On Sunday NASCAR released a statement that they will not be penalizing Noah Gragson following his actions on pit road during Saturday’s XFINITY event when he backed into Daniel Hemric’s No. 18 Toyota on pit road during a live pit stop. After the conclusion of the event, Hemric confronted Gragson on pit road, which led to a brief fist fight before both drivers were separated.
Gragson claimed that due to Hemric being in the No. 9’s pit box, albeit briefly, he had to reverse the car in order to pit properly. However, cameras showed that Hemric had parked awkwardly due to the No. 99 of Mason Massey attempting to pull out of his pit box as Hemric was entering his. Although Gragson maintains plausible deniability, cameras on the No. 18 showed Gragson reaching out of his window and flipping off Hemric and the No. 18 team before plowing into them.
If this were an isolated event, it’d be one to briefly muse and speculate on while Gragson received a warning to keep his temper in check on a live pit road. However, this isn’t an isolated incident; Gragson has had a long line of erratic behavior both on-and-off track, leading to speculation that it is high time that Gragson needs to humble himself.
There’s the matter of last season when he dumped Myatt Snider at Las Vegas and tried to pass it off as his car getting tight as opposed to a deliberate dump after getting blocked. There’s the matter of Kentucky later in the season when Gragson and Harrison Burton came to blows after Burton confronted him about consecutive weeks of contact between the two. Then there’s the publicized matter of Gragson lashing out at David Starr and MBM Motorsports after a tire on Starr’s car let go at Homestead collecting Gragson. Gragson’s remarks even drew the ire of announcer Mike Joy, who said in a tweet that drivers who came in on their father’s money needed to learn to earn respect. Gragson’s team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. even said on the next episode of the Dale Jr. Download that although he didn’t want to be a helicopter owner, guys like Starr and MBM team owner Carl Long deserved some respect.
It’s common knowledge that if there’s a common denominator in a series of incidents, it’s a good chance that said denominator (in this case, Gragson) may be a guilty party. That’s a conclusion that could be come to pretty easily with just a little “Maybe it’s me” introspection. Sure, Gragson is a wheelman. Sure, Gragson has that drive to win (does anyone remember the 2018 Camping World Truck Series race at Dover?). All of this could almost be forgivable and chalked up to his “competitive fire,” if it weren’t for the way he handles himself off of the track.
There’s the time he was kicked out of the GoPro Motorplex in 2018 for repeatedly breaking their rules during a visit, where he took to Snapchat afterward in anger. But then, there’s the matter of hitting on Executive Vice President Steve O’Donell’s daughter Shannon on Twitter. Sure, that was all in “good fun” and shows that Gragson has a “personality.” Then there’s the matter of his making a move on a Snowball Derby beauty queen only to get shut down in epic fashion.
Okay, so the guy is trying too hard to be Tim Richmond. He’s trying to be a “heel.” He’s trying to be “old school cool.” But what would you call zooming in and filming a random woman from behind, catcalling her, and posting it to Snapchat without their permission? Is that “Old School Cool,” or is it creepy and disgusting behavior? Is that okay behavior?
It’d be so easy to call this a smear piece on Noah, but all this is doing is trying to point out that Noah has been a regular problem for NASCAR in varying degrees. Supporters are quick to say that “Noah has a personality! Noah is playing up being a heel! Noah is refreshing!” No, that’s not it. Kyle Busch has a personality. Kyle Busch is great a being a heel. Kyle Busch has also earned respect on and off the tracked because Kyle Busch earned his spot at the table (and doesn’t record himself leering at random women).
Can the same honestly be said about Gragson? He’s never driven for an MBM or a Spire Motorsports. When he joined the Camping World Truck Series, he jumped on board with Kyle Busch Motorsports – the best in the division. When he went full-time in the XFINITY Series, he went to JR Motorsports – one of the best in the division. He hasn’t been humbled on the track, and for that matter, his off-track antics show that he hasn’t been humbled there either.
NASCAR missed a chance to humble Gragson. As any kid out there, Gragson could use some humble pie. There’s a line of problems here that will only build up if unaddressed, and the question is now a matter of what line will be crossed for NASCAR, Johnny Morris, or even Dale Jr. to say enough is enough and have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with Gragson? He’s a consistent driver; not exactly setting the world on fire with his four national series wins (two truck, two XFINITY), but his record isn’t enough of an insulation for his antics.
Either the powers that be sit Noah down and humble him, or he could fall victim to his own hubris. Either way, he can’t go on like this and properly represent the sport.