Noah Gragson avoiding drama as Xfinity playoffs near

Noah Gragson
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Before announcing Thursday that he’d return to JR Motorsports in 2021 for a third full-time Xfinity season, Noah Gragson had been quiet recently, at least on the race track.

That was on purpose.

After a high-profile summer, which saw the Xfinity Series driver win at Bristol after late contact with teammate Justin Allgaier and a garage area fight with Harrison Burton following contact between them at Kentucky, Gragson reigned himself in.

With two wins that lock him into the playoffs, Gragson has been thinking about the “big picture” over the last five races.

“I got a lot of (expletive) for being aggressive and maybe overly aggressive,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “I think (I’m) just trying to tone that down and pick and choose your battles on the race track. … I’m a racer who is more of a wreckers or checkers type and if I’m running in second, I’m gonna either win the race or wreck and not finish second. So I’ve kind of taken a different approach these last few weeks and have been less aggressive and whatnot.

“Just trying to stay under the radar with these guys not pissing anybody off on the race track and try and be low key for when we enter the playoffs. Then maybe just try and run my own race there in the first round of the playoffs and then kind of see where we go from there. But we have a decent amount of playoff points leading into the playoffs.”

Entering Friday’s race at Daytona (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Gragson is third on the playoff grid with 18 playoff points. He trails Chase Briscoe (35 playoff points) and Austin Cindric (34).

Over the last five races Gragson finished 15th (Kansas), sixth (Road America), third (Daytona road course) and fourth and sixth at Dover.

In that stretch, Gragson says it’s been “difficult when you’re in fourth battling with a guy and you want to stay in that position, but you know, long-term wise it’d be better if you just point them by and let them go if you’re racing hard with him. That’s kind of hard, but I’ve gotten used to it these last few weeks. I feel like it’s pretty normal now, but it was definitely challenging there, those first week or two, just having to concede positions and not piss anybody off on the race track.”

He’s also been working on his personal life. After the race at the Daytona road course, Gragson said he’s “spent a lot of time by myself at home, really not doing anything, studying film, playing Xbox and going to the shop. … Trying to clean up my friends, trying to clean up stuff that brings extra drama to my life, things that the less I can think about during the day, the better I can be on the racetrack.”

Gragson takes his new “big picture” mindset to Daytona, the track he earned his first Xfinity win at in February. He’ll start fourth as he tries to give JR Motorsports its fourth victory of the year after Allgaier won at Dover last weekend.

“I’m happy with where our team is,” Gragson said. “I feel like we have some great race tracks coming up and not really trying to get caught up in results this last month or two, just trying to keep everybody motivated and trying to keep myself motivated. And I feel like we’re really confident as a team right now. And we know the big picture is to make it to Phoenix and race for championship. So that’s what we’re gonna do. That’s what we’ve been focusing on. And we’re just trying to take it day-by-day, step-by-step and just trying to be the best that we can be.”

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.

Sunday Cup race at WWT Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather


Twelve races remain until the playoffs begin in early September. Ten drivers have won races. The pressure to secure a playoff spot builds as the Cup Series heads into the summer months.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Six-time Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee will give the command to start engines at 3:32 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:40 p.m. … Driver intros are at 2:55 p.m. … Tim Bounds, pastor at The Crossing Church St. Louis, will give the invocation at 3:24 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by Bebe Winans and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at 3:25 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 240 laps (300 miles) on the 1.25-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 140.

STARTING LINEUP: Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 90 degrees and a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup race at this track. Kyle Busch was second. Kurt Busch placed third.


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Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway

Cup starting lineup at World Wide Technology Raceway


Kyle Busch will lead the Cup starting lineup to the green flag in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The second row will have Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. The third row has Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano.

Corey LaJoie, driving the No. 9 car in place of the suspended Chase Elliott, qualified 30th after hitting the wall on his lap.

The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1.

Kyle Busch wins Cup pole at WWT Raceway


Kyle Busch collected his first Cup pole of the season and will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Busch last won a Cup pole at Phoenix in November 2019. He earned his 33rd career Cup pole Saturday with a lap of 137.187 mph on the 1.25-mile speedway.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

“Being able to get a pole here with Richard Childress Racing, Team Chevy and everybody on this No. 8 team is good for us and just try to get some momentum rolling,” Busch said. “Our short track stuff hasn’t been the greatest this year so far, but this isn’t the short track aero package here this weekend, so that might pay dividends hopefully for us to just have a better day than what we anticipated. Just excited to have the guys pumped up and raring to go, and knowing that their hard work is paying off.”

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney, who qualified at 137.153 mph. Blaney’s car failed inspection twice before qualifying. He will lose his pit selection for Sunday’s race. His car chief also was ejected. Brad Keselowski‘s car also failed inspection twice before qualifying. He loses pit selection and had the team’s car chief ejected. Keselowski qualified 19th with a lap of 135.743 mph.

Denny Hamlin (136.903 mph) starts third and is followed by Kevin Harvick (136.766) and Martin Truex Jr. (136.360). Harvick has two top-five starts this season and both have come in the last two events.

“I think we have a little bit of work to do on our car in race trim, but a lot of it is just getting into a rhythm I think – more than anything,” Harvick said. “Qualifying, we were just a little bit tight through Turns 1 and 2, and the car was good in 3 and 4. So, we have to have a better balance, and that’s what probably cost us a little bit of speed to get the pole. But, still a good day and a good starting spot.”

Corey LaJoie, subbing for the suspended Chase Elliott, will start 30th after hitting the wall on his qualifying lap. He qualified at 134.561 mph. Carson Hocevar, making in his Cup debut in LaJoie’s car, qualified 26th with a lap of 135.220 mph.

Green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET on FS1.