By David Morgan, Associate Editor
HAMPTON, Ga. – A week after Noah Gragson and Sage Karam tangled at Road America in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the incident is still the talk of the garage as the series has moved on to Atlanta.
The multi-car crash that was triggered after Gragson intentionally turned Karam in the final stage of last Saturday’s Henry 180 led to a penalty being handed down days later by NASCAR, fining Gragson $30,000 and taking away 30 driver and owner points from the No. 9 JR Motorsports team.
If there is anyone who knows what Gragson is going through, it’s Kevin Harvick, who has had his fair share of run-ins with other drivers at various points in his career.
On Saturday at Atlanta, Harvick dove head first into the discussion about the incident, giving his thoughts on the increase in aggressive driving that has been seen at all levels of motorsports, changes in officiating, and the penalty that Gragson was eventually served with.
“I don’t know where the black flag has gone in racing in general,” Harvick said. “Like where is the black flag? Is it still up there for something other than a nut falling off your car? I don’t know. You know, I saw the statement of this is what happened, but you know, I think as you look at it all. I asked the same question at the go-kart races yesterday. Like is the black flag still in the bag? Cause I don’t know. You know, I think some of that officiating and kind of in general, I guess in the world, but the rules are sometimes enforced and sometimes not enforced.
“I’ve been parked for stuff like that immediately and suspended. That was a long time ago though. My point is things are just different than they used to be. The best explanation that I heard was it is the Xfinity Series and you hope that the lessons are taken from the situation.
“Noah’s a great kid and drives hard. And does a lot of really good things too. I think in one situation like this, it’s not, you don’t want to pinpoint exactly who he is or what he does as a driver. You gotta kind of just own up to it, realize your mistakes and try to do it better next time.
“I’ve been in those situations. It’s a mess, right? It’s a mess to have to deal with it and answer the questions and do all the things that come with that because it’s a tough spot to be in. But you have to evolve as a person and a driver. Unfortunately, it affected a lot of people and that’s the part that stinks.”
Harvick added that he would have rather seen a penalty doled out by NASCAR when the incident happened instead of waiting a number of days to ultimately make the call to penalize him, noting that the delay might not be as big of a deterrent to future aggressors.
“I think as you look at some of that stuff, it’s always better to try to handle those things in the race, in the moment instead of just letting it fester,” Harvick said. “Because then it’s just going to happen again. Because everybody thinks it’s okay. It’s just like, I’ll just do it. I might get a fine and I might not. You know, I think that’s the part that I would handle differently.
“Noah’s a smart kid and I know there’s a lot of people that are jumping up and down pounding on him right now, but he he’s going to learn from it. I know that when I’ve been in those situations, it’s tough to kind of take it all in. You get hammered for a few weeks. It’s a terrible situation, but you know, I think he’s going to be better from it.”
Gragson will look to start putting the incident behind him on Saturday afternoon when the Alsco Uniforms 250 takes the green flag at Atlanta. After qualifying was rained out, the winner of two Xfinity Series race this season will start from sixth place.