time in 2023.
“It’s definitely the biggest opportunity I’ve had in my career. I mean, Hendrick Motorsports, that’s the mecca of all racing teams. That’s like Red Bull over in F1 or these big powerhouse teams. They’ve obviously got a great record. To be a small part of it is definitely a great opportunity for myself, but really it’s just about doing a good job for them and trying to get Alex back in the car as soon as possible.”
Bowman gave Gragson and the team well wishes on social media on Sunday morning, along with ribbing his relief driver a bit by making note of his tendency to throw up after races.
When the green flag flies on Sunday, Gragson will roll off from seventh-place as he looks to make the most of his current opportunity. The Yellawood 500 is scheduled for 2:00 pm ET on NBC.