E.A. Sports Today

Talking trucks

Noah Gragson will be a favorite for the Oct. 13 Talladega 250 truck playoff race and is looking for a big day

Special to East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM – During his visit to Birmingham Wednesday, NASCAR truck series driver Noah Gragson showed how determined and compassionate he could be in a small time frame.

The 20-year-old Las Vegas native who drives for Kyle Busch Motorsports exhibited a determined, all-business attitude when talking about his plans to win the Talladega 250 NASCAR Camping World Series truck series playoff race Oct. 13, but also revealed a sincere soft side while dropping in to see patients at Children’s of Alabama, putting a smile on every child he came in contact with.

“When we come back to Talladega in a few weeks, we fully intend to win the race…we’re not coming here to have a good points day,” said Gragson, one of eight drivers vying for the NCWTS title. “We want to win the check, take home the cool (Hammer & Anvil) trophy, kiss the girl and go on to the next round of the playoffs.”

Gragson currently sits fourth in the standings, 23 points above cutoff line. Six drivers will advance at the conclusion of the Talladega 250.

Gragson will be making his second Talladega start in trucks, but he actually competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race here in the spring and pulled off a fourth-place effort. On Tuesday it was announced he’ll switch to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Xfinity Series team in a multi-year deal, replacing retiring Elliott Sadler in the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

He called the opportunity “a dream come true,” but before any of that happens, he insists he’s focused on the series at hand.

A win in two weeks would carry an automatic lock to the playoff Round of 6.

“If we can’t win the show, we are gonna be the show,” he said. “Talladega is so nerve-wracking for the drivers, with trucks just inches away from your front, back and sides at 195 mph for the entire 250 miles. It doesn’t get any better than that for the fans in the stands. Everything is on the line.”

While it takes nerves of steel to compete on Talladega’s 2.66-mile trioval, tension was the last thing on Gragson’s mind Wednesday with the kids at Children’s of Alabama, the partner of Talladega’s Kids VIP program.

Gragson, sporting his race driver’s uniform, spent personal, one-on-one time with nearly 30 kids. He first showed them how to race remote control cars, educated some on a video racing game, assisted them with his talents at coloring books, and took photos with each – all before giving each a signed hero card. He also visited several children in individual rooms.

“It is really a privilege to come here today and be with these kids at Children’s of Alabama,” said an emotional Gragson. “They are so pumped up and we have had so much fun. Driving the cars, coloring … it’s cool to give them something neat to do. It is so amazing to put a smile on their face, knowing what so many of them are going through. It means the world to me to be here. They might be my new pit crew.”

Gragson ended his day by having some fun at The Woolworth, a new social hotspot filled with vintage games in the historic Five Points South area of Birmingham. He also made a stop at Sloss Furnaces to see the unfinished Hammer & Anvil trophy that will go to the Talladega 250 winner.

Gragson will be joined in the Talladega 250 by fellow playoff contenders Grant Enfinger and Justin Haley, who have both secured their spot in the Round of 6, along with defending series champion Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen.

Qualifying for the Talladega 250 is Oct. 12 at 4:35 p.m. The race is at noon Oct. 13 followed by qualifying for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at 3:35 p.m.

Photo credit: Children’s of Alabama

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