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In the Hot Seat with Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson is off to a sensational start in 2022. (Photo: Jonathan Huff | The Podium Finish)

Noah Gragson is off to a sensational start in 2022. (Photo: Jonathan Huff | The Podium Finish)

If there’s a driver in NASCAR who does things his way, look no further than 23-year-old Noah Gragson of Las Vegas.

With six NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and championship standings results of eighth, fifth and third in the past three seasons, he’s got raw, rock and roll energy. He is comfortable being himself and has a great support system at JR Motorsports to do his job in the driver’s seat.

Despite his energetic, rockstar personality, Gragson is humble, reflective and mature. He’s the first to credit his No. 9 team for his success, basking in their glories no matter the venue.

Much like Boston Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, he’s a distinct personality with immense talent. When it comes to race day throughout the NASCAR Xfinity Series season, the chances are great with seeing Gragson in the mix for wins. He’s versatile given the plethora of track offerings in this division.

Moreover, he doesn’t falter when he’s racing in less than ideal conditions. Whether it’s the oppressive summertime races at Nashville or Loudon or a rainy afternoon like the Charlotte ROVAL race in 2020, the popular driver is relentless.

Likewise, Gragson is a team player. He’ll offer a comical reprieve with his band of brothers during a practice and qualifying session. If the team needs a pick me up, he carries his crew on his shoulders to a strong top-five finish or a win.

While Gragson is working with a new crew chief, Luke Lambert, like Sonny and Cher sang, the beat goes on. As of press time, he’s got a convincing win a Phoenix and five top fives and top 10s, good enough for the points lead heading into Saturday’s Dash 4 Cash race at Richmond.

If Gragson had limitless money, in terms of a trademark track that suits his driving style and approach, he sings Homestead-Miami Speedway’s praises. Equally, he has nothing but love for the passionate NASCAR fanbase.

Recently, I caught up with Gragson during the Circuit of the Americas race weekend in Austin, Texas. We considered his strong start, chemistry with his team and a bucket list goal experience, among other topics.

Now, without further ado, let’s grab those shades and get ready to be “In the Driver’s Seat with Noah Gragson” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : Well, Noah, thank you for taking time today for us at The Podium Finish and The Podium Finish Live! Podcast, you’ve been off to a really great strong start this year with the win Phoenix. So how confident do you feel about your chances to contend for this year’s championship as you work with your new crew chief, Luke Lamber?

Gragson soaks in the bright sunshine at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Gragson soaks in the bright sunshine at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Noah Gragson : Yeah, I think just the confidence in the team right now is really high and everyone’s really motivated and working really, really hard. And, it’s greatly appreciated. And I think it shows when we get to the racetrack everyone’s hard work. We’ve had a lot of speed this year and got off to a great start with Luke Lambert.

Like you mentioned, you know, I just started working with him in January. So, to get off to such a strong start, and I feel like our communication, you know, takes time to build that up and takes time to really learn each other, crew chief and driver relationship to build that. But, you know, everybody just, we just mesh so well together and, you know, we’re really focused and really motivated and confident right now. And, we’re excited to try and keep that going this year.

Tiongson : I mean, the results are showing that you guys are meshing really well, despite the fact we’re only what five or six races in the year. And I thought it was really funny how you guys either paid homage or being cheeky at Phoenix with Ryan Newman’s Radioactive moment that I’m surprised the telecast did not catch on, but we did online.

How comfortable are you with Luke to build that rapport and also have a little bit of humor along the way?

Gragson : Yeah, I think, joking around’s fun. It was actually Tyler Monn on the radio playing Luke’s part and Luke didn’t know, about it. And then once he started, we were practicing Tyler and I. And we got a pretty good laugh out of him.

So yeah, I mean just keeping it lighthearted and enjoying our time when we get to the racetrack is everything. And, we put a lot of hard work in through the week. And when we get to the racetrack on the weekends, we feel prepared and we can go out there and have fun.

Things are going good right now. So, yeah, just try and keep building on it with Luke and the rest of the team and get better and learn each and every week.

