Busch has made BMS his personal playground, sweeping NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series races in both 2010 and 2017. Gragson has watched in admiration of Busch, who owns the No. 18 Toyota which he drives in the Truck Series.
Making a public appearance Tuesday at the Ice Rink at BMS, Gragson talked about what it means having Busch as his car owner and his first Truck race at BMS, where he qualified fourth and finished 15th.
“It’s a great opportunity to drive for Kyle Busch,” Gragson said. “My race here, we got called on a pit road violation for a man over the wall (too fast). We had run top-five all night, but then we couldn’t get back through the field.
“Our Monday meeting, I talked about how I wanted to qualify on the pole and all the crew chiefs were like you’re just fine. They were like when you win as many races as Kyle Busch has won, then you should be disappointed about not qualifying on the pole. He’s the king of Bristol Motor Speedway in my opinion.”
Gragson, 19, is coming off his first full season in the Trucks. He captured a first career win at Martinsville in October and finished 10th in the series points.
Like his mentor, Gragson has shown a willingness to race often and in different vehicles. He got a relatively late start in the sport at age 13, and raced Bandeloros and Legends cars before moving up to Late Model Stocks in 2014. He ran the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2015, winning twice and finishing second in the points.
The next season, he raced in both the K&N Pro Series East and West Divisions, capturing four wins and finishing third in the West points. Even this past season, Gragson kept a busy schedule, running both Trucks and Late Models.
He ran the U.S. National Short Track event at Bristol for the CARS Super Late Model Tour, but his race ended early, caught up in a multi-car crash on lap 9. It left him with a 30th-place finish. Still, he likes the diversity and it’s not limited to four wheels.
“I like racing anything anywhere,” he said. “I was talking to Samantha (Zarek from WCYB) about racing her on the ice skating rink. I will race a car, a shopping cart or race on ice skates. I love being competitive.”
Gragson has shown a devotion to the sport, receiving his high school diploma the same day he won a first career Truck Series pole award at Texas. He added two more pole positions, at Iowa and Loudon, before the season ended.
“It was a good learning experience for me in 2017,” Gragson said. “Obviously, we would’ve liked some more of the results on paper to look better. We made a few mistakes, but we win as a team and we lose as a team. Next year I hope to be a lot better. Minimizing the mistakes is the biggest thing and definitely we have speed, so that gives me a great deal of confidence.”
NASCAR released starting times for 2018 Truck Series races on Wednesday. The UNOH 200 at BMS on Wednesday, Aug. 15, is scheduled for a 8:30 p.m.