After the burnout and victory lane celebration final weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, the main target for Noah Gragson and his Xfinity Collection staff was which Waffle Home they had been going to on the best way dwelling.
There was one about 5 miles from the observe and one other about 7 miles away. One individual was tasked with selecting the situation and ensuring everybody knew.
Gragson, his staff and the JR Motorsports hauler all made it, persevering with what has change into part of Gragson’s victory celebration.
Most instances, drivers who win a Cup or Xfinity Collection race go from the observe to a airplane and fly dwelling. For races nearer to the game’s Charlotte, North Carolina base, opponents will drive, permitting them the prospect to cease at a restaurant on the best way dwelling.
Such experiences hark again to the early days of a driver’s profession —after they raced at native quick tracks, didn’t end till late at evening and sought a spot to eat, loosen up and relive that night’s occasion. Go to any quick observe, notably within the Southeast, and it’s not unusual to listen to the profitable staff say that they’re taking the trophy to a Waffle Home or another restaurant that’s open all hours.
Gragson’s first Waffle Home celebration got here in 2015, when he received the Okay&N Professional Collection West race in Tucson, Arizona, main his staff to a 1-2-3 end.
When Gragson received the Xfinity race at Phoenix in March, he went to a Waffle Home upon touchdown in North Carolina. After his Darlington victory earlier this month — the primary of three in a row — the staff’s hauler additionally stopped on the Waffle Home, becoming a member of Gragson and the staff.
“Received all of the cooks and (everyone) on the market taking footage and simply loving it,” Gragson stated. “It’s an excellent time. We performed music on the jukebox and instructed them to show all of it the best way up.”
“He’ll look again on that when he’s 60 or 70 years outdated,” teammate Justin Allgaier stated of Noah Gragson, “and people are going to be the moments he’ll keep in mind ceaselessly.”
Gragson introduced the sword and trophy he collected after his Bristol victory to the Waffle Home final weekend. He used the sword to chop his waffle and positioned half of the waffle on the sword’s tip earlier than taking a chunk.
“That was actually cool to have the ability to occasion with the followers and have some waffles,” Gragson stated.
The Waffle Home was full of a number of Gragson followers, together with these carrying his T-shirt.
“It’s humorous that they go to Waffle Home,’’ teammate Justin Allgaier stated, “however he’ll look again on that when he’s 60 or 70 years outdated and people are going to be the moments he’ll keep in mind ceaselessly.”
Winners get waffles @NoahGragson pic.twitter.com/tiCf6pu6kZ
— Madison Wooden (@eledteachermlw) September 17, 2022
Jeremy Clements, who’s 37 and within the Xfinity playoffs for the third time, already seems to be again on such instances fondly. His early days of racing had been crammed with Waffle Home stops.
“We had been within the Waffle Home on a regular basis,” Clements stated. “The races had been all the time late. We needed to eat. It didn’t matter if we received or not most instances. We had sufficient within the price range to eat at Waffle Home.”
Like many, Clements stated that when he received, he introduced the trophy into the Waffle Home.
“Why not present it off and have some enjoyable?” he stated.
To reigning Xfinity Collection champion Daniel Hemric, Waffle Home represents particular recollections.
“I’d say 90% of my childhood weekends had been spent within the Waffle Home on Friday and Saturday nights,” Hemric stated of the start of his racing profession. “
Even now, he nonetheless goes to a Waffle Home repeatedly. His daughter Rhen, born in Might 2020, insists.
“She loves Waffle Home,” Hemric stated. “It’s form of one in every of our little Sunday traditions each week or two weeks. We go as a household on Sunday, simply me, (spouse) Kenzie and Rhen.”
Waffle Home isn’t the one particular place for Hemric. After he received $250,000 in a Legends automobile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2010, he and about 20 household and mates went to a Steak ’n Shake about 4 miles from the observe to have fun.
Hemric introduced the trophy with him, however his celebration was muted. He had helped put together a few dozen different automobiles for that occasion and was exhausted at that time of the evening.