Tiongson : I think you guys are definitely getting there to say the least, but I’m gonna throw a really big curve ball at you. Now, it’s no secret that you are very stylish, although you don’t have those cool sunglasses you typically wear with you.

You have the distinct sunglasses, you got the mullet that you grow there in late in the year. Would you say you like to keep it fresh and interesting with your look?

The mullet and funky shades may be gone, but Gragson's starting his season in a way that's best described as fascinating. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

The mullet and funky shades may be gone, but Gragson’s starting his season in a way that’s best described as fascinating. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Gragson : Yeah, I kind of beat to my own drum and probably do stuff that maybe most people wouldn’t. But, I try and keep it unique. And, yeah, like you mentioned the different sunglasses and then you start seeing other guys on pit road and stuff starting to wear those sunglasses.

And, yeah, I just like new cool stuff. And, you know, if we could set a trend, it’s cool. But, yeah, I just kind of do whatever to make me stand out.

Tiongson : Have you thought about doing like a Beatles mop top or the Liam Gallagher, shaggy hair look?

Gragson : Maybe a bowl cut or something. Yeah.

Tiongson : That’s what I’m saying. Maybe for playoff time. You’ve got a great personality, which is evident, but you go out of your way really to connect with fans, which I think is so cool, especially with those moments where we’re able to be back at the track again since the start of the pandemic.

How much energy do you draw off of these fans?

Gragson : Oh, a ton. I mean, everything. You know, it is a lot different not having fans and then having ’em come back. It makes you appreciate it maybe a little more. I always appreciate the fans. But, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone type deal. And, to have ’em back, it’s great. It’s a lot of fun and definitely feed off their energy.

Tiongson : Yeah, for sure. And I would say one of the reasons why the fans also love being in this garage area or in the pits or in the grandstands is because the Xfinity Series, I feel like, has seen a huge uptick in recent years, whether it’s the characters like you, the great drivers like yourself, or just the fact that the competition is just so pure and great.

But what do you think really is the main drawing point to this division that makes it not only one of the best to watch in America, but maybe even globally around the world?

Gragson considered the reasons for his series' popularity with fans. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Gragson considered the reasons for his series’ popularity with fans. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Gragson : Yeah, I think the Xfinity cars themselves, the package that we got, makes for really exciting races. They’re a good length and everything, distance wise and time. It keeps people interested. And then at the same time, like you said, you got a lot of great race car drivers that we compete against on a weekly basis. And, that helps put a good product out on the racetrack.

And then, just the different personalities. You got guys like myself, and then you got older guys that are 56 years old like Justin Allgaier who have been in the series for a long time. And, he’s got a great fan base. And, so you get a little mix of everything in here.

Tiongson : Well, I will not tell him the age part, but I hope you guys have a little bit of a war with worms in bags like you did with Josh Berry in Charlotte.

Gragson : (laughs) Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Tiongson : Now, what song from any music genre would you say best epitomizes who you are as a person, as a driver?

Gragson : Um, I don’t know, probably something that’s pretty raw and fun, scrappy and just doesn’t, I don’t know. Maybe like Mo Baba or something.

Tiongson : I’m gonna have to check that out on Spotify after this interview just to see if you’re just busting me or being serious.

Gragson : No, it’s cool.

Tiongson : Now I know you’re still relatively young, but you’ve grown rather confident and a rather great team player over these last few years. How much would you say being a little bit older and wiser has helped you with your evolution as a driver?

Gragson is planning a dinner with his teammate, Justin Allgaier. (Photo: Jonathan Huff | The Podium Finish)

Gragson is planning a dinner with his teammate, Justin Allgaier. (Photo: Jonathan Huff | The Podium Finish)

Gragson : I think it’s helped me a bunch, maturing, first off as a person and growing with off track stuff. And then it’s helped me on track too, as a driver maturing that way, too. And, you know, I’m always looking to be better for our No. 9 team, be better for everyone at JR Motorsports, being a good teammate, just making the most of the opportunity and just having fun along the way and really enjoying it.

You never know when your last race is gonna be. So, I’m just trying to make the most of each and every opportunity and be well prepared when we get to the racetrack. And, it’s taken time to really hone my craft and get comfortable with the whole process of that.

But I feel like just the group of guys that we have around us and everybody at JR Motorsports, but specifically this No. 9 team, we’re just, I kind of feel like, a group of brothers and we’re able to go out there and have fun on the weekend. And, we know we got each other’s back when we get to the racetrack and nothing else matters except for this team. And, everybody stands behind everyone.

Tiongson : For sure. Got a couple more questions before I know you get back to debriefing with your team. Now what’s a bucket list item outside of motorsports that you’ve always wanted to accomplish and hope to have time for down the road?

Gragson : I think racing a trophy truck would be pretty cool. You said outside of motorsports?

Tiongson : Yea. That’s cool.

Gragson : Bucket list deal? Man. I don’t know. I really enjoy mountain biking and I’ve been to Whistler and mountain bike up there. Being able to go back up there and and ride downhill with mountain bikes. Yeah, I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Tiongson : I would say if you wanted to try some biking, go out here in Austin and try out like Barton Creek and all that, the hills over there will challenge you a ton.

Gragson : Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Tiongson : Now, let’s say you got to be me or Bob Pockrass. Hopefully, you’re me instead of Bob, and you had to describe Noah Gragson as a driver in three words, what three words would you choose and why?

Helmet on, visor down. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Helmet on, visor down. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Gragson : Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really know if that’s up for me to say. I think that’s kind of for the judgment of other people. But, I don’t know if I could really answer that just cuz I feel the way I do about myself and you believe in yourself and you always wanna bet on yourself.

But, hey, I don’t know if I can answer that question to the full potential just cuz I don’t know what other people think about me. It’s one of those deals where I’m happy with who I am and I don’t really care about other people’s opinion. Just enjoy.

Tiongson : Just internalize everything?

Gragson : Yeah.

Tiongson : For my last question, that you had control of Doc Brown’s DeLorean and you got to go to any time, whether in the past, present or in the future. Where would you go and why? Hopefully, you’ve watched Back to the Future.

Is it back to the future or past for Gragson? (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Is it back to the future or past for Gragson? (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Gragson : Yeah, I think I’d probably. …I’d definitely go to the future. I don’t know which. I don’t know if I’d want to know what the future would be like, cuz, yeah, let’s say two or like 10 years down the road. You see kind of how your life is and what you’re doing and maybe start to second guess yourself in the present. Am I doing everything right?

And you know, what’s gonna get me to this point. You could be really successful or not. And I think you could just mind screw yourself. But uh, at the same time I don’t know. I’d probably go to the future though.

Tiongson : At least you won’t be 56 years old, like me and Justin Allgaier though.

Gragson : No, you’re young. Justin, he’s old. It’s cool. He got this card in the mail. It was like the AARP deal. It’s cool. He got one of those. And, so it’s been good because he takes us out for lunch and stuff. And he gets all of us a discount, which is really cool.

Tiongson : Oh man. And I’m older than Justin, believe it or not.

Gragson : Oh really?

Tiongson : Yeah.

Gragson may be giving his reaction about Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Gragson may be giving his reaction about Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Gragson : You don’t look old though. Like, he’s like got super gray hair and stuff.

Tiongson : I wish I got this on video instead. Maybe next time. Noah, do you have anything else you wanna say to your fans before I wrap it up?

Gragson : I just appreciate all the support and I know this team does as well. And you know, seeing people tweet me and you know, just putting a smile on their face. I think that’s what I really enjoy and feed off. So I just really appreciate everyone’s support.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Noah for taking the time last Saturday at Circuit of the Americas for his latest interview here on TPF! Also, special thanks to Kristen Bauer of JR Motorsports for her assistance and support with this interview. Look for more content about Noah on TPF and follow his social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and his official website!

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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