Noah Gragson has had a rollercoaster of a year in the 2021 Xfinity Series season. The JR Motorsports driver, who won twice in 2020, has come ever-so-close to winning on several occasions this year but has yet to make it to victory lane.
A month ago, an upbeat Gragson indicated he had no idea about his future but knew time was of the essence and hoped to get a deal done soon. This week JR Motorsports announced Josh Berry had signed on to run a full-time schedule in 2022. With that news, the focus shifted to who might be the odd man out. On Wednesday, Gragson’s comments, or lack thereof, suggested his future with the organization is in serious doubt.
Noah Gragson optimistic in interview last month
With silly season in full swing, NASCAR drivers in all three series have been firming up plans in recent weeks for the 2022 season. As recently as last month, Noah Gragson, who has been with JR Motorsports since 2019, indicated he was hopeful to re-sign with the organization where he has earned his two career Xfinity Series wins, both in 2020.
“Still no idea. I’d like to be a lot further moved along at this point in the year,” Gragson said. “Things start to really ramp up and deals start to get signed, you’ll see in the next month or two. Right now with the whole charter system, with everything, there’s a lot of chess pieces moving around. Luckily I have great people around me.
“We’re trying to find an opportunity. We have great partners at JR Motorsports right now with Johnny Morris at Bass Pro Shops, True Timber, and Black Rifle Coffee. Our team is really in unison and in sync right now. So I think the goal would be to keep that going with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series for another year, but right now it’s kind of up in the air, and need to win some races.”
Totally different demeanor in latest interview where he refuses to comment on future
Just a couple of days after Josh Berry announced he had signed on with JR Motorsports for a full-time ride in 2022, Gragson met with reporters to talk about his season. When specifically asked about his future with the organization, he refused to answer the question, and his general tone, which was noticeably different than a month ago, hinted that his future might be with a different team.
“I don’t really have a comment on that,” Gragson said. “Everybody’s working their tails off. I’m really thankful for everybody at JR Motorsports, and everybody behind me, my team who believes in me and I’m just focused on the rest of the season.”
Noah Gragson has had up-and-down season
While Gragson is understandably focused on the remainder of the 2021 Xfinity Series campaign, he’s experienced more than his share of ups and downs thus far this season.
It started with three sub-par finishes at both Daytona races, followed by a disastrous race at Homestead where Gragson was the dominant car, and appeared all but headed to victory lane when he slammed into the back of another car, ending his day. He finished 33rd.
After the race, Gragson cussed on live television, calling the team of MBM Motorsports dips—-. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has a relationship with team owner Carl Long and driver David Starr, suggested his driver might show a little more respect in the future.
A few weeks later, Gragson was in the news again when he and Daniel Hemric exchanged punches on pit road following the race at Atlanta. NASCAR officials later determined Gragson would not be penalized for the in-race incident that started the altercation.
In both instances, Gragson made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Both incidents, coupled with his inability to win any races this season, could be contributing factors if he doesn’t return to JR Motorsports next season.
If that is the case, he’ll likely land somewhere — maybe part-time — because despite his struggles in 2021, he has proven to be a capable driver, earning 62 top-10s and the pair of wins. And that track record is hard to ignore.