NASCAR has assessed a major monetary and points penalty to driver Noah Gragson after Gragson sparked a multi-car crash in last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race by intentionally wrecking another competitor in a high-speed section of the track. The sanctioning body announced Wednesday that Gragson has been fined $35,000 and docked 30 driver points, with his team also receiving a 30-point owners points penalty.
On Lap 25 of last Saturday’s race at Road America, Gragson had been racing hard with Sage Karam for eighth place, with the two making contact multiple times while racing for position. Unhappy with the way Karam was racing him, Gragson hooked a right into Karam’s door, spinning both cars out and blinding oncoming cars with smoke and dirt down the long straightaway leading from Turn 3 to Turn 4.
The ensuing crash took out a dozen cars, with several taking hard hits as drivers drove into the melee at speed while unable to see. Brandon Brown briefly collapsed to the ground in pain upon exiting his car after the crash, but he was not seriously injured having only suffered a blow to his groin. All other drivers were unhurt, and Gragson was not penalized in-race before going on to finish eighth.
Gragson’s actions were widely condemned, including by car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who shared the rebuke he gave Gragson during a Wednesday morning appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“I told him that I could stand behind him through just about anything, but I could not defend that,” Earnhardt said. “And that’s a difficult thing for me. That’s a difficult position for me or anybody to be in. It’s when you want to support somebody and you’re helping somebody try to achieve their goals, but they do something you can’t defend. That was just the message I gave him.”
A contender for the Xfinity Series championship with two wins to date this season, Gragson’s talent has made him a candidate to move up to the Cup Series as soon as next season, and his flamboyance has made him one of the most popular and provocative figures in all of NASCAR. Although the soon-to-be 24-year old from Las Vegas, Nev. has matured in some areas, he acknowledged that he was wrong for the way he chose to handle the incident with Karam.
“Obviously, mistakes have been made, but I feel like if I can learn from it and become a better person or a better race car driver or just better overall, that’s the thing that I need to focus on right now,” Gragson said on SiriusXM. “… I know it’s not very popular, the things that are going on. But if I can learn from it, that’s all I can do right now.”
The points penalty hurts Gragson’s pursuit of the Xfinity Series regular season championship, as he drops from 39 points behind points leader A.J. Allmendinger to 69 points behind. Gragson remains fourth in the points standings, but he is now just five points ahead of fifth place Josh Berry.