The third time wasn’t the charm for Noah Gragson in the Chilly Willy 150 but much has changed since his last appearance at Tucson Speedway last January.
In the past calendar year, Gragson contested his first full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, won the prestigious Winchester 400 in October and immediately followed that up with his first triumph in the Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway.
The 19-year-old has spent his off-season crafting a new physical fitness regimen, leading Gragson to believe he is currently the best possible version of himself possible. And while he’s excited to open the NASCAR season at Daytona, he also hopes to leave Tucson this weekend with both momentum and a new trophy.
“It’s going to be a good year, and then we’ll be able to build on that, and the wins will come,” Gragson said on Tuesday during the NASCAR Media Tour. “To finish first you’ve got to first finish. That’s the way I’m looking at it right now, and I’m just looking to leave nothing on the table. Preparation is everything in this sport, so it’s going to be key this year preparing, being physically fitter, eating healthier, all that kind of stuff comes into play.”
For Gragson, the Chilly Willy is a way to clear his head before the long 10-month NASCAR season. But if he and Dustin Ash Motorsports can leave with a $10,000 check, it’s all the better.
“I finished second last year,” Gragson said. “I’m really excited to get back in my late model, go out there and just have fun, mainly.”
Gragson has good reason to believe Saturday night will be fun. Over the past three years, he’s only finished outside of the top-5 once and was the runner-up to Owen Riddle in 2017. The Speedway was also the site of his first K&N West victory, too.
“I’ve turned a lot of laps there in a lot of different cars,” Gragson said. “We’ve made a lot of friends there. It’s really one of the best places to go race. Good people.”
Like last year, Gragson expects to make a handful of Super Late Model starts between the Ash car, his family-owned car and the Kyle Busch Motorsports entry. The exact number is TBD.
“I hope to do as much Late Model racing as I can, probably six or seven weekends hopefully,” Gragson said. “We’ve got a few scheduled on our list so far. Really excited to race in the Super Late Model races. Also excited to get out on track with the truck. A lot of moving parts, and they’re finally all coming together, and I couldn’t do it without safe light.
“They’re a big part of this, Safelite Autoglass. To bring them on board this year, it’s really special.”
The Chilly Willy weekend begins on Thursday night with a $1,2000 to win, 50-lap Super Late Model race that also serves as a test session. Friday night features time trials and qualifying races. The top two in time trials will earn starting positions, while the top-10 from each of the 50-lap $1,200 to win qualifying races will earn spots.
The main event on Saturday begin with a 50-lap last chance race, with the top-six going to the 150-lap main event. Four promoter choices will also make the 32-car starting line-up.
Read more Short Track Scene:
- PASS to promote new Late Model event at Richmond Raceway
- CARS Tour offers souped-up loyalty program for LMSCs in 2018
- Bubba Pollard enters Greenville Pickens Meltdown