SERVPRO Racing: Noah Gragson St. Louis Advance

NOAH GRAGSON
St. Louis Advance
No. 10 SERVPRO Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Event Overview

● Event: Enjoy Illinois 300 (Round 15 of 36)
● Time/Date: 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 2
● Location: Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois (near St. Louis)
● Layout: 1.25-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 240 laps/300 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 45 laps / Stage 2: 95 laps / Final Stage: 100 laps
● TV/Radio: FS1 / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Notes of Interest

● Noah Gragson’s NASCAR Cup Series career at Gateway International Raceway is comprised of just 197 laps. The Las Vegas native made his first Cup Series start at the track on the outskirts of St. Louis last year, but a broken brake rotor sent Gragson careening into the turn one wall just as he began his 198th tour of the 1.25-mile oval. The resulting impact resulted in a red-flag period that lasted just over nine minutes. The accident not only ended Gragson’s race at Gateway, but it kept him out of the car for the following race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Gragson returned to his racecar June 25 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway.

● Prior to coming to Gateway in the NASCAR Cup Series, Gragson made two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts at the track, earning a pair of top-10 finishes – ninth in 2017 and 10th in 2018. It was that 2018 race, however, that Gragson feels he should have won. After starting third, Gragson led twice for a race-high 63 laps. In fact, he was cruising to victory, leading the race with less than 10 laps to go. But a flat tire seven laps short of the finish prompted an unscheduled pit stop, forcing Gragson out of the lead. That he battled back to finish 10th in a race where 17 trucks finished on the lead lap was a testament to Gragson’s strength that day at Gateway.

● Battling back is what Gragson aims to do again at Gateway. The 25-year-old driver for Stewart-Haas Racing finished 38th last Sunday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway after a crash on lap 171. It ended a run of seven straight top-20 finishes, the last four of which were all among the top-15, including a career-best result of third April 21 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

● Joining Gragson at Gateway is SERVPRO, a leader in property cleanup, restoration and construction. For more than 50 years, SERVPRO has been a trusted leader in fire and water cleanup and restoration services, construction, mold mitigation, biohazard, and pathogen remediation. SERVPRO’s professional services network of more than 2,200 individually owned and operated franchises spans the United States and Canada, responding to property damage emergencies large and small – from million-square-foot commercial facilities to individual homes. When disaster strikes, homeowners, business owners and major insurance companies rely on SERVPRO to help make it “Like it never even happened.”

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 10 SERVPRO Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Your history at Gateway is comprised of two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts and one NASCAR Cup Series start. With that body of work, what is it like to race at the flat, 1.25-mile oval?

“It’s a tough track because you have a really tight turns one and two, and then a long, sweeping, flat turns three and four, so it’s hard to get your car handling great on both sides of the racetrack. But that being said, it’s definitely a fun track. It was fun in the Trucks. We ran well there and should’ve probably won. I was leading with 10 to go and got a flat tire, so that was a bummer. But it’s a fun track. They always pack the house out there. It’s a good time.”

You endured a hard crash last year at Gateway and it kept you out of the car the following week at Sonoma. What do you remember about the accident and what were you feeling in its immediate aftermath?

“I had a little bit of brake shake and the pedal got a little longer, and then when I went into turn one, right when I hit the brake, I thought the right-front tire blew out, but it was really the rotor. I lost all braking capabilities, and then I turned left to spin the car out because I was already turning into the corner, and just tried to spin it out through the grass as best I could. Had I known it was going to blow out, I would’ve obviously tugged it to the right, wall-rode it. I got a concussion and had to sit out the next weekend. It was a hard hit.”

You scored a pair of top-10s in your two Truck Series starts at Gateway. How different was that experience compared to when you raced there last year in a Cup car?

“You’re still shifting in a Truck there, if you need to. You have options with the Truck. You’re not downshifting twice into turn one, but sometimes you are downshifting in turn one in the Truck. So, that was not too totally different. I think in 2017, it was the old pavement, so it was quite a bit different. But ever since they repaved in late 2017, early 2018, I went out there and did a tire test with Goodyear, so that was good to get experience on. And then I ran pretty well in the Truck, so going back there, it felt pretty similar to the same racetrack where I left off in 2018.”

Is Gateway similar to other flat ovals, like Phoenix, where you finished 12th earlier this year?

“I think it definitely races a lot like Phoenix. It’s kind of a hybrid between a mile-and-a-half and Martinsville because you’re going pretty slow through the corners, but it’s the same mile-and-a-half aero package. It’s a fun track. It’s challenging because it’s so flat and it’s hard to get your car working on both sides. But I hope it’s like Phoenix because we ran pretty solid there all weekend.”

You had a prime tire and an option tire during the All-Star Race weekend at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. How did you like it and would you like to have those same options available at Gateway and at other tracks on the schedule?

“I really liked the soft tire, it just gave the car a lot more grip. There was falloff and you could move around and you could pace your run out a little bit. But it’s hard to really get a good gauge because it was a repave there at North Wilkesboro. If they took that soft tire to New Hampshire or Phoenix, you’ll probably wear it out in 30 laps. So it’s hard to really tell exactly and get a full read on what that tire was, but I thought it was a lot more fun than the hard tire. I think they should bring that tire everywhere, or at least try it. Double thumbs-up to Goodyear. They did a great job with that tire. They made the cars a lot more fun to drive and made it a lot racier.”

No. 10 SERVPRO Team Roster

Primary Team Members

Driver: Noah Gragson

Hometown: Las Vegas

Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer

Hometown: Decatur, Illinois

Car Chief: Jerry Cook

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Engineer: James Kimbrough

Hometown: Pensacola, Florida

Spotter: Andy Houston

Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina

Over-The-Wall Members

Front Tire Changer: Ryan Mulder

Hometown: Sioux Center, Iowa

Rear Tire Changer: Trevor White

Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Tire Carrier: Tyler Bullard

Hometown: King, North Carolina

Jack Man: Sean Cotten

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Fuel Man: James “Ace” Keener

Hometown: Fortuna, California

Road Crew Members

Mechanic: Chris Trickett

Hometown: Grafton, West Virginia

Mechanic: Beau Whitley

Hometown: Carmel, Indiana

Tire Specialist: Jacob Cooksey

Hometown: Westbrookville, New York

Engine Tuner: Matt Moeller

Hometown: Monroe, New York

Transporter Co-Driver: Steve Casper

Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina

Transporter Co-Driver: Matt Murphy

Hometown: Augusta, Georgia

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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