The 25-year-old Las Vegas native hopes his race with his new team will be Sunday’s non-points preseason exhibition Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
With no points on the line and no live pit stops, the Clash may seem like an easy opportunity for Gragson to get adjusted to his new team but that’s not necessarily the case.
“It is beneficial because it’s not a points race, it’s an exhibition race, but at the same time we go into it with the same mentality. It’s almost harder than a points race because you’re not locked in,” Gragson said.
“They only take the top-23 guys (in the race), and you have to race your way in, and it reminds me a lot of going to the Snowball Derby and having that pressure to qualify well, having heat races so you can transfer to the main, having a good starting spot.
“The pressure of that, it’s like, we’ve got to have all of our ducks in a row before we get there. We’ve got to be ready to go.”
Although Gragson had an abbreviated and difficult rookie Cup season in 2023 – he was suspended and then later reinstated by NASCAR following a violation of its code of conduct – he did compete in last year’s Clash with Legacy Motor Club, finishing 14th.
He returns this year with a new team, new crew and new crew chief in Drew Blickensderfer and admittedly a lot to learn.
“It’s good to get an extra rep before the real season starts with the Daytona 500. Any chance you get to build your communication – it takes a long time to be like peanut butter and jelly with the crew chief, it takes a while to get that communication where you’re finishing sentences for each other,” Gragson said.
“Any chance you get to spend with each other is valuable, whether it’s going to dinner or it’s in the race car, and the Clash is definitely a good opportunity to learn each other.”
Gragson said his No. 10 team – which had veteran Aric Almirola as its driver last year – features both “a lot of experience” and “a lot of youth” and believes Blickensderfer has found a good way to make it all work.
Photo by: Stewart-Haas Racing
Noah Gragson, Stewart-Haas Racing
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