Noah Gragson, a rookie driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, is competing with a heavy heart tonight after the death of a crew member’s wife just before Friday’s race.
Stephanie Merritt, the wife of team mechanic Jeff Merritt, died from injuries sustained in an auto accident two weeks ago.
Gragson, 18, gave an emotional interview with Fox Sports 1 prior to the NextEra Energy Resources 250.
“One of my guys back home, Jeff, we had a hard loss a couple of minutes ago,” Gragson said. “His wife passed away. They got in a car wreck over the offseason. He worked really, really hard on this truck. We’re going to go out there and drive as hard as we can today for him, for Stephanie.”
The stickers shown above is on Gragson’s truck.
Gragson, driving the No. 18, will start 12th is his third race in the Truck Series.
He was eliminated in a 17-truck crash on the second lap. He was hit from behind and sent into the wall, triggering the incident.
Racing with a heavy heart for Jeff and Stephanie tonight. You will be missed❤ #RIPStephie
After Hemric narrowly raced his way into the Championship 4 in the Phoenix elimination race, RCR stuck with Burnett for the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hemric wound up placing fourth in the standings after a battery issue resulted in him finishing 34th.
“I’m very excited about that,” Hemric said of Stockman’s return. “We had some situations that were thrown our way with five races left in the season. … I have all the faith in the world in Danny and in our race team and the direction we’re going as a company and knowing I’ve got him to lead our group is very exciting.”
Hemric finished his rookie year with no wins, seven top fives and 16 top 10s.
He’s still winless in three full-time seasons in NASCAR, including two in the Camping World Truck Series.
The 26-year-old driver addressed some of the struggles he faced in his transition into Xfinity.
“You’ve got more Cup guys on a regular basis,” Hemric said. “Those guys you’re trying to race but you’re trying to learn from them and you’re trying to as a rookie in this series and with a rookie team. We were all working together, so just trying to process all of that. But more than anything else, you’re racing so much more that you see the learning curve kind of take its own path a lot quicker throughout the year. It’s taking advantage of the moments knowing that you get to turn around every four or five days and get back on the race track and you get to work on your craft. It was good to be able to that and kind of have some success early on like we did.”
Below you can see a picture of the full top-10 list.
Here’s the entire top 10.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Axalta “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet – Earnhardt drove this car, based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet from his 2000 rookie season, in his final start at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Ryan Blaney: Motorcraft No. 21 Ford, Pocono race win diecast – Blaney drove this car to his first Cup win on June 11 at Pocono Raceway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, Darlington throwback paint scheme – Earnhardt raced this car, based on his ACDelco paint scheme from his two Xfinity Series championship seasons (1998-99), in the Southern 500.
Kurt Busch: Haas Automation No. 41 Ford, Daytona 500 race win diecast – The confetti and grass-covered car Busch won the 59th Daytona 500 in to start the year.
Austin Dillon: Dow Salutes No. 3 Chevrolet, Coca-Cola 600 race win diecast – The car Dillon drove to his first Cup win in May, sending the No. 3 to Victory Lane for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s last win in October 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, patriotic paint scheme – Earnhardt drove this scheme in the Coke 600.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Mountain Dew/Ride With Dale No. 88 Chevrolet, race version – Earnhardt drove this car in his final start at Talladega Superspeedway in October. Fans were able to register to have their names inscribed in the scheme. Earnhardt started from his 15th and final Cup pole in this race.
Chase Elliott: Hooters No. 24 Chevrolet – Elliott drove this car in the spring Talladega race and the playoff races at Phoenix Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide “Gray Ghost” No. 88 Chevrolet – Earnhardt drove this car in his final Cup start at Martinsville Speedway. Earnhardt originally intended to run the scheme in the 2016 Southern 500, but Jeff Gordon did when Earnhardt missed the last 18 races of the season for a concussion.
The NASCAR season officially came to a close Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the annual Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center. The ceremony will air at 9 p.m. ET on Dec. 17 on NBCSN.
Xfinity driver William Byron and Truck Series driver Christopher Bell were recognized as this season’s champions before they move on with their careers. Byron will race in the Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports and Bell moves up to Xfinity with Joe Gibbs Racing.
NASCAR handed out plenty of annual awards for each series.
Rookie of the Year: Byron (Xfinity) and Chase Briscoe (Trucks) Manufacturer title: Chevrolet (Xfinity) and Toyota (Trucks) Comcast Community Champion: Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew department
Mobil 1 Driver of the Year:Kyle Busch (Xfinity) and Bell (Trucks) Mahle Engine Builder of the Year: Roush Yates Racing’s Doug Yates (Xfinity) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Mark Cronquist (Trucks). Duralast Brake in the Race: Busch (Xfinity) and Bell (Trucks)
JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler was voted most popular driver for the third time after he finished runner-up in the season standings to Byron.
"Winning the @NASCAR_XFINITY Most Popular Driver award for the third time in my career is truly one of the coolest things I’ve been able to do in this sport. You, the fans, make this possible. I’m grateful and humbled by this honor." — @Elliott_Sadler on his 2017 MPD award. pic.twitter.com/ujO2WdxNiP