The NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers headed onto Circuit of the Americas on Saturday, May 22, for the first-ever trip around the road course. JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson had the goal of securing his first checkered flag of the season, but a major mechanical issue disrupted his day. He slid around one of the turns at the very end of Stage 1 while flames spewed out from under his No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro.
The issues came as a surprise to the Fox Sports broadcast team. Adam Alexander, Ryan Blaney, and Bubba Wallace saw Gragson spin, but they did not realize there was a significant issue until the broadcast returned from commercial break. The cameras then showed the tow truck hooking up to the No. 9 Chevrolet, as well as a large amount of fluid on the track.
According to Gragson’s radio transmission, he said that he was done and that the engine had blown. Gragson later told Fox Sports reporter Jamie Little that he had stopped for four tires and adjustments while under caution and that everything seemed fine. He also clarified that he had not run over any of the steel turtles or ripped the oil pan from the car. His day still came to an end with a 36th-place finish.
Gragson’s Day Started With Qualifying Issues
Following the practice sessions on Friday, May 21, the No. 9 team had confidence in Gragson’s ability to secure a top spot in the race. He had turned in the sixth-fastest lap during the session while performing the best in the JR Motorsports stable. However, the situation changed in the rain.
Gragson went off of the track during the qualifying session after missing a turn. His No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro went across the pavement and ended up in the gravel. This incident contributed to him only posting the 20th-fastest time during the qualifying session.
According to analyst Michael Waltrip, Gragson went straight on Turn 1 after climbing the massive hill. He hit the brakes but hydroplaned and lost control of the No. 9. Gragson could not get himself out of the gravel, so the NASCAR officials threw the caution flag.
Gragson is Not the Only Driver That Dealt With Mechanical Issues
There were several drivers that struggled with issues during the first-ever race at COTA. Boris Said, who returned to the track for the first time since 2017, brought out the first caution flag for incident. His No. 13 Toyota Supra stalled on the track and could not make a return to pit road.
Ross Chastain also dealt with significant issues of his own while replacing an injured Joe Graf Jr. The driver of the No. 07 cut through the esses early in Saturday’s race, resulting in a pass-through penalty. However, Chastain revealed that he would not complete the race by immediately heading to the garage with a broken axle.
“Chastain will take the car to the truck for a broken axle … some laughed at NASCAR calling for a pass-through penalty in this area because going over those curbs would break something,” Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass tweeted on Saturday afternoon.