Noah Gragson reinstated by NASCAR: a ‘second chance’

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JULY 15: Noah Gragson, driver of the #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet, waits on the grid during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15, 2023 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Noah Gragson can compete in NASCAR once more. The driver has completed his sensitivity training and has been reinstated by the sport.

The news was revealed in the penalty report released on Tuesday after the Kansas race weekend, which read: “Noah Gragson has been reinstated and he is eligible to return to all NASCAR activity.”

It comes five weeks after he was suspended, first by his team and then immediately after by NASCAR itself, for having ‘liked’ a racially insensitive Instagram post from earlier this year in reference to the death of George Floyd.

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to NASCAR for reinstating me,” Gragson said in a statement on Twitter. Over the past several weeks, I have dedicated myself to personal growth and reflection, and I believe I have become a better person because of it. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and the NASCAR industry.”

“I am now more focused and committed than ever to representing my future team in the best way possible,” his statement continued. “I’m eager to get back behind the wheel and compete at the highest level, giving it my all on and off the track. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey, and I can’t wait to make the most of this second chance.”

LEBANON, TENNESSEE – JUNE 24: Noah Gragson, driver of the #42 Black Rifle Coffee Company Chevrolet, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 – Qualifying at Nashville Superspeedway on June 24, 2023 in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Though Gragson has been reinstated by NASCAR, he will not be returning to his old team at Legacy Motor Club. Gragson officially asked the team for an early release to his multi-year contract a few days later.

“I have asked Legacy Motor Club to release me from my contract so I that I can take time to work through the NASCAR reinstatement process,” Gragson said in a statement at the time.

Since then, the team has relied on a rotating roster of part-time drivers to complete the season for the No. 42 car, most recently Carson Hocevar, in addition to signing John Hunter Nemechek to drive for the team in 2024.

Gragson has not hinted at any plans for the 2024 season. However, there are seats available in the Cup Series. Gragson is a longtime Chevrolet driver, so any relationship with Legacy Motor Club in the future is unlikely as the team makes the switch to Toyota in 2024.

Chevrolet team Kaulig Racing, though, has at least one seat available after dropping Justin Haley without yet confirming a replacement driver. The team may even have both of its cars available next season, as AJ Allmendinger has suggested he may return to the Xfinity Series where Kaulig has been more consistently competitive.

Though Kaulig has a strong roster of developmental drivers, Gragson has Cup Series experience and is a proven Xfinity Series winner, having collected eight victories in that series last season for JR Motorsports.

The controversy surrounding the suspension might not help Gragson’s case, but there are also plenty of Chevrolet rides available in the Xfinity or Truck Series should Gragson need to take a season to re-impress team owners.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 22: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, (L) and Noah Gragson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, talk on the grid during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 22, 2022 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Wherever he ends up, completing the sensitivity training and being reinstated is the first step in reviving his career for Noah Gragson.

Update September 13th: The sensitivity training required for reinstatement was conducted by the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), according to a NASCAR spokesman. NASCAR lifted Gragson’s suspension after a positive report from RISE that he was engaged with every session and planned to continue his growth on the matter, the spokesman added.

CupScene has also reached out to Noah Gragson for further comment, and this article will be updated with any response.

Owen Johnson