SALISBURY, N.C. — Asked on Wednesday morning if he had ever driven anything with a wing on it in his life, Noah Gragson had a snappy comeback as he began preparations for his Millbridge Speedway debut.
“Does a sprint car on iRacing count?” quipped the Las Vegas young gun, who drives full time for Kyle Busch Motorsports, before breaking into laughter.
Gragson is preparing his racing mindset for Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in the most unorthodox of ways, by hopping into a dirt mini outlaw kart and turning his first-ever race laps around the fast-paced, sixth-mile oval owned by Ashly and Jeremy Burnett.
The machine Gragson will drive is the same kart that former track regular Dylan Smith drove to a field-best four victories last year, and was most recently piloted by Alex Cunningham during the recent Speed51 Open last month.
Gragson also will have both Dylan and his father, crew chief Jimmy Smith, to rely on as he tackles the new challenge.
“It’s open wheel … that’s way different than anything I’ve done before, and these karts are wild,” Gragson explained. “I have no idea what I’m thinking or what I’m supposed to be doing, to be completely honest, but I know we’re going to have some fun at the race track and that’s what it’s all about.”
“I’ve not asked Dylan any questions … yet … but I’ll be asking a lot once I get to the track, for sure. I feel like I’m going in blind, a little bit, but hopefully I can pick up what I need and be able to get after it a little bit.”
The 18-year-old has been busy honing his dirt chops in the past few weeks, testing Kyle Strickler’s potent dirt modified at Friendship Speedway on May 31 as he soaks in knowledge for the upcoming Truck race at Eldora Speedway in July.
Adding in the outlaw kart to his recent arsenal, Gragson outlined his two main goals for Millbridge’s Wednesday night program: one based on the obvious and the other based on motivation from a fellow competitor.
“There’s two things I’m going to be focused on going into this,” he said. “The first is, ‘don’t flip.’ Jimmy (Smith) told me that if I keep it on all four wheels, I’m doing my job.”
“The second goal I’ve got is to go out and beat Alex Bodine,” Gragson added with a grin. “Last time I was at Millbridge, he was talking up how he was going to beat me if I got in one of these … so now we’ll see who’s right when we get rolling for race time!”
But at the end of the day, Gragson’s appearance on the dirt boils back to relaxing and having a good time before he gets back down to business in the Lone Star State.
And, oh yeah, the entertainment value falls in there somewhere too.
“Man, for me, this is all about going out, having a killer time and putting on a show,” Gragson emphasized. “We might be racing for last in the C-Main, I don’t know … but even if we’re out there racing not to be last, I’m gonna be putting on a show and making it entertaining for all the fans that come out to support Millbridge.”
“They’re the reason we can do any of this … so I hope we can give them something to talk about!”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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