By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Fresh off signing with Kyle Busch Motorsports to drive a Toyota Tundra full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017, Noah Gragson continues to be busy behind the wheel as the 18-year-old driver closes out the 2016 season.
By Saturday night, Gragson will have competed in three races in three different cars over the course of seven days, starting in the Winchester 400 last Sunday before pulling double duty this weekend. Gragson is running the ARCA race at Kansas Speedway on Friday night before traveling to California for the K&N Pro Series West season-finale on Saturday at All American Speedway.
Gragson broke a left front upper control arm on Lap 42 at Winchester last weekend, ending his chances for a victory. However, Gragson was able to return to the track and gain valuable experience.
“That track was really fun. Winchester has a lot of character,” Gragson told Motorsports Tribune. “I feel like it’s basically a bumpy Bristol. It feels a little bit faster, I don’t know if it’s just the Super Late Models that we ran at Winchester compared to the K&N car that I ran at Bristol, but I had a blast out there. I finished up the race and I never quit all day. I learned a lot during that race that I can take going forward.”
Gragson is at Kansas Speedway on Friday to drive the No. 15 Toyota for Venturini Motorsports in his third career ARCA Racing Series start. After the 150-mile race, Gragson will spend the night in Kansas before flying to Roseville, Calif. for Saturday night’s K&N West Series race.
“We gain two hours starting in the East and going out West so that will help a little bit. We lose two hours in the air but we gain it back through the time zone change.
“It’s going to be a long weekend but it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Gragson, who was running second at All American last season before getting turned with five laps to go.
Gragson is the only driver to run the full schedule in both the K&N East and West Series this season, recording four victories and 11 top-five results.
“I think running both schedules definitely helped me as a driver with being in the seat pretty much every weekend. I’ve been going every weekend for the last five or six months I’d say. It’s definitely been a lot. It’s taken a toll and been a grind but we haven’t quit all year between the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs. The lowest of the lows make the wins that much sweeter.”
Gragson indicated that this weekend would be bittersweet, given that it will be his last K&N race before moving to the Truck Series next season.
“It’s going to be a sad moment. I’m going to miss all my guys but I’m going to make every lap count. None of it would have been possible without the whole team at Jefferson Pitts Racing. They put in so many working hours just to get us to the race track every weekend.
“It’s hard to run from the West coast. What takes other teams two or three hours to get to the race track it takes us two or three days so we lose time in the shop and we kind of get set back. It makes it harder but everyone has learned and really developed as a team so it’s been a positive in my book.”
After this weekend, Gragson has plans to run the Snowball Derby with Wauters Motorsports as well as challenge himself by racing on dirt for the first time in his career. Gragson will run a dirt modified race in Arizona in October and then the Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Dirt Track in November.
“I’ve never driven a dirt car so I’ll probably go out there and spin out a couple times and embarrass myself but it’s for preparation for next year for Eldora. There’s not going to be a lot of pressure on me to go win the dirt race. If we win, hey that’s good. I ultimately want to learn and gain as much experience and just really go have fun out there. It’s more of a fun race for me.”