Growing up racing on the bullrings in Las Vegas, Noah Gragson found himself looking up to Kyle and Kurt Busch. Now, the young man can learn from his racing idol as he will drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports full-time in the Camping World Truck Series in 2017.
“I’m really excited for it,” Gragson told POPULAR SPEED. “I’ve been fortunate to make two Camping World Truck starts at the end of this year, so next year I’m really looking forward to. Kyle Busch Motorsports has a really good program over there; they’re obviously proven winners in the Camping World Truck Series in both race wins and championships. So like I said, I’m really looking forward to it, and I know they have a great program. It should be a good time.”
In preparation for the season, Gragson ran the final two races of the schedule – Phoenix and Homestead – for Richie Wauters Motorsports. In both races, he finished on the lead lap with a pair of top-20 finishes, with his best finish being 15th in the season finale. Going from running quarter and half miles in the K&N Pro Series to racing a mile and a half in a truck took some adjusting, per Gragson.
“It taught me a lot like to be more aggressive on restarts,” Gragson said. “Track position is huge as those guys; they get after it from the green flag to the checkered flag. Just need to get a bit better and debrief with those guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I know they’ll bring Fast Toyotas to the race track every weekend; (it’s) just getting comfortable with them. The biggest goal with these two races was to learn as much as possible and get ready for next year. I was really an open sponge, trying to take in everything that’s going on, from restarts to aerodynamics – just learning everything and getting experience was the biggest thing.
For Gragson, the interest to race began at a young age due to being competitive and having a high interest in other action sports like mountain biking and snowboarding.
“One day my dad came home, and his business partner used to race; when he was younger, they raced Bandoleros at the bullring,” he said. “So we went out there one day to see if we could get started. We went out there and tested and to see if I’d like it. After my first laps, I came in with a smile, ear to ear. I really like happy, and my first race was that Friday and I finished third. I guess you could say it’s an addiction from then. I’ve been loving it since.”
From there, Gragson worked his way up the ranks, competing in both the K&N Pro Series East and West tours this past season. In the East, he finished fifth in points with two wins and six top-10s, while finishing third in the West with two wins and 13 top-10s. Now he looks to carry the same success into the Camping World Truck Series.
Going into the year, he knows there are big shoes to fill after watching William Byron win seven races and the truck series owner’s championship for KBM last season as a rookie. However, he’s confident things should go well this upcoming season.
“I know they’ve got great equipment and it’s a good team so time for me to step up,” he said. “Really looking forward to get experience at the beginning of the year, and then hopefully get some race wins. I’m just trying to take it one race at a time right now and learn as much as possible.”
In just the beginning stages of his career with KBM, he has already gotten the opportunity to work with Kyle Busch, something in which he says has been really cool thus far.
“He’s really open to me in how he’s taken me in so far,” Gragson said. “Just being able to speak with a guy like him with so much experience and been in the same transition as me moving up through the ranks, he’s really taught me what to look for and what not to look out for. I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with him.”
Perhaps, though, in one of those meetings Busch better make sure to have a marker ready for Gragson. Growing up, Gragson was an avid collector of Busch’s diecasts.
“I’ve been joking around saying I am going to bring all my diecasts and get him to sign them.”
EMAIL ASHLEY AT firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.