By: Ashley McCubbin
Whenever drivers have an incident on-track, the first discussion which normally comes up is how will the drivers iron out their differences – whether a phone call, or meeting in person.
The big question, though, is how do you decide when and if you are going to speak with your fellow competitor?
“You just have to man up,” Noah Gragson told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Leave your emotions at the door. Leave whatever it is at the door, man up, and say what you feel. There’s nothing wrong in explaining your side of the story to that person and telling them your opinion. Maybe it becomes a little more clear in their mind, and vise versa – maybe what they say will make it more clear in my mind.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all to call someone and tell them – not even on the race track, but maybe a family member, or a girlfriend or boyfriend or a long time friend that you don’t have the best relationship with anymore. There’s nothing wrong with – these are people that you care about, otherwise you wouldn’t think of calling them. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling somebody up and explaining your emotions and where you’re at in the moment.”
Over the past two seasons, Gragson has been involved in a couple different incidents with fellow competitors, most recently with Daniel Hemric at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Rather than call him directly afterwards, he waited until following the Easter break. Although it was a cordial conversation on Thursday night, the pair agreed to disagree.
The decision to delay the conversation was simple – Gragson wanted to enjoy the Easter break and give himself a chance to clear his mind.
“I didn’t want to jump into anything to premature,” he explained on Wednesday. “I wanted to get my emotions in-check, I wanted to give it a few days or week to cool off. Emotions are high, tempers are high right after the fact. So with that being said, I think Daniel is a good guy. We were teammates last year. We have been to lunch together. We’ve seen each other around at dinner so there’s no hard feeling towards Daniel or anybody else in the Xfinity garage. At the same time, I need to keep a job and race as hard as I can.”
The importance of ironing out differences becomes a big topic, especially heading into a weekend like this where drivers are competing in close quarters around the half-mile Martinsville Speedway. However, despite having a few who are not his biggest fan, Gragson says he is not nervous about something happening.
“I feel very confident,” he commented. “It’s a week-to-week deal to where you race guys hard one week and it could come back to bite you back on the butt. But to me, I just see cars on the race track – I don’t see numbers, paint schemes, just cars on the race track, and I feel like everybody in a race car has the opportunity to gout there and create their own luck. I’ve said it before, and I’m not sure which is right, but for me, I’m an aggressive racecar driver and when I’m on the track, I am seeing racecars and there’s 39 racecars that I need to beat.”
Aggressiveness, tight quarters, and a few bumper tags would make it appear as though heading to Martinsville is the right recipe for Gragson. He was successful there in the past with a win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and showed speed on Friday up until weather forced a red flag, and delay until Monday.
But for Gragson, the aggressive style he has stood behind from day one is not something he just campaigns for this weekend. Instead, he believes it allows every track to play into his wheelhouse.
“You have to be aggressive,” he said. “We heard – I think it was Chris Gabehart, crew chief for the No. 11 in the Cup Series on that final restart at Bristol tell him, You have the most aggressive guy leading this race – go get it,’ and he was referring to Joey Logano as he was talking to Denny Hamlin. Well, in my opinion, aggressiveness gets you up front and keeps you there. It could be Bristol dirt, Martinsville, Daytona, or anywhere in between. You have to be aggressive to get up front.”