Noah Gragson staying true to self; seeks first win of 2021 at home

“The most important thing is to stay true to myself.”

JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson has experienced his fair share of criticism with his behavior on and off the track. He said that even his team owner told him that he needs to be “less aggressive and more patient.” Gragson said that mentality held him back from being a title contender in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year and it led to his car being slower.

“I finally got to the playoffs and said screw that, I’m gonna go out and race as hard as I can,” Gragson said.

The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet suffered a run-in with David Starr with three laps to go at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Saturday. It was the second year in a row where Gragson suffered bad luck in a race he was dominating and a few miles away from victory.

Gragson has struggled to begin 2021 as he’s DNF’d twice through three races with a current season-high finish of 28th at the Daytona Road Course.

Not only is Gragson not finishing well to begin the season, but he hasn’t picked up a win since the first Bristol Motor Speedway race in June 2020 — another race where he was criticized for aggressive driving that caused his teammate Justin Allgaier to wreck late in the race.

Following Homestead, team owner Carl Long said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he was frustrated by Gragson’s comments that his team didn’t belong on the track. However, Gragson said he doesn’t have a problem with small teams.

“I don’t recall saying they shouldn’t be in the sport,” Gragson said. “I recall saying that they are in the way. I’m good friends with BJ McLeod and I understand the battles they go through. There are certain individuals who make your life a living hell to be able to pass and are very unpredictable.”

Saturday afternoon, Gragson will seek a bounce back from a rough start to the season on his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A race where one year ago, he was involved in an incident with Myatt Snider where Gragson turned Snider down the frontstretch. The two tangled later last season at Pocono Raceway and made contact early on in the Homestead race last weekend.

If trends hold Saturday, Gragson will have a good shot to score his first top-10 finish of the year and a win. In four Xfinity starts at Las Vegas, he has finished inside the top 10 in each and was runner-up to Chase Briscoe in the September playoff race. Gragson will have his hands full to start Saturday as he rolls off from the back of the field in 34th.

Whether you love or hate Gragson, he said he embraces all the noise.

“I love every second of it,” Gragson said. “There’s people who like me and hate me. Does it bother me? No.”

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