Trackhouse Racing caused waves across motorsports on June 30 by announcing the purchase of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR operation. Team owner Justin Marks confirmed that a second driver would join Daniel Suarez for the 2022 season, creating immediate questions about who would join the team. Now NASCAR has provided surprising options in Noah Gragson and John Hunter Nemechek.
The media arm of racing’s sanctioning body released a list of six potential options to join Suarez in the Trackhouse stable. There were obvious options in Ross Chastain and Kurt Busch, the current drivers for Chip Ganassi Racing, as well as veterans in Ryan Newman and Matt DiBenedetto. However, the staff report identified Nemechek and Gragson as two potential drivers that could make the leap to the Cup Series and fight for wins.
“The 22-year-old Gragson could make sense if Trackhouse wants to skew younger, adding him to the mix with the 29-year-old Suarez,” the NASCAR article explained. “Such a move would keep him in the Chevrolet fold, but Gragson’s uneven Xfinity Series season so far with JR Motorsports makes him more of a wild-card prospect than an obvious choice for promotion to Cup.”
Gragson Has Struggled During the 2021 Season
A playoff driver in 2020, Gragson impressed while driving the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. He won two races, including the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Gragson also posted 17 top-five finishes during a playoff season in which he finished fifth overall in points.
The 2021 season, on the other hand, has featured numerous issues. Gragson crashed during the first race of the season at Daytona and then finished 28th in the Daytona Road Course race on Feb. 20. The JRM driver appeared to be within reach of his first win of the season on Feb. 27 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after he built up a massive lead over the competition. However, David Starr’s No. 13 Toyota Supra blew a tire and sent the vehicle directly into Gragson’s path, causing a wreck with less than 10 laps remaining.
Gragson has failed to finish six races during the 2021 season due to crashes and mechanical issues, but he still remains in contention for a playoff spot. He is ninth in points with five top-five finishes, above the cutoff line, but he does not have a secure spot with the end of the regular season approaching.
John Hunter Nemechek Has Previous Cup Series Experience
While Gragson has never competed in a Cup Series race, Nemechek has several starts to his name. The current Truck Series points leader spent the 2020 season in NASCAR’s top series. Nemechek started all 36 races while driving the No. 38 Ford Mustang for Front Row Motorsports.
Nemechek did not reach Victory Lane as a rookie, and he failed to finish five races in the back half of the season. However, he also posted three top-10 finishes. Nemechek’s best outings during the season were eighth-place finishes in the two trips to Talladega Superspeedway.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver is currently pursuing a Truck Series championship and has five wins to his name. If he secures the championship trophy at Phoenix Raceway in November, he could boost his profile as a potential option to join Trackhouse Racing. Though he will face a stacked group of drivers.
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