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Noah Gragson, Stewart-Haas Racing Pairing Off to Fast Start with Top-10 Finish in Daytona 500

Noah Gragson worked his way from the back of the field to lead five laps in the Daytona 500, and when the checkered flag was displayed, he found himself finishing inside the top-10.

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It was a successful start to Noah Gragson's tenure with Stewart-Haas Racing Monday night at Daytona International Speedway. The driver of the No. 10 Ford Mustang Dark Horse led five laps in the event and came home with a solid ninth-place finish in the 66th annual Daytona 500.

"It was good," Gragson said to Racing America about his first points-paying race with SHR. "I thought all of the Stewart-Haas Racing Fords worked really well together. The Fords had speed all day."

He's not lying. The SHR Fords were very fast.

Gragson, who was involved in a crash in Thursday's Duel Qualifier, had to start Monday's rain-delayed race from the rear of the field. While he started from the rear, Gragson spent little time knifing his way through the pack as he asserted himself as the leader of the race on Lap 56.

While the 25-year-old would get shuffled out of the front at the end of Stages 1 and 2, and as a result didn't score any Stage Points in the event, he kept his car clean heading into the final stage.

When the pay window opened at the end of the race, Gragson found himself among the front group of cars at the front of the field. After the race ended due to a caution just as William Byron took the white flag, Gragson would be credited with a ninth-place finish.

While it was a good finish, Gragson believes it could have been even better had the race stayed green for the last lap.

"The Ranger Boat, Black Rifle Coffee, TrueTimber, Winchester Mustang was quick. We led some laps there in the middle of the race. Just got pinned on the bottom on that last restart," Gragson explained. "Took the white flag, and was about to make a move to the middle, but the caution came out. Congrats to William [Byron], and Mr. Hendrick. But we're going to keep working, keep on trying to be better. I appreciate Drew and the rest of these Ranger Boats guys."

Gragson will carry confidence as he heads into Atlanta Motor Speedway, another superspeedway-style event, after collecting a great finish on Monday at Daytona. He says that he's had a blast with his new team, and he hopes to continue stringing together great results in the opening few races.

If Gragson can remain near the front of the point standings after the opening few races, the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series owner standings will play a big role in the practice groups and qualifying order going forward.

"It's been a lot of fun so far. It's good to start the year off with some points to carry us into the next weekend," Gragson explained. "Once we get rolling throughout the season, set our qualifying orders or practice orders on the deal, the algorithm, it'll be beneficial."

The top-10 effort was the pie-in-the-sky conclusion for Gragson, who says he's simply happy to be back in the NASCAR Cup Series after a season-ending suspension in 2023, which led to his dismissal from the LEGACY MOTOR CLUB team.

"I'm so thankful to be back," Gragson said. "It's been great to see all of the fans. NASCAR did a great job getting everything going for a Monday race. This place is still packed. Very grateful to be back. Thanks to our fans, thanks to our fans. Rusty Rush (president of Rush Truck Centers) as well, we had a good time with him this week. A lot of positives."

The Stewart-Haas Racing / Noah Gragson pairing will roll into Atlanta Motor Speedway with something the team has been hoping to have -- momentum. Now, it's all about keeping it.

Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

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