By Toby Christie, Editor — Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie
I’m not exactly sure of the reason but the very outgoing Noah Gragson has become one of the most polarizing young up-and-coming talents that the sport of NASCAR has seen in quite some time.
Some folks love the kid from Las Vegas, others not so much.
However, nobody can argue about the fact that the 19-year-old is talented as hell behind the wheel of a race car.
Gragson — a full-time truck series driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports — got an offer to run three-straight NASCAR Xfinity Series events with Joe Gibbs Racing, and he impressed in each and every one of them.
In Richmond, his series debut, Gragson started 11th. The driver would work his way through the field and would lead 10 laps before settling for a runner-up finish. A race later, Gragson finished fourth at the roulette wheel that is Talladega.
This weekend, Gragson faced the monstrous one-mile Dover International Speedway. Gragson started second, and after battling back from a costly pit road penalty Gragson wound up seventh.
“It was good – just kind of struggled though the middle of the race and had a few pit road issues. One was myself and really I don’t want to say it took us out of contention ‘cause we managed to get back up front, but it took our shot – a lot of it – away for the win,” said Gragson. “Just kind of bummed I made that mistake on pit road just pitting outside the box on that last pit stop and kind of hurt our team, but hell of an effort all weekend by my guys at Joe Gibbs Racing. We had a really fast Switch Toyota Camry and that’s really all I can ask for as a driver.”
Even with the sting of the pit road penalty, Gragson is super elated to come out of his first three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with an average finish of 4.3.
“Man, these past three races in the Xfinity Series have been a dream come true and a second, a fourth and a seventh is not terrible for me, so just really happy with my team and very thankful,” explained Gragson.
It has to be especially sweet for Gragson personally to shut up his many critics a day after crashing while battling for the win late in the going in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday.
Additionally, there was controversy earlier this year, when ESPN’s Bob Pockrass compiled a list of the 20 best upcoming NASCAR prospects, and Gragson’s name was not included.
Less than three months after the prospect ranking, I think it’s safe to say that Gragson is among the top-20 NASCAR prospects now, for sure. Not only that, but Gragson has something that most of the other 19 on the list are missing — a big personality.
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images