Noah Gragson left disappointed after near-win in Canada

Barry Cantrell/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

From bumps and swerves to an unprecedented four-wide move, Noah Gragson put on a show at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

But after failing to earn a playoff-clinching win, the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) rookie felt only disappointment.

“I really wanted to win this race and I gave it all I could,” Gragson said. “Just unacceptable on my part. I was in the position where I had to win and I didn’t get the job done, so my guys they put a really good Toyota Tundra under me and just really bummed out.”

Gragson, 19, arrived in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season to fill the second KBM entry held by rookie sensation William Byron in 2016. After a slow start to the year, Gragson began to show some of the potential of his predecessor, rattling off seven-straight top 10s from Charlotte Motor Speedway in May through Eldora Speedway in July to rise back into playoff contention.

The Nevadan’s ascent was only undone when a crash at Pocono Raceway and difficult day at Bristol Motor Speedway sent him to finishes of 24th and 15th, and effectively out of range for a playoff position on points. With just two races before the postseason, Gragson arrived in Canada as one of a handful of drivers searching desperately for a win.

Gragson ran quiet in the opening laps of the Truck Series’ lone road course race, finishing sixth in the race’s first stage, but gradually rose into contention. While mired back in sixth on a late run, he saw an opportunity to make something happen.

One four-wide move and an additional overtake of Justin Haley later, the rookie was tailing Kaz Grala for the race lead.

Gragson stalked Grala for the top spot in the ensuing laps, even making a couple attempts at a pass, but the Daytona International Speedway winner eventually began to pull away with the lead. Shortly thereafter Austin Cindric – another driver in a must-win situation, and the man that had dominated the race before enduring a pit road penalty – caught Gragson to challenge for second.

It took Cindric little time to overtake Gragson, though the duo did make contact coming down the frontstretch – an action Gragson noted as “just hard racing.”

Cindric went on to spin Grala for the win, allowing Gragson to gain one additional spot and finish a career-best second in his 17th start. But the position meant little to Gragson, who now needs to win the final race of the regular season at Chicagoland Speedway to keep his championship hopes alive.

“The (No.) 19 (Cindric) was pretty fast there at the end,” Gragson said. “I was giving it all I could. I know I’m second, so just had a bad pit stop and I feel like it kind of hurt us a little bit. We just needed a little bit more speed there at the end. The (No.) 33 (Grala) was pretty good and the 19 was pretty good. I really wanted to win this one bad for my guys.”

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