Why Petty GMS is "blessed" to have Noah Gragson join Cup team
To some, Noah Gragson’s move to the NASCAR Cup Series next season at Petty GMS Racing may come with extra baggage but the team sees way more pros than cons.
Petty GMS on Wednesday made official its hiring of Gragson – currently a fulltime driver in the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports – to a multi-year contract to drive its No. 42 Chevrolet in the Cup Series beginning in 2023.
The sometimes-fiery 24-year-old driver from Las Vegas has had his share of run-ins with fellow competitors in his career and even with NASCAR, which fined him $30,000 and docked him 30 points for intentionally wrecking another driver earlier this season.
But there is no doubting Gragson’s talent, which includes eight wins, 52 top-five and 85 top-10 finishes in 123 Xfinity series starts. He also owns two career wins in the Truck Series has seven combined wins in the ARCA East and West series dating back to 2015.
Noah Gragson, JR Motorsports, Bass Pro Shops TrueTimber BRCC Chevrolet Camaro, winner
Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images
However, Gragson’s move to Petty GMS next season comes with potentially an even bigger bonus – precious seat time in the new Next Gen car, which debuted in the Cup Series this year.
While competing in Xfinity, Gragson has also been running a partial schedule in Cup in 2022, driving entries for both Beard Motorsports (twice) and Kaulig Racing (seven races so far).
“It’s so exciting. We’re so blessed he gets to run those races,” said Petty GMS president Mike Beam. “It’s like I told him last week: ‘Don’t be a dumbass and wreck the first lap because the next year you’re back there, you’re a rookie again.’ You got to big-picture this deal.
“He just needs to get laps. We really appreciate the opportunity he has there (at Kaulig and Beard). This is just going to benefit us.”
Learning to drive the 'difficult' Next Gen car
Most drivers plucked from NASCAR’s lower tier series usually don’t come with any prior Cup experience and even less in the Next Gen car. With teams not allowed to test on their own, Gragson’s Cup seat time this year is extremely valuable.
“It’s been quite a challenge,” Gragson said of his Cup races this season. “The cars are hard to drive. They’re really hard to drive. When you’re not running it every week, it’s even more of a challenge and you’re playing catch-up.
“With that being said, the added track time has been a benefit, I think, and my dream has always been to get to the Cup Series. Mike Beam and (owner) Maury Gallagher reached out to me a couple months ago with the opportunity and it just seemed like the right fit for me.
“Looking back now, the extra track time is the right thing to do. I think once you strap in for Daytona next year, I’ll already have a little bit of experience. I won’t be going in with blinders over my eyes.”
Gragson’s Cup experience will also be important as Beam made clear the organization is looking for results as soon as possible, especially getting the No. 42 on par with where the No. 43 has been running this year with driver Erik Jones.
“We don’t have time. We’ve got to go. We’re not going to mess around here,” Beam said. “Maury is committed to this and what it costs to do it. We’re buying what we need to do to run well but we cannot have any – I don’t want to say weak links – but we’ve just got to go, and that’s just the honest to God’s truth.
“Noah knows it. I’ve talked to Noah about it. I’ve said, ‘We’re going to support you but we got to go.’ Erik knows it. Our plan is just to run hard.”
Erik Jones, Petty GMS Motorsports, FOCUSfactor Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Considering the organization only came together last December, the fact Jones has been in contention to win races this year is a testament to the organization’s strength and it’s on the right path.
“We’ve come so far in nine months,” Beam said. “It’s like you can buy 600 horsepower but you got to make 650, you got to work at it. We have to work at it to get to that next level.
“That’s about me hiring the right people, it’s about all the Cup guys having a direction. It’s about effort, that’s what it’s going to take.”
While Gragson’s crew chief for next season has yet to be named, his former crew chief at JRM, Dave Elenz, is already working at Petty GMS in his first year a crew chief for Jones.
Jones and Elenz will continue to work together in 2023 but Elenz said he welcomed the opportunity to have Gragson join the organization.
“I like Noah a lot. He’s done a lot of great stuff on the race track at JR Motorsports,” Elenz said. “I don’t know if you could get two more different personalities, which I think is a good thing for us. Keeping Noah in line a little bit, I think Erik can help with that. I think Noah will bring a little bit of liveliness to us.
“It’s a good combination. They’re both pretty young but Erik definitely has a lot of experience Cup racing. That will definitely help guide Noah and hopefully they will elevate each other. The better your teammate is, the better your organization is going to be and that’s just the way it is.
“They’re going to provide more quality information if they’re running alongside of you. It’s good from that standpoint and it’s good from a motivation standpoint. It just makes everybody work harder."
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