Noah Gragson has made three appearances at the Chilly Willy 150 at Tucson Speedway (AZ) in the past. On January 27, 2018, he’ll be making a fourth appearance, and this time he’s determined to be leaving with the trophy.
Gragson has run this Super Late Model race the past three years, and has only finished outside of the top five once. Finishing with a fifth-place in 2016, and being runner-up to the winner Owen Riddle last year, Gragson is itching to get behind the wheel and show the crowd what he’s capable of.
“I just feel excited to get back to Tucson Speedway because it’s a lot of fun and it’s the place where I got my first K&N win at,” Gragson told Speed51.com. “I’ve had a lot of good races there. I’ve raced a legend car there before and it’s probably one of my favorite short tracks. So, to get back there and see all my friends I’ve made there and all the people I’ve gotten to know through racing, it’s going to be a lot of fun. And it’s one of the best race tracks in the country in my opinion for three wide racing, and there’s a lot of strategy, so I’m pretty excited to get back there”
The Las Vegas, Nevada native will be racing out of the Dustin Ash Motorsports stable this January. He and his team know they have to prepare the car well, just like last year, and Gragson himself knows that he has to be careful behind the wheel to be in position to battle for the win once again.
“Last year we finished second and what’s tricky about Tucson is it’s a really, really worn out surface and really abrasive on the tires so it chews up the tires pretty bad.”
The abrasiveness of the Tucson track is part of what makes this race so much fun, according to Gragson.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved in how long you should save your tires, if you should save your tires,” Gragson explained. “It seems like the pace is different every year, sometimes they’ll be really fast and you’ve got to run with the leaders to keep up, or sometimes all the good guys will save their tires and that’s what makes the Chilly Willy race at Tucson so fun.”
The 19-year-old won’t let a subpar 12th-place finish at his last race of the 2017 season, the Snowball Derby, affect his confidence heading into the Chilly Willy. Gragson is confident in his efforts behind the wheel of a super late model.
“That’s pretty much out of my mind just because of what we struggled with during testing. As an organization at Kyle Busch Motorsports, I don’t think any of us were really happy with how the handing of the cars were, and the speed we had. But we’re working on that right now on the KBM side. I’m not really focused on it. I know from the Winchester 400 that I can win those big Super Late Model races. So not winning the derby was definitely a disappointment, but you can’t win them all I guess. Honestly, I expect nothing less than to go out there and win.”
Some drivers like running races early in the season like the Chilly Willy 150 because it gives them a chance to knock the rust off and get ready for the upcoming season. Gragson said he likes this race for a different reason.
“I don’t know if it helps me get ready for the upcoming season. But I just like doing it because, I get super bored not racing. It’s the first opportunity to get back in the race car and to do it with the guys I grew up racing with is even more special to me. It’s pretty cool just to get back out there. I have definitely waited a long time to do it over the off season so it nice to get back into the car so early.”
Speed51.com will have live Trackside Now coverage from Tucson Speedway at the Chilly Willy all throughout the weekend of January 25-27.
-By Kendra Adams, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @2KendraAdams
-Photo Credit: Noah Gragson