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Credit the Petty GMS folks for their efficiency. By introducing Noah Gragson on Wednesday as the next driver of the No. 42 Chevy, the NASCAR Cup Series team has completed its shopping a very efficient 136 days before Christmas.

Maury Gallagher and Richard Petty can focus on the remainder of the current season, making a final push to land Erik Jones in the playoffs, and let the other Cup teams scrap for drivers through the conclusion of Silly Season.

Petty GMS strikes a deal with Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson walks the grid during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29, 2022. | James Gilbert/Getty Images
Noah Gragson walks the grid during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29, 2022. | James Gilbert/Getty Images

“Potential” is a word to describe people who haven’t accomplished anything yet but have the tools to emerge as stars. Noah Gragson fits the description. He finished second in the 2018 truck series and has placed in the top 10 of the Xfinity Series three times. He is a 10-time winner between the two series but lacks a season championship, though he’s contending against the likes of Ty Gibbs and AJ Allmendinger this time.

Gragson has also experienced a taste of the NASCAR Cup Series, totaling nine rides with Kaulig Racing and Beard Motorsports in 2022. That’s all Maury Gallagher needed to see before the new Petty GMS principal introduced Gragson as the next driver of the No. 42 Chevy.

Gragson will replace Ty Dillon on a multi-year contract, instantly upgrading the two-car operation with Erik Jones, who recently signed a contract extension.

“I’ve watched Noah from a young age competing on the West Coast to now competing at NASCAR’s top level,” Gallagher said, “and he’s shown the commitment, desire and ability to win at every level.”

Black Rifle Coffee almost certainly will follow Gragson to Petty GMS. The team likely will unveil other primary sponsors soon.

Petty GMS will finish in Silly Season’s top 2

There is no arguing that the NASCAR team that signs Kyle Busch wins Silly Season. Busch has won more than 200 races in the sport’s three major series and is a two-time Cup Series champion. The fact that Joe Gibbs Racing has left the door open this long for others to lure him away borders on unconscionable, regardless of what Busch’s initial contract demands were.

The complicated future of Stewart-Haas Racing – Aric Almirola may or may not be retiring, and Cole Custer has possibly driven himself out of the Cup Series – makes for an interesting story. But short of Busch signing with SHR or Tony Stewart coming out of retirement, there’s no path for the organization to do better than what Petty GMS did by locking in the underappreciated Erik Jones and intriguing prospect Noah Gragson for 2023. Ryan Preece doesn’t move the needle.

Daniel Suarez and Chris Buecher become free agents in November. But returning to Trackhouse Racing and Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, respectively, is the likely move. It would take an absolutely stunning development on the level of Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting a team and signing one of them to knock Petty GMS out of the No. 2 Silly Season perch.

Noah Gragson is unlikely to pay instant dividends

With just nine Cup Series races under his belt, Noah Gragson will have a difficult time making an instant impact in 2023. But he moves to the lead by default as far as Rookie of the Year candidates go, and a full season focused on Next Gen cars on the track and in the simulator will accelerate his maturation.

It would be enormous fun to see him and Ty Gibbs slug it out for rookie honors next year, but Gibbs’ status remains questionable while Toyota and the two teams resolve the questions around brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Meanwhile, Petty GMS can push hard for a playoff berth for Erik Jones and bring Gragson along methodically while battling Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing, 23XI Racing, Richard Childress Racing, and Kaulig Racing for the label of best two-car garage.

Petty GMS didn’t win that fight with this month’s moves, but the team is absolutely on the rise.

All stats courtesy of Racing Reference.

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2022 NASCAR Cup Series Silly Season: Tracking the Winners and Losers