“Everyone was ordering meals and I laid my head down and took a nap,” he stated.
Meal of champions! Congratulations, @AustinCindric! #DAYTONA500 https://t.co/2tnl9uRpz3
— Steak ‘n Shake (@SteaknShake) February 22, 2022
Steak ’n Shake is a well-liked vacation spot, notably for Daytona 500 winners. The restaurant is situated 2 miles from Daytona Worldwide Speedway.
Automobile proprietor Joe Gibbs took his household and the trophy in after profitable the 1993 Daytona 500. Gibbs revived the custom in 2019 after the second of Denny Hamlin’s three wins in that occasion. The Wooden Brothers went there after Trevor Bayne’s 2011 Daytona 500 victory.
Cup rookie Austin Cindric celebrated his Daytona 500 win this yr with household and his staff.
“Actually particular to have each my mother and my dad there with my entire staff,” Cindric stated. “We had pit crew guys. We had everyone, and it’s a kind of moments in life that you just form of have to understand whereas it’s occurring … as a result of it doesn’t occur day by day.”
Cindric additionally introduced the trophy into the restaurant.
“Undoubtedly cool to close the place down with the most important trophy,” he stated.
2. NASCAR on Subsequent Gen components course of, shifting and Martinsville
Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick has been important of the Subsequent Gen automobile within the playoffs, complaining concerning the automobile’s “crappy-ass components.”
Harvick was upset after a hearth ended his race within the playoff opener at Darlington earlier this month. Two days after he was eradicated from title competition at Bristol, partially as a consequence of a difficulty with the left entrance wheel, Harvick posted a hyperlink to a T-shirt he was promoting that performed off his remark.
John Probst, NASCAR senior vice chairman of Racing Innovation, defined to NBC Sports activities the method that NASCAR went by means of — with the groups and producers — in figuring out the distributors that may provide components for the Subsequent Gen automobile.
This marks the primary time distributors provide the principle components as a substitute of groups making their very own.
As NASCAR developed the automobile, Probst stated the sanctioning physique, groups and producers set the specs for components earlier than sending a Request for Proposal to distributors. This happened in 2019.
NASCAR despatched RFPs to as few as 5 distributors and as many as 30 distributors for some components. For these firms , NASCAR held a name to reply questions not lined within the 30-50 pages of paperwork the sanctioning physique despatched.
Distributors had two weeks to organize for in-person conferences that included representatives from NASCAR, groups and producers, Probst stated.
About 5 days after the conferences completed, staff and producer representatives gave NASCAR their rating of the highest three candidates to produce a selected half. Probst stated the groups and producers usually offered suggestions on all those that introduced.
“We might have folks sitting (within the conferences) that just about spanned the gamut from massive to small groups,” Probst stated, “as a result of we wished to get a fairly good cross-section of suggestions from our trade from the staff aspect.”
The staff representatives sometimes had been senior engineers or technical administrators, Probst stated. In circumstances the place a staff was bidding to produce any explicit components, their consultant was not part of the conferences with different distributors to keep away from any battle.
After the suggestions, NASCAR, groups and producers made their choices.
“Greater than not, we had fairly good alignment with us within the trade,” Probst stated. “On components choices, I wouldn’t say each half choice was unanimous. I may also say that we didn’t choose, as a matter of any rule, the most cost effective half.
“We selected the half that we felt served the operate that we wanted to have accomplished. It wasn’t a case of simply going with the low-cost provider. It was going with the provider, with the proper price with the proper product that met our wants on the time.”
Probst stated he’s happy with how the automobile has been an element within the sequence seeing 19 completely different winners this yr, tying for essentially the most all-time in a season. With perennial winners Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski nonetheless looking for their first factors victory of the season, that quantity might transcend 20 earlier than the season ends Nov. 6 at Phoenix.
Probst stated he feels one misunderstanding with the automobile is the collaboration between NASCAR, groups and producers.
“I believe that generally if you learn the driving force quotes and the staff suggestions, crew chiefs are posting issues on Twitter, it creates the sense of NASCAR vs. them vs. the world,” Probst instructed NBC Sports activities.
