SPARTA, Ky. – Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Jonathan Moore/Getty Images North America photo –
Despite limited experience in stock cars, Noah Gragson is accomplishing a lot as a rookie in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West for Jefferson Pitts Racing.
Right now, with two races remaining, the 17-year-old leads the championship standings by two markers over second place Chris Eggleston. But no matter the outcome, he is extremely grateful to have a chance at the title after a season when he admits he “only wanted to finish top 10″ at the start.
“We have had a very solid season so far,” Gragson said. “All of the guys at Jefferson-Pitts Racing have worked so hard for the success we have had. I am definitely very fortunate to be in the position I am right now leading the points. We are gonna keep working hard these final two races to get the championship.”
Along with the points lead, Gragson has tallied two wins and seven top five finishes, something he would have never dreamed possible at the start of the season.
“At the beginning of the year, we were hoping for a top ten in points and just were worried about finishing races,” Gragson expressed. “Maybe grab some top fives or contend for a win, but I never would have thought we would actually win two races. Hopefully we can just continue this success.”
Now, 11 races into the season and with just All-American (Calif.) Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway left on the calendar, the Las Vegas native is focused on the bigger picture — standing onstage at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards Banquet in Charlotte, N.C. with a championship trophy in December.
“A championship would just be a tremendous success,” Gragson said. “We are not gonna hang our heads on anything less [than a title] though. Man, winning the championship would be huge as a rookie. I just wanna win these last two races and [walk off] with the championship. That would be so rewarding.”
The young talent does not want to lose focus. With just 16 points separating the top four, he is hoping to stick to the game plan of finishing races and staying out of trouble, because right now — he controls his own destiny.
“Anytime that you are in a championship battle, you have to be smart and patient,” Gragson said. “I think that is exactly what we have done so far. We have two mores race to go and only time will tell. I am not sure what is gonna happen, but I am positive it will come down to the checkered flag at Phoenix.”
Before a champion is decided out west, Gragson will have one more rookie obstacle this weekend – his debut with Mason Mitchell Motorsports in the ARCA Racing Series at Kentucky Speedway, the biggest track he has ever competed on.
“This is a great opportunity, especially to be running with a championship team,” Gragson said. “I have never been on a 1.5-mile track before; the biggest for me was Iowa. I do not know how this weekend will go, but we are basically checkers or wreckers. A win would be great, but a top ten would feel like a win.”
This will be a one-off start in the ARCA Series for Gragson, however, he is hoping more opportunities come along next season.
“I will not be able to make any more ARCA starts this year,” Gragson explained. “Hopefully we will be able to compete in a few more next season, but this is still definitely a great opportunity for us.”
The Crosley Brand 150 at Kentucky is slated for Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern (FOX Sports 1), while the K&N Pro Series West does not return to action until October 17 in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 at All American Speedway.