Noah Gragson leads the standings heading into the first round of the playoffs. (HHP/Chris Owens)

A ‘Motivated’ Team Has Gragson Focused For Playoffs

It’s nearly impossible to find a driver on a hotter streak than Noah Gragson heading into the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs. 

The JR Motorsports driver has claimed the last three checkered flags on the Xfinity Series circuit, dating back to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway to start the month of September. 

As Gragson heads into the first race of the playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet holds the top spot in the standings, 46 points above the cutline.

Despite having the highest points buffer of the 12 playoff drivers, Gragson doesn’t want to look ahead, with the unpredictability the playoffs can bring. 

Gragson’s No. 9 team during last week’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. (Logan Riely/Getty Images)

“I think we feel confident that we can win in the round of eight. We feel confident that we can win this weekend at Texas. But ultimately, the round of eight is what we’re looking at,” Gragson said. “We have to maintain and have strong runs. Finish in the top five in all three of these races, collect stage points.

“Yeah, we have playoff points to lean on in this first round, but at the same time, anything can happen. You’re not owed anything. No matter how your regular season goes, you’re not owed anything, even if it’s the round of 12.

“There are guys in Cup. Look at how many of them had problems,” Gragson continued. “I know the situation and circumstances are a little bit different with the different series. But,  at the same time, you’re not owed anything. You can’t bank on anything. With that being said, yeah, hopefully, we do get to the round of eight. Hopefully, we’re still in the playoffs. We got Homestead, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

With Gragson entering the final stretch of his full-time Xfinity Series career before moving to the Cup Series with Petty GMS Racing next season, Gragson’s objective is simple: Have fun and win a championship.

The 24-year-old had a shot at the title last season but finished third in the finale at Phoenix Raceway.

This time around, it’s Gragson’s last hurrah with the No. 9 JR Motorsports team, a moment he’s soaking up. 

“We’re hungry. We’re confident, we’re motivated, we’re having fun,” Gragson said. “I think with the time ticking, coming up on seven races to go, I don’t want to say in my Xfinity career but, for the next few years, going Cup racing with Petty GMS.

“Being at JR Motorsports, being my fourth year over there. We want to win a championship. We’ve been close. We had an opportunity to win a championship last year, wasn’t able to make it happen. We want that same opportunity this year at Phoenix.”

Gragson celebrates his third victory in a row. (HHP/Jim Fluharty)

For Gragson and the No. 9 team, this season has been about having a tight-knit foundation, as they look for redemption in the playoffs.

“I feel like personally, just try to work hard throughout the week, no matter how the weekends go, if they’re good or bad,” Gragson said. “But, trying to work even harder now that it’s the playoffs, and trying to maintain this streak, I don’t know. We’re really pumped up as a team right now. We’ve been going into the shop early before the guys start work, and we’ll work out up there at JR Motorsports and just try and bond as a team, just try and have fun.”

With the most victories in the Xfinity Series this season (six), Gragson and his team have found a winning formula.

Though with the playoffs being a metaphorical reset button, Gragson’s mindset remains focused on the task at hand, knowing there’s still work to do, to accomplish the team’s ultimate goal.

“Yeah, we got momentum right now, but you’re only as good as your last weekend,” Gragson said. “We need to maintain that and keep working hard. So, I think that motivates me to keep on having strong runs, keep this momentum going, because I know this is a crucial and critical time for our team to be in a spot to roll on with momentum race-to-race, and we want to keep that going.”

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