NASCAR Cup Series
All That Remains is the Race for the Championship
Nov 4, 2022
Dale Earnhardt Jr. equated Noah Gragson to a professional wrestler cutting a promo interview during his NASCAR Media Day session on Thursday at the Phoenix Convention Center.
During the 30-minute breakout session, Gragson gushed romantically about his tenure at JR Motorsports, expressed disdain for Ty Gibbs, the opportunity to win a championship on Saturday all the while looking forward to his future in the NASCAR Cup Series with Petty GMS.
This is the second consecutive year that Gragson has participated in the championship but is taking time to enjoy it this year.
"It’s my last year in Xfinity, obviously, so we want to win but last year, I wasn't myself and tried too hard to focus and didn't take the time to enjoy it and realize how cool this is," Gragson said. "Last year, it was tunnel vision and this year, it's more the mindset that it's going to be whatever it's going to be, don't change anything up, because we're the top dogs.
"We didn't get here by accident. We've won a lot and earned our way into the final four. It's going to be exciting and a privilege to be here with these three and a half men ..."
The man said three and a half men, of course, referencing his continued animus towards the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54.
And then there was the revelation that Jimmie Johnson had become an investor and minority owner of Petty GMS immediately igniting a shared kinship between the three drivers when including Richard Petty as well.
"Well, I've won seven NASCAR championships on NASCAR Inside Line for Xbox so to join those two would be pretty cool," Gragson said.
Gragson certainly hasn’t lacked for personality over the years but really seemed to settle comfortably in embracing everything that comes with being himself between wrecking the field with an ill-thought-out right rear on Sage Karam at Road America, or the lack of a cool suit and pulled down zipper on his fire suit or interviews that come across like professional wrestling interviews.
It’s authentic and not inspired by anyone, he says.
"My style is just me, like to have fun, enjoy it, a prepared hard-nosed racer who likes to have fun and doesn't really give a ----," Gragson added. "There's your quote."
What about Gibbs though? Because Gragson might enter as the favorite but the statistics aren’t too terribly far from Gibbs and a case could be made for the other two JR Motorsports drivers in Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier too.
"You have guys that race you clean, the right way, like Brandon Jones, Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier," Gragson said. "And then you have Little Man, who doesn't."
Gragson certainly wants to win, but would be more than willing to accept his teammates winning if it means that Gibbs didn’t by the end of the race on Saturday, because the rivalry is that authentic in his eyes.
"I just don’t like him," Gragson said. "I’m speaking what everybody doesn’t want to say."
But given his druthers, he really wants to beat Gibbs and isn’t even threatening to do it in a way that could be described as dirty or unscrupulous.
"Because, I want to beat him straight up and it pi--es him off even more when you beat him straight-up," Gragson said. "That's why I chose the outside on the final restart (at Martinsville). I could have chose the inside third row and it looks a lot more bada-s if you can beat them that way. If you can clear both of them, you're the hero.
"But wrecking the s--t out of your teammate when you're already in and could have had two company cars in the final four, that's crazy to me, and now JRM has a 75 percent chance to win the championship so it works out for us."
Earnhardt is only his boss for one more weekend, and certainly has been subjected to the full Noah Gragson Experience over the past four seasons but says he’s okay with the aggressive quotes on one condition.
"Noah is amazing for the sport," Earnhardt said. "He's been running around here all-day, shooting promos like a wrestler. I think that's a really great thing as long as it doesn't go into a personal space that doesn't make anyone uncomfortable or a personal jab at Ty.
"I'm fine with all the talk as long as it doesn't go too far."
As for this final race with JR Motorsports, championship or not, Gragson is just here to enjoy the moment. He has accomplished a great deal with the organization with 13 wins in 134 starts.
"Making it to the final four is a championship in its own," Gragson said. "You go into this season with a chance to race into the final four and now we’ve done that. Now it’s one race where everything has to go right. A thousand things need to go right for you to win the race but just one thing can take you out of contention.
"For me, personally, I just want to enjoy this and have fun because I didn’t appreciate the moment enough last year."
Gragson plans on having a massive party after the race no matter what because these are memories he will cherish when his career comes to a close.
"In 20 years, it won’t matter what the result was," Gragson said. "You’re going to look at the memories rather than the results. The memories you make with people is what comes up when you’re sitting around the fire, 20 years, drinking whatever and enjoying the stories from back when."
That’s a quote too.