LAS VEGAS – On the surface, Noah Gragson could take it easy before battling for his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Phoenix on Nov. 5.
However, taking it easy is not in Gragson’s vocabulary, particularly as he closes out his full-time career in this division.
Likewise, Gragson sought for his first win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his hometown track. For the majority of Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302, it looked like he was set on walking off with a home game win.
Rolling off from the fourth starting position, Gragson placed third in Stage 1 before winning Stage 2.
Gragson looked like the driver to beat as he pursued his ninth victory of the 2022 season. He led on four occasions for a total of 87 laps, or over 43% of the race distance.
In the final laps of the 301.5 mile race, Gragson found himself in Cole Trickle at Daytona mode, needing to make up ground and positions in the final 30 laps.
Like his Las Vegas racing brothers in Kurt and Kyle Busch, the only mode that Gragson has as a driver is go, as he was determined to catch his JR Motorsports teammates in Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier.
At one point, Gragson was over three seconds behind Berry before making a late race charge. After taking third from Ty Gibbs, the 24-year-old dropped the hammer and scraped the wall on a few occasions.
While Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of his team principals, may have needed some Mylanta with Gragson’s determined drive, it was a gallant effort for the fourth year Xfinity Series competitor.
Scooting past Allgaier for second, Gragson matched or bettered Berry’s pace in the final five laps.
Ultimately, it was all for naught as far as the victory was concerned for Gragson. Tallying his 18th top five finish and 23rd top 10 of 2022, the title contender reflected on a day that could have been for the No. 9 team.
“We’re not doing burnouts. It’s definitely frustrating,” Gragson said. “The 10 (Landon Cassill) stayed out on tires and kind of hurt us there. I didn’t execute it out. The team did a great job. The Bass Pro Shops guys were really good.”
Despite Gragson passing Cassill in the final laps before rallying to a runner up result, he did not have enough laps to catch and pass Berry.
“Just got caught there. Definitely unfortunate,” he remarked. “I drove my nuts off to get back to the front and just ran out of time there. I was giving it everything I had. Just not enough time there.”
Although Gragson came up a position short of his ninth win of 2022, he was part of JR Motorsports’ podium finish sweep, a fact not lost upon him along with a historical feat for Chevrolet.
“Congratulations to Chevrolet, 500 Xfinity wins, that’s pretty cool for them,” he said. “Congratulations to the (No.) 8 team and JR Motorsports (with the) 1-2-3 (finish).”
Some of those high, rim riding ways that Gragson displayed at Las Vegas may come in handy next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on USA). A victory at Homestead may have Gragson feeling more like Sonny Crockett on a Saturday night drive.