“Actually, it isn’t like that. I want folks might see how nicely we truly do work with the engineers on these groups, sorting by means of the issues.
“I really feel like we work hand-in-hand with them, however lots of instances when it will get to the general public eye, for no matter cause, or if it’s within the warmth of the second, it comes throughout as if ‘NASCAR is making us do that,’ or ‘That is the dumbest factor ever,’ however I believe, in actuality, that’s so removed from the reality. We’ve a very good working relationship with the entire groups, and I simply assume that will get misplaced.”
The Subsequent Gen automobile has offered higher racing at intermediate tracks, whereas the racing at quick tracks has been disappointing. The spring race at Martinsville confronted criticism from drivers. With subsequent month’s Martinsville race the ultimate likelihood for drivers to make the championship occasion, what occurs there might be important.
Probst stated there might be a gear change for Martinsville, “however so far as huge modifications, there aren’t any massive modifications that we’re making going again there. We’ve had one knowledge level at Martinsville thus far this yr, the coldest race of the yr. We put down no rubber. It’s actually exhausting to make wholesale modifications to the automobile primarily based on that.”
Probst later stated of constructing modifications: “We’ll proceed to make modifications as we have to, however … I really feel like we have to make these modifications primarily based on knowledge and what we’re seeing from our metrics and simply make the very best selections we will.”
One other key subject this yr has been shifting, which has been blamed by some for making it exhausting to move, but additionally been used on the intermediate tracks, which has seen a renaissance within the racing in comparison with latest years.
“I’d say the controversy continues,” Probst instructed NBC Sports activities on whether or not to permit shifting or cut back the dependency of it. “I’d say that we definitely have a few of our drivers who’re very insistent that shifting is unhealthy, the race can be higher if we didn’t have shifting.
“We additionally produce other drivers, who haven’t been as vocal publicly (for it), however on no account is there any mass settlement throughout the drivers that shifting is nice or unhealthy.”
Probst raised questions on one suggestion of giving drivers 1,000 horsepower for brief tracks.
“The 1,000 horsepower would indicate that I’ve obtained torque on demand, and I can get again to the gasoline and ‘Man, that’s going to make actually good racing,’” Probst stated. “In my thoughts, shifting is sort of the identical factor.
“So like, if I would like torque in the midst of the nook, I can downshift and growth, I obtained the torque to drive up off like I obtained a monster engine and all gears. So, I personally don’t really feel like we’ve the info that claims shifting is nice or unhealthy.”
3. Contained in the thoughts of a Cup playoff driver
As Ross Chastain spoke concerning the Oct. 2 playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway, he famous: “What’s so nice about this sport and this sequence at this degree is we’re allowed to simply go and crash.
“That’s on restarts, on a mile-and-a-half, or a brief observe, or racing all day at a superspeedway. I really feel prefer it’s acceptable to simply crash these costly race automobiles. It’s a wild spot for me to be in, simply mentally making that call that I’m going to go put myself in that spot that I could possibly be crashed or I might trigger a crash.”
Ross Chastain is third within the Cup playoff standings. (Photograph by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Photos)
Chastain, who enters Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway third within the factors, spent a number of years within the Xfinity Collection in underfunded tools with JD Motorsports that he couldn’t afford to wreck. Requested how he realized to make the adjustment from overly defending the automobile to racing extra freely, Chastain famous a scenario in final weekend’s Xfinity Collection race at Bristol that hit dwelling for him.
“I simply watched Bayley Currey go and take the No. 4 automobile (for JD Motorsports) and run high three with it at Bristol and was positive,” he stated. “Then it got here all the way down to the top and a few late restarts and I might inform he was defending his automobile and he completed eleventh. I do know he wished a tenth. Not that I ever ran high three in Johnny’s automobile, however there was instances the place you go and also you’re quick sufficient after which it comes all the way down to the top and it’s like ‘Man, weighing out that threat versus reward.’
“I believe Bayley did lots higher job than I ever did in that situation. I nonetheless are inclined to tear them up. Now, simply except for not crashing and being out of the race for factors, simply the considered these automobiles coming again torn up is simply extra accepted.”
Chastain recollects that his mindset modified after his first Xfinity apply session within the No. 42 automobile for Chip Ganassi Racing at Darlington.
“I simply was complaining about how unfastened the automobile was and was going to crash. So, I used to be fairly sluggish. Mike Shiplett, my crew chief, walks over and opens the highest door to crawl up into the upstairs of the hauler and the backup automobile is sitting there.
He says, ‘You see this?’
‘It’s constructed precisely the identical because the automobile on the market, the first, so go drive the automobile. When you crash it, we’ll unload this one and you’ll really feel it drives precisely the identical. So, I don’t need to hear about it being unfastened anymore. I need you to go drive it.’”
Chastain received the pole in qualifying.
“Excessive threat, sure, however that was the primary time that was ever stated to me. I simply by no means checked out a backup that method.”
4. Chase Elliott’s focus
The second spherical of the Cup playoffs could possibly be essentially the most treacherous for groups.
After Sunday’s race at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Community), the sequence races at Talladega after which ends the spherical with the Charlotte Roval.
Something can occur at Talladega, and the Charlotte Roval might create some points. Add rain there and it could possibly be wilder.
Chase Elliott leads the factors going into Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photograph by Logan Riely/Getty Photos)
That’s why some drivers view the Texas race as pivotal. Win Sunday to advance to the third spherical and it doesn’t matter what occurs the subsequent two weeks.
Whereas it could be simple for some to look forward on the potential pitfalls, Chase Elliott, who enters this spherical atop the playoff standings, doesn’t do this.
“I take it per week at a time basically,” he stated. “Half the time I don’t know the place we’re going the subsequent week.
“The article is to win each single weekend. I don’t present as much as a racetrack with the mindset of ‘Yeah, let’s exit right here and make silly selections and end final. That’s simply not ever the mindset. I don’t see the place it modifications a complete lot.
“You all the time need to have an excellent run. It simply so occurs a contemporary spherical is beginning this weekend and fortuitously we’re nonetheless part of the deal. We’ll go on the market and attempt to have an excellent run at Texas.
“Attempt to have an excellent Saturday, attempt to have an excellent apply, attempt to qualify nicely, hopefully get you an excellent pit decide and a few good observe place to start out Sunday. … Wherever we come out of that, we’ll reevaluate what the scenario is and the place we have to go from there. You’re all the time making an attempt to have good weekends, and I believe taking it per week at a time, a day at a time is is fairly essential.”
5. Double obligation will proceed for Ty Gibbs
Two of the Xfinity Collection title contenders will proceed to do double obligation even with the playoffs starting for that sequence this weekend.
Each Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs are additionally entered in Sunday’s Cup race at Texas.
Gragson has famous that he is a little more cautious within the Cup automobile due to the impacts drivers are feeling with the Subsequent Gen automobile. He doesn’t need an harm in a Cup automobile to harm his championship probabilities.
Gibbs has been driving rather than Kurt Busch, who has been out since late July due to a head harm.
David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Growth, instructed NBC Sports activities this week that the plan is for Gibbs to proceed to drive the Cup automobile all through the playoffs until Busch is able to return.
“We’re snug with Ty operating each for the foreseeable future,” Wilson stated. “We nonetheless don’t know what Kurt goes to do. To be truthful, he left the door open to doubtlessly get again into the automobile earlier than the top of the season. (Ty) is studying lots.
“I don’t assume any of us have the mentality that we’re placing him in hurt’s method wheeling a Cup automobile. … We all know, clearly that hits may be tougher with this automobile, and we all know that the groups and NASCAR are engaged on that. We’re not going to place any of our drivers in a automobile that we imagine is inherently unsafe.
“On the entire, we expect Ty operating on Saturday and Sunday for the subsequent handful of races goes to learn Ty and isn’t going to compromise his means to compete for an Xfinity championship.”