Noah Gragson had 100,000 reasons to smile on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
With a second-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series EchoPark 250 at the 1.54-mile Georgia oval, the No. 9 JR Motorsports driver collected the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus by finishing ahead of the other eligible drivers — Harrison Burton (finished fifth), Brandon Jones (finished eighth) and Chase Briscoe (finished ninth).
“It’s an incredible opportunity what Xfinity is doing with the Dash 4 Cash program,” Gragson said after the race. “It’s quite the privilege and the honor to be able to compete for the $100,000”
Gragson came up just short of his third victory of the season after last week’s win at Bristol Motor Speedway, unable to catch race winner AJ Allmendinger in the closing laps to make any sort of final charge.
“I ate AJ’s bait there at the end,” Gragson said. “He started saving his tires and I thought he burned his tires up. Just got beat by his experience. He’s a phenomenal driver and a great competitor in the series. It was a lot of fun racing with him. Just burnt my stuff up when I thought he burnt his stuff up, so I started making a charge there with about 15-20 to go. Burnt my tires up and he just drove away.”
The second-place finish for Gragson continues a strong run of momentum this season, which kicked off with a victory in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, which is crucial for the driver’s future after shedding light that he doesn’t have 2021 racing plans at this moment.
“I’m fighting for a job right now,” Gragson said. “Don’t really know what I’m going to do next year. All I can do is focus on today. All I can do is focus on this race team and on myself to be better. It’s a cut-throat sport. … Definitely very grateful to be driving these race cars with such big-name logos on the hood. Right now, nothing’s given to you in this world, so you have to fight every single day, every minute to do the best job possible on and off the race track.
“At the end of the day, it’s me, I need to step up,” Gragson added. “I feel like I’m doing everything I can right now, just trying to stay focused, stay positive and do everything I can. I feel like if I can do the best job I can do on and off the race track, I can’t do any better.”
Winning the big money also earned Gragson a spot in the next Dash 4 Cash event at the second race of a doubleheader next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Sun., June 14 at noon ET on FS1). The other eligible drivers include winner Allmendinger, Justin Haley and Gragson’s teammate Daniel Hemric.
While Allmendinger does not run the full Xfinity Series schedule, Kaulig Racing team president Chris Rice noted that they plan to field a car for him in the second race, but they will not run the first race on June 13, meaning Allmendinger will be forced to start at the rear of the field in the battle for the Dash 4 Cash bonus next Sunday.