In what has been a busy and hectic 2016 racing season, Noah Gragson is gearing up for his biggest challenge yet. While competing in both the West and East halves of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series has been the focus of the 2016 NASCAR Next class member, Super Late Model racing still remains a passion. This weekend he is heading to one of the toughest races in the nation, the Winchester 400 at the always fast Winchester Speedway (IN).
Gragson enters the race with a solid ride and an experienced team out of the Wauters Motorsports stable, a team which he already has experience with this season running races such as CRA Speedfest and the Dixieland 250. He’s very excited to be on the team’s roster for Winchester, comparing it to another high-banked half-mile he became acquainted with earlier this year in his K&N Stock Car.
“We’ve already run four races for him so far and this is a bucket list race for myself, so we put a deal together and it just kind of came about,” Gragson told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It seems like an awesome track. I ran Bristol earlier this year and everyone I’ve talked to so far says it’s basically a bumpy Bristol that you run the top at. I really enjoyed Bristol from the time I got there in the K&N cars this year. Hopefully everyone is correct about the opinion on this track on what they say it’s like. I’m hoping I like it, it looks really cool in videos, hope to have some fun and tear it up.”
Gragson is seeking notes not just from multi-year veterans, but drivers in his own age group as well.
“I’ve talked to a few people, I’m going to call up Zane Smith and talk to him. He’s a close buddy of mine so I’ll ask him for some advice and kind of go from there.”
Gragson comes into the weekend riding his NASCAR success of four wins in both East and West competition. But three of those have come on road courses while the lone oval win came on the nearly flat Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). More significant, those events are a fraction of the distance compared to the Winchester 400, a distance that will set a new high mark for Gragson should he complete the race majority.
“First time going 400 laps, I’ve never done that before, it’s going to be long. The most I’ve done is 269 at the Snowball Derby last year when I wrecked out, which was unfortunate. Hopefully I’ll make it to 400 this time. It’s a long race, being prepared and staying focused is the biggest thing. I don’t know how physically demanding it’s going to be, hopefully the weather’s going to be pretty cool to where I’m not sweating my guts out the whole time.”
Even with the thrilling prospect of racing against several high profile names this coming weekend, Gragson knows his greatest opponent might be Winchester itself, and that conquering the track may be the key to conquering the field.
“There’s a lot of good guys going. I feel like the guys over at Kyle Busch Motorsports are going to be the class of the field, they pretty much are every place they go. It’s going to be tough, I think a lot of this race, from what I’ve heard, you got to survive the thing. There’s probably going to be probably 15 cars left at the end of the day. Staying on the lead lap and completing the race with no mechanical issues is the goal. Hopefully I’ll stay in the seat without losing my focus. The mindset we’re going in with, race the racetrack and have the race come to myself, just take it lap by lap, and get in a good position to be up front at the end.”
Following the Winchester 400, Gragson will wrap up the season in the K&N West Series at All American Speedway (CA) October 15, after which he will return home the week after to the Bullring at Las Vegas (NV) running a Super Late Model for his NASCAR team Jefferson Pitts Motorsports. He also has one more appointment in the Wauters No. 5, the 49th Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
Race fans can watch Noah Gragson and Wauters Motorsports go for the win in the Winchester 400 by purchasing their Speed51 TV pay-per-view package here.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: NASCAR Home Tracks