NASCAR officials penalized Noah Gragson after rough driving during last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Road America, docking him 30 points in the drivers’ standings and fining him $35,000 for violating Sections 4.4.C&E: NASCAR Member Code of Conduct. JR Motorsports also was hit with a 30-point deduction in the owner standings.
Gragson remains in fourth place in the Xfinity Series standings, but his gap over teammate Josh Berry in fifth place has been reduced to five points. Gragson is a two-time winner this season, with victories at Phoenix and Talladega.
Gragson was a central figure in touching off a 13-car crash during the Henry 180, making retaliatory contact with his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in a battle with Alpha Prime Racing’s Sage Karam. The aftermath of Gragson’s bump clogged the track in the Moraine Sweep section of the 4.048-mile course in the 25th of 48 laps, and Brandon Brown was shaken up in the wreck.
Gragson was not penalized during the race, but he was summoned to the Xfinity Series hauler for a post-race consultation with competition officials. Tuesday morning, Elton Sawyer — NASCAR’s vice president of officiating and technical inspection — hinted in an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that punishment was possible with the release of the midweek penalty report.
“We have additional information post-race that we didn’t have immediately after the race when we were speaking with Noah,” Sawyer told SiriusXM. “So again, we’ll look at it internally (Tuesday), what we’ve done in the past and in similar situations, but all things are on the table. And during the event, you know, it could rise to a level that you park a vehicle. It can rise to a level that we hold them for several laps. In this particular case, you know, we elected to speak with Noah post-race to make sure we had all the information and facts that we needed. And again, we’ll take a deeper dive into that incident (Tuesday) morning.”
Karam, making just his seventh Xfinity start, finished 31st after the early exit for his No. 45 Chevy. His post-race anger was echoed by team owner Tommy Joe Martins, who said: “I would be embarrassed to be associated with (Gragson). How many times is he going to publicly apologize? Now he’s trying to act like he’s a bad dude, tough guy. Like are you kidding me, that’s the softest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll tell you what’s tough, trying to come out here and racing with a budget that’s less than a quarter of what they’re doing.”
Gragson continued to an eighth-place finish, and remained defiant in post-race interviews. “It’s one thing if you’re faster than someone,” Gragson said Saturday, “but to throw it off in there and run you off the race track in the corner, door you, run you off the track. Finally, after the third time, I’m over it. It’s not the ideal situation for him and his team, but two or three times, I’m done with it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner of JR Motorsports, appeared on SiriusXM on Wednesday and said, “I was shocked, to be honest with you, when I saw Noah make that decision. I was just completely shocked and in a bit of disbelief not only that he made that choice but that he, you know, that it created such an accident and got so many other guys involved.”
Gragson, 23, is in his fourth full season of Xfinity Series competition, notching seven career victories so far for JR Motorsports. He made his Cup Series debut earlier this year in the Daytona 500.
Additionally, Tuesday, competition officials penalized the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet team for Xfinity Series points leader AJ Allmendinger for a single unsecured lug nut discovered in a post-race check. No. 16 crew chief Bruce Schlicker was fined $5,000 — the fourth such fine for him this season. Mechanic Sean Kerlin also received an indefinite suspension from NASCAR for violation of Sections 4.1 & 10.1 (Behavioural — SAP).