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Noah Gragson heads home to Las Vegas after Daytona win

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It would be easy to label Noah Gragson as a typical 21-year-old (who happens to drive race cars for a living).

“I feel like I’m a pretty impatient person looking for instant gratification I would say,” Gragson tells NBC Sports.

But he’s working on that.

“I’m starting to learn to be more patient and just appreciate the process maybe a little bit more,” Gragson says. “I think that is showing me it can be more rewarding at times when you can just trust that process and not look for that instant gratification and just be results driven.”

Gragson came close to instant gratification in the Xfinity Series two years ago when he finished second in his first career start at Richmond Raceway while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The 35 races between that near miss and his win last Saturday at Daytona International Speedway “got frustrating at times” for the JR Motorsports driver.

“I don’t know if I feel regret,” Gragson says. “Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself, like ‘Do I not know how to do this? Do I suck really badly? Like what’s the deal?’ Put a lot of pressure on myself, more than anybody else. Just trying to learn a new organization and a new group of guys and new situations, scenarios. It took me a little bit, but that also is what made that win at Daytona so much sweeter.”

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

After giving JR Motorsports its third straight win in the season-opening race, Gragson milked the moment for all it was worth. He performed a burnout that caught the track on fire, climbed the catchfence with his team, chucked his water bottle into the stands (on his second attempt), planted the checkered flag in the roof of his No. 9 Chevy and slid across its hood like Bo Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard.

“My biggest focus after the race on Saturday was to try to soak it all in, try and experience the moment because you don’t get to race at these places all the time … much less win there,” says Gragson. “You can’t take it for granted. I feel like I’m one of the guys who tries to live up every moment I get because you never know how many times you’re going to get to go back there and experience that.”

Gragson is quick to acknowledge Daytona and the biggest win of his career are in the past. Up next is a trip to his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“There’s still a task at hand,” Gragson says. “We can’t lose sight of what our goal is this weekend and definitely need to stay available and accountable and ready to go for this weekend. It’s really easy to get sidetracked with the past weekend’s results.”

Saturday’s race (4 p.m. ET on FS1) will be Gragson’s third Xfinity start on the 1.5-mile oval and his sixth overall after three Truck Series starts.

Unlike in Trucks, where he led 57 laps around the track but never finished better than 12th, Gragson has had more success on the Xfinity level.

He finished third there last spring. In the fall playoff race, he started from the rear after a spin in qualifying and drove to a sixth-place finish. In total, he finished sixth or better in six of the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks.

“I feel like last year I really paced the (1.5-mile) races really well and had a car to be able to be in contention at the end of the races,” says Gragson. “I’ve been to these race tracks once or twice now. I know where the bumps and the seams and the cracks are, how the car’s going to be affected. My focus isn’t what it’s going to drive like when I get to these race tracks, it’s going to be OK. I know what the car needs to feel like and I know how to go fast at these places.”

What does Gragson like about the cracks and seams of Las Vegas compared to other intermediate tracks?

“Probably that you can move up to the top side and you have different options,” says Gragson. “It’s a really challenging race track, especially to get off Turn 4. It gets really, really sharp and narrow. … It’s like a double-edged sword. It’s a really fine balance of not being too loose on entry, but having enough turn in the car to be able to wrap the corner on exit where you don’t have to back out of the throttle on exit to make it to the straightaway.”

Gragson says it “would be a dream” to follow up his Daytona win with a victory in front of his home crowd, adding “I don’t know what I could compare it to until if it were to happen.”

If it does, you likely won’t see him attempt another Dukes of Hazzard-esque slide across the hood of his No. 9 Chevy.

“I might get my ACL caught up on the hood pins,” Gragson observes. “I didn’t realize that until they told me the next day. They’re like, ‘Man, you almost caught your leg on that thing.’ ‘Oh, that would not be good. You’re probably right about that.'”

Gragson is a guest on this week’s episode of The Dale Jr. Download, which airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier to be streamed online

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The qualifying race for Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway will be streamed on enascar.com/live, NASCAR announced.

The qualifier features Xfinity, Truck and regional series drivers looking to advance to the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race that will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App. At this time, four drivers from the qualifier will advance. That number could change depending on any late additions or drops to the race featuring Cup drivers.

MORE: Roush, Greg Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

MORE: North Wilkesboro to make its comeback on iRacing 

MORE: eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series reminds Clint Bowyer of being a rookie

The qualifier is scheduled to take place at 11:02 a.m. ET and have 34 drivers battling for those four transfer spots.

The qualifier will be 30 laps at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The race will have no cautions.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 10:55 a.m., lasting five minutes, followed by the race.

Last week, six drivers advanced from the qualifier to the main event. They were: Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ryan Truex.

Drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s qualifier at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway are (with car number):

02 – Spencer Boyd

7 – Justin Allgaier

08 – Jeb Burton

15 – Brennan Poole

16 – Justin Haley

22 – Austin Cindric

23 – Sam Mayer

26 – Tyler Ankrum

27 – Ruben Garcia

29  – Kaz Grala

29a – Trevor Bayne

33 – Anthony Alfredo

35 – Todd Gilliland

36 – Jesse Iwuji

40 – Ryan Truex

45 – Ty Majeski

46 – Chandler Smith

50 – Jeffrey Earnhardt

52 – Stewart Friesen

53 – Joey Gase

54 – Kyle Weatherman

63 – Scott Stenzel

68 – Brandon Brown

74 – Sheldon Creed

78 – Ryan Ellis

80 – Joe Graf Jr.

81 – Christian Eckes

90 – Alex Labbe

93 – Myatt Snider

98 – Chase Briscoe

99 – Harrison Burton

TBD – Derek Kraus

TBD – Drew Dollar

TBD – JJ Yeley

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

Roush, Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

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After four years, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle are getting the band back together … digitally.

Roush Fenway Racing announced its former driver will compete in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a digital Texas Motor Speedway.

Like he did in the Cup Series from 2003-2016, Biffle will pilot a No. 16 Ford in the race (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the No. 16,” Biffle said in a press release. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.

“We are running a really cool Castrol scheme on the car. I think it’s going to show up really well. My plan is to log a ton of practice time leading up to the race, so hopefully we can have a strong showing and you’ll see a lot of the Castrol green and red on the broadcast.”

This will be Biffle’s iRacing event debut.

After parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the 2016 season, Biffle returned to NASCAR last year for a one-off Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which he won.

NASCAR teams impacted by North Carolina stay at home order

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay at home order for the entire state of North Carolina, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is for 30 days.

The move impacts all NASCAR teams based in North Carolina.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Gov. Cooper said in afternoon news briefing.

MORE: N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

MORE: North Carolina stay at home order

The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

The order also states that among the definitions for an essential business and operation is “Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements. Businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining Social Distancing Requirements:

a. Between and among its employees; and

b. Between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County, which are home to such race teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, were already under a stay at home order through April 16.

By the end of the week, more than 20 states will have issued stay at home orders, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.