Noah Gragson delivers Rette Jones Racing a 'fun' top 10 in Xfinity Series debut

Noah Gragson delivers Rette Jones Racing a 'fun' top 10 in Xfinity Series debut

CONCORD, N.C. — A grueling Saturday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway left Noah Gragson feeling exhausted but satisfied.

Making his first Xfinity Series appearance since finishing runner-up to Ty Gibbs in the championship back in 2022, Gragson helped Rette Jones Racing enjoy a solid first outing by piloting its No. 30 Ford to a hard-fought 10th-place finish.

Nothing about Gragson‘s performance came easy, but the 13-time series winner said he and Rette Jones did everything necessary to persevere and come away from Charlotte with plenty of momentum to build upon.

“It was fun,” Gragson said. “I raced the Rette Jones Racing Super Late Model at the [Snowball] Derby. [Today] was a big challenge and there was a lot of adversity throughout the weekend. We were 31st in practice, qualified 18th and brought it home in the top 10.”

Expanding into the Xfinity Series was the next logical step for Rette Jones to bolster its ongoing growth.

Founded in 2015 by Mark Rette and veteran driver Terry Jones, the organization has maintained a strong presence on the ARCA Menards Series presence with occasional ventures into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Among those who have driven for Rette Jones include Frankie Muniz, Justin Bonsignore and Jesse Little.

In recent years, Rette Jones has taken a proactive interest in developing a successful Super Late Model program. Gragson was instrumental in helping their Super Late Model team find its footing, having run their car in the Snowball Derby during the past two years.

When the decision was made to start up an Xfinity Series team, both Rette and Jones knew Gragson was the perfect driver for their first race. For Rette, not only does Gragson‘s NASCAR Cup Series experience provide invaluable knowledge, but his chemistry with the entire organization is what made him feel comfortable about starting on the right note.

“Noah is family to Terry and myself,” Rette said. “I consider him a little brother. I‘ve known him for some years now and with everything he has been through the past couple of years, we‘ve built a really good relationship and [Noah‘s] done that with Terry and his son Kasey.”

Even with Stewart-Haas Racing backing its efforts, Rette knew it would be difficult to excel against established Xfinity Series organizations, both big and small. The increasingly abrasive surface of Charlotte also required diligence on Rette Jones‘ behalf to keep its car intact heading into Saturday‘s race.

After spending much of the past year with the Next Gen in the Cup Series, Gragson had to re-acclimate himself to the Xfinity Series cars. It took Gragson until the green flag to find that comfort zone he had in 2022, which only emphasized how versatile drivers must be when oscillating between the top three NASCAR series.

“When I got out of the Xfinity Series and had nine top-five finishes in the last 10 races, I felt like I had a handle on things,” Gragson said. “Then I got in the Xfinity car this weekend and I was out of control and was out of my element. You just adapt over time and I kind of lost my old habits of making speed in the Xfinity car.”

Despite all the unknowns surrounding the weekend, Rette arrived at Charlotte fully expecting to see Gragson park its No. 30 in Victory Lane.

Having enjoyed plenty of successful years as a crew chief, which includes winning an ARCA Menards Series title with Justin Lofton in 2009, Rette knew the key to pulling off a potential upset win involved getting creative with pit strategy.

Rette intentionally had Gragson go off-sequence from the leaders so he could gain an advantage with fresher tires later in the day. Although he believed the right calls were made, the cautions did not fall the way Rette wanted them to, preventing the team from securing a better finish.

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The final showing might not have been what Rette wanted, but he considered the weekend to be a success, especially since Gragson was required to re-learn a car that had undergone aerodynamic changes since his most recent start.

Rette envisions his team having a bright future in the Xfinity Series and wants to run at least a dozen events in 2025. He hopes to provide Gragson more opportunities to add to his Xfinity Series win total while simultaneously helping him maintain consistency at the Cup Series level.

“We took a chance to win this race tire-strategy-wise, and we had a shot there,” Rette said. “We didn‘t come here to run second. [Being] second or 10th doesn‘t matter to me. I want to put Noah in Victory Lane and that‘s what we went for. This [deal] is to help build my program and help [Gragson] for Sunday.”

“Anything we can do to make him better on Sundays, we‘re willing to do.”

Like Rette, Gragson was disappointed he was not able to battle Chase Elliott for the victory in Saturday‘s BetMGM 300, yet the speed his No. 30 showed all day only emphasized the potential Rette Jones possesses in only its first race.

Now that the organization has a baseline, Gragson is determined to make the most of his remaining starts at Rette Jones by delivering it an Xfinity Series victory.

“[Tenth] is better than 11th,” Gragson said. “I wanted to win for them, but I feel pretty fired up. We want to win races.”

Gragson’s next Xfinity Series race in a Rette Jones car will be at Nashville Superspeedway on June 29. He will then appear at Michigan International Speedway and Darlington Raceway. He will also run two ARCA Menards Series events for Rette Jones at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

Each track presents its own unique obstacles for Gragson, but his past success should put Rette Jones in a great position to thrive in the Xfinity Series for many years to come.