PENSACOLA, Fla. – You’d think that trying to make the biggest short track race in the country for one of the most well-known teams in the business would be a stressful situation for most drivers, but Noah Gragson has a different approach going into this weekend’s 50th annual Snowball Derby.
Gragson is channeling his inner ‘Iceman’ and staying cool, calm and collected going into his third Derby start at Five Flags Speedway and first with Kyle Busch Motorsports, the team he drove for throughout his rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year.
“I’m actually coming into this weekend really calm,” Gragson told Race Chaser Online during practice on Thursday. “The past two years I’ve been excited, pumped up and not really knowing what to expect, but now that I know what needs to be done and how to react, it’s just about going out and chasing (the goal).”
The goal is the famed Tom Dawson Trophy, and it’s an accolade that Gragson is eager to add to his trophy case after scoring a Winchester 400 win earlier in the summer, as well as a Martinsville grandfather clock for his maiden Truck Series win a month ago.
“I definitely feel like I can win it this year,” Gragson said confidently. “I know what it’s like to run against these KBM cars after running for Richie Wauters last year, so I feel like that helps me a lot. We had a fast car then, but just not quite enough to contend with (former KBM drivers) William (Byron) and Christopher (Bell).”
“They had a lot of success here in the past … and Kyle Busch Motorsports as a team has a great setup here, so that’s all a help. We just need to execute all day come race-time and be smooth. That’s really the toughest thing to do here. If you can do that, then there’s a good chance you’ll be in contention to win at the end of it all.”
Another powerful tool is the No. 18 Switch Toyota that Gragson enters the weekend with, a fresh bullet out of the KBM arsenal.
“This is a brand new car,” Gragson explained. “We tested here a couple days ago, and found a lot of speed in it. Looking from the outside at this group … these are always the cars everyone’s chasing and these are the guys everyone wants to beat, so it’s an honor to drive for KBM this weekend and turn a dream into reality.”
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