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Noah Gragson Looks Forward to Phoenix with No. 10 Ford Team

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson is feeling pumped about Phoenix after a sixth at Las Vegas last Sunday. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Noah Gragson has to be smiling and brimming with confidence heading into Phoenix Raceway weekend after a sixth last Sunday at Las Vegas.

Following a tumultuous Atlanta race weekend, finishing 36th after a crash and a 35-point penalty that dropped Gragson from 15th to 42nd in the points standings, the Las Vegas native went back to work with his head up.

Despite starting 30th in last Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the aggressive racer rocketed to a sixth place finish, climbing up to 34th in the championship standings. Moreover, it was his second top 10 result of the season, a nice start for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

While Friday’s sole practice session was pedestrian for the 25-year-old racer, ranking 26th in the speed charts and 28th fastest in a 10-lap consecutive run, he found some speed during Saturday’s qualifying sessions. In fact, he will start seventh, on the inside of Row 4, as the highest starting Ford Performance racer.

Needless to say, Gragson has been pleased to join the Blue Oval brigade, particularly with their superspeedway package.

“It’s been a lot of fun to work with Ford so far,” Gragson said during a media availability on Wednesday afternoon. “A lot of the OEM’s are all the same, but they’re different. From the simulators, they’re all pretty close, and the motors I feel like are all pretty close. I’ve never been able to really feel too big of a difference, but they’ve been strong so it’s been fun getting to know the Ford camp and not only the group of drivers, but just seeing how they go about the superspeedway stuff.”

Now that Gragson, who has driven for Toyota Racing and Team Chevrolet in his stock car career, finds himself with the Ford Performance camp, he is reaping the benefits of their reimagined Ford Mustang Dark Horse. For starters, he is pleased to contend toward the front of the pack with fast racecars from the two-time NASCAR Cup Series championship winning organization.

“It’s always been tough to race against the Fords on the superspeedway and now being a part of it and seeing how they go about things, I felt like we’ve had speed, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “I like the way the car drove in Vegas and it’s been good so far. No complaints.”

In Gragson’s lone Cup start at Phoenix Raceway, he started 32nd and finished 29th. Then again, he has a win in the 2022 NASCAR XFINITY Series race and that seems to serve him well in terms of confidence and comfort at the 1-mile speedway.

Noah Gragson

Primarily, Noah Gragson is stoked to get the party started at Phoenix on Sunday. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

Unlike traditional ovals and speedways in NASCAR, as Gragson observed, finding the balance with the setup can almost be like figuring out an algebra formula – either rewarding or frustrating.

“Phoenix is a fun racetrack, but challenging with both ends being different,” he said. “That makes it a challenge for a driver and a team to get the car balanced right. You might be good on one side or the other and vice versa, you might struggle on the opposite side of the racetrack. With that being said, it’s important to get the car dialed in during practice as good as you can on both side and get the corners connected, so I like Phoenix. It’s always a fun race.”

Naturally, Gragson wants to win soon to put the Atlanta penalty behind him and his No. 10 SERVPRO Ford Mustang team. If there is some motivation for the personable racer, it will be in the form of some familiar faces in the grandstands, infield and his ardent supporters making the trek from Las Vegas and points along the West Coast.

“It’s one of the closest hometown races for me, a lot of fans that I’ve been able to make memories with and relationships over the past handful of years,” he shared. “I see them a lot and Phoenix as well. That’s always a lot of fun. The fan support is awesome there and then it sets us up for the championship race, which is really important.”

More importantly, Gragson hopes he can have a great performance and result to learn valuable takeaways for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on the weekend of Nov. 8-10. With a strong team, led by crew chief Drew Blickensederfer, and the support of co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, the reinvigorated racer cannot wait for Sunday’s 312-lap race.

“I think you might see a lot of guys trying stuff this first race every year and then in order to learn something for the championship race that’s where everybody wants to get to and have a good showing to end the year off,” Gragson said. “It’s a fun racetrack, challenging and it’s a fun city as well.”

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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