Hometown Hero Noah Gragson quietly leads the SHR contingent at Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 03: Noah Gragson (#10 Fanttik Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) during the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube NASCAR Cup Series race on March 3, 2024, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Gary Nastase/LVMS/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stewart-Haas Racing needs good finishes. The team that struggled last season is early in a rebuilding year after losing two of their veteran drivers at the end of 2023.

Their weekend in Vegas didn’t exactly start out on a high note. On Saturday Ryan Preece crashed his Ford in qualifying and the team was forced to a backup car, and rear of the field start on Sunday.

But Sunday after Kyle Larson crossed the finish line for his first win of the season, Noah Gragson, one of SHR’s new drivers came home sixth.

It was his second top 10 in the last three races and better than his ninth-place finish in the season opening Daytona 500. Sunday’s finish was more special given that Gragson is a Las Vegas native.

“It feels good to do it in front of the hometown crowd,” Gragson said. “I was battling Ty (Gibbs) and Ross (Chastain) there at the end for a top five. I really wanted a top five but coming from 30th to sixth I’m just really proud of everyone’s effort.”

Gragson said the finish on the 1.5-mile track is a step in the right direction for him, and Ford.

“This is the first true testament,” he said. “I don’t know. Blaney was up there and maybe a couple other guys in the Ford camp, but this Mustang Dark Horse is bitchin’. It’s fast and it’s been really good. You can see the speed that it’s had in qualifying, not for me because I drove like a sissy out there, but with the other guys they have three poles so far this year, so we’re going good.”

More importantly perhaps the finish is something he and his team can build on moving forward.

“Yeah, we definitely need to be better, and I need to clean some stuff up,” he said. “Really, other than that last restart, I don’t think I had any net gains on restarts, so I need to keep working on that. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but overall, it’s a good stepping stone to where we’re at right now.

“We’re going to take this and get back into the positives in points and just keep on working, keep on learning and becoming better than we were yesterday and just keep that attitude. I think we’ve got the tightest group in the garage. They’re awesome to work with and I love every one of them.”

Josh Berry, the other driver new to the team was also the second highest finishing SHR driver in 20th.

“Definitely each run it seemed like as a company, one of our cars was stronger than the other,” Berry said. “But we learned a lot and our car definitely had some speed. We’ve just got to work on fine-tuning it and I need to work on starting just a little bit closer to the front, and all of those things start to compound, and we have a little bit better of a day. But overall I thought we were solid.”

Chase Briscoe meanwhile was 21st, and Preece 23rd.

Greg Engle