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Las Vegan Noah Gragson won’t sweat missing NASCAR Truck Series playoffs

When the NASCAR Truck Series playoffs begin Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Noah Gragson will be on the outside looking inward.

Both on the track and in his mind.

The 19-year-old Las Vegan did not qualify for the playoffs, missing the eighth and final spot by three places.

Christopher Bell, Gragson’s teammate at Kyle Busch Motorsports, has won five races and leads in playoff points. It has been said the only driver one must beat to remain in good stead of his car owner is one’s teammate, owing to both having the same equipment.

Does this mean Gragson is disappointed with his rookie season in the Trucks?

This week he was filmed performing a rap lyric about how he wanted to be Rookie of the Year while a guy wearing a shark head photo-bombed the production. Judging from that, disappointment is minimal. But Gragson admitted there is self-introspection given what Bell has accomplished.

“But I kind of judge myself on what he was able to do last year, his first year in the trucks,” Gragson said before winning a super late model race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring during his off weekend.

Bell, 22 and much more experienced than Gragson, won once during his rookie season, while teammate William Byron won seven races. Gragson has a top finish of second but still has seven chances to equal Bell’s win output of last year, including next week’s stop at LVMS.

“Really (Bell) didn’t have all that many wins last year, and I feel like I’m on that same kind of pace,” said Gragson, who has 11 top-10 finishes in 16 starts in the No. 18 KBM Toyota sponsored by Las Vegas global technology company Switch. “So hopefully moving onward to next year, I can be racing in the Truck Series again and maybe go for some more wins.”

That Gaughan guy

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a guy from his Twitter account.

Take Brendan Gaughan. A check of the Las Vegas racer’s Twitter postings will show retweets about Jake Olson, the blind deep snapper for the Southern California football team, and a young basketball player with physical handicaps sinking a shot from the free-throw line.

Like a set of qualifying tires, Gaughan has a soft spot for those who overcome adversity.

The personable veteran, who seems to be inching closer to retirement at age 42, again has qualified for the Xfinity Series playoffs (11th of 12 spots), which start Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Danica for Hall of Fame?

It seems I might have shortchanged Danica Patrick’s legacy, according to her Las Vegas teammate — for a few more races, anyway. Kurt Busch says the First Lady of Auto Racing, who will not be returning to Stewart Haas Racing in 2018, warrants consideration for stock car racing’s Hall of Fame.

“I see more female racers around our country and around the world interested in racing,” Busch said. “She paved the way. She’s a true pioneer in this day and age of social media and the power of media recognizing that she’s moving the needle, even though she wasn’t running consistently up front.”

Busch said that before finishing 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway last week and dropping to 13th place in the standings. Brother Kyle also had a bad day, slipping to fifth in the championship after a 15th-place run.

Astute observation

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press auto racing writer, on the taