LAS VEGAS (AP) — NASCAR has a brand new villain and he doesn’t actually care what anybody thinks about him.
Noah Gragson is the starring determine within the newest uproar that’s typical NASCAR. He crashed whereas main final weekend’s race and ran his mouth afterward. How it was obtained will depend on how you are feeling about Gragson.
He could be seen as a refreshing younger Xfinity Series driver unafraid to present his persona in a sport full of straight-laced company promoters. Some as a substitute see him as an entitled 22-year-old from a rich household who’s undeserving of the eye and possibly even his journey.
He’s again home in Las Vegas for Saturday’s race and finds himself on the heart of a heated debate. Should he proceed the defiant “I’m going to be me” stance or take a step again?
“That’s my job is to get people talking about me. And it’s going good right now,” Gragson stated.
Gragson has been constructing to this second the final 4 years, following a path blazed by NASCAR champions Kurt and Kyle Busch, who’re additionally from Las Vegas. He was within the Truck Series at 18 driving for Kyle Busch’s staff, however the pipeline that historically leads to a Joe Gibbs Racing journey solely obtained him three Xfinity Series races.
Gragson moved to JR Motorsports, the staff owned by Dale and Kelley Earnhardt with a Hendrick Motorsports alliance. He scored two wins final season, his second with the staff, however made waves on and off the monitor.
Earnhardt Jr. informed Gragson he was too aggressive and wanted to reign it in a bit. Gragson tried for a bit, however discovered it simply didn’t swimsuit his type.
“I tried to do what he said, but I just slowed down,” Gragson stated. “I didn’t have the speed. I finally got into the playoffs and I’m like, ‘Screw that, I’m going to go out there and race as hard as I can and be comfortable with myself.’ And we had really good results.”
The bumps continued on the monitor and off — he landed a right hook to the side of Harrison Burton’s face in a July incident — and he’s sparred on social media together with his detractors.
Now it’s ramped up once more after final Saturday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the place Gragson had almost a nine-second lead with three laps remaining when he bumped into the again of a automotive he was making an attempt to go. David Starr was on the lead lap and didn’t have to yield position, however Gragson let unfastened afterward on reside TV.
Carl Long, proprietor of Starr’s automotive, responded by calling Gragso n an “over-entitled mouthpiece” who “did not have enough talent to miss our wreck.” Fox Sports announcer Mike Joy even obtained concerned.
“Our sport has always had ‘funded’ drivers,’” Joy wrote on Twitter. “But its (sic) high time a few of these privileged kids, powered by daddy’s pile of cash, realize this whole sport doesn’t exist just to make their dreams come true. Take some time to learn from those who’ve WORKED their way to the top.”
“I love it. I love every second of it,” Gragson stated. “There are people who like me, there’s people who hate me, you’re gonna have that. Does it bother me? Not a bit.”
Gragson opened his media availability forward of his hometown race whereas driving a passenger car, a considerably unprofessional strategy to a business dedication. He ultimately pulled over.
Gragson has additionally developed an affinity for onerous seltzer, has made a number of references to in search of out a chilly one following a race and appeared to settle for one from a fan by way of the fence final summer time at Bristol. It’s raised eyebrow s because Gragson’s father last September was sentenced to eight years in prison for a 2019 deadly DUI crash.
Gragson this week instructed the net abuse that adopted his father’s crash, trial and sentencing is harsher than something he’s confronted in his racing career.
“Probably the worst stuff you could hear on Twitter based on personal experiences in my life over the past couple years,” Gragson stated. “Stuff that happens on the race track doesn’t bother me a bit.”
So he’s having fun with his time at home with family and friends and is trying forward to profitable his first career race at Las Vegas Motor Speeedway. Gragson has not completed decrease than sixth in 4 Xfinity begins and was second in final September’s playoff race.
“I’m excited to be back in my hometown, it’s just comfortable. It’s fun. My favorite restaurants, my favorite places to hang out,” he stated. “And I was so close to winning last weekend, and all the haters on Twitter, it’s more fuel for the fire and I enjoy every bit of it and it’s more motivation for me to go out there and win this weekend.”