May 25, 2024

NASCAR Cup Driver Noah Gragson Learns Appreciation for Group Homework with Move to Ford


  • Noah Gragson is discovering his move from Chevrolet to Ford means leaning new ways to prepare for a race.
  • Last year, Gragson says his race plan and preparation was outlined for him—General Motors basically held his hand through the process.
  • When he moved to Ford and Stewart Haas Racing, Gragson says he was handed several pages of information and left to figure it out himself.

When Noah Gragson drove for Chevrolet, he was in trainer and former NASCAR driver Josh Wise’s fitness program, but when he joined Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ford team he quickly discovered he had no idea how to prepare for a race on his own.

“You have your hand held a lot through that (Wise’s GM program) because you’re never having to go through the SMT data, pull up restart clips, and look at all this data,” Gragson said. “It’s just presented to you. He (Wise) gives you a piece of paper and has everything analyzed and this is what you need to focus on.

“This year, I have a big stack of papers and you’ve got to pick through all that stuff and utilize it.”

nascar cup series würth 400

James Gilbert//Getty Images

Stewart Haas Racing Ford driver Noah Gragson is learning there’s more than one way to get to the starting line.

Without Wise’s program that is reserved for General Motors drivers, Gragson didn’t know where to start.

“When you don’t have the experience, you don’t know the questions to ask or what to look for,” Gragson said.

When veteran Stewart-Haas crew chief Drew Blickensderfer realized his 25-year-old driver was struggling, he devised a plan. He discovered Gragson’s ability to adapt in a race was “extremely high” but where the Las Vegas native needed help was how to get to that point. That’s when Blickensderfer began breaking down race preparation into steps.

Gragson was willing to work, Blickensderfer said, but “we had to kind of spoon-feed” him the information he needed.

“Noah has the ability to go fast. He didn’t know where to find that sometimes,” Blickensderfer said. “Chase Briscoe had a similar struggle. Those two have befriended each other. They talk a lot about it, and they were wanting similar things.”

Blickensderfer and Briscoe’s crew chief Richard Boswell decided to work together on the issue. Now, each Tuesday, Briscoe, Gragson, Boswell and Blickensderfer have lunch together and review the things they want to see.

“We have the ability to give them a ton of information and kind of overload them,” Blickensderfer said. “We are able to sit down with that information and say, ‘You guys don’t have to read 28 pages of data every single week and try to memorize it.’ In those talks we were able to tell them what we thought was important for us (in practice and qualifying).”

They then go to the driver simulator on Wednesday and practice the items discussed on Tuesday. That includes studying the throttle trace and brake trace for the 10 best drivers at each race track.

“It’s helped us be more efficient throughout the weekend,” Blickensderfer said. “It’s things I hadn’t done before with Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola. They did a lot of their homework by themselves. Noah likes to do it in a group setting. So, it was kind of new for us as well. We’ve kind of adapted and figured it out. It’s really helped speed up some of our communication from Saturday-to-Saturday night and then on Sunday as well.”

Prior to the Dover race, Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Josh Berry joined Briscoe and Gragson in preparation for the event.

“Having that open-mind conversation … we’re just all helping each other out,” Gragson said. “I think taking the stance of I don’t know how to do this and show some humility (we) eventually get to the greater good.”

Lettermark

A North Carolina native, Deb Williams is an award-winning motorsports journalist who is in her fourth decade covering auto racing. In addition to covering the sport for United Press International, she has written motorsports articles for several newspapers, magazines and websites including espnW.com, USA Today, and The Charlotte Observer. Her awards include the American Motorsports Media Award of Excellence, two-time National Motorsports Press Association writer of the year, and two-time recipient of the Russ Catlin award. She also has won an award in the North Carolina Press Association’s sports feature category.  During her career, Deb has been managing editor of GT Motorsports magazine and was with Winston Cup Scene and NASCAR Winston Cup Scene for 18 years, serving as the publication’s editor for 10 years. In 2024 she was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame. 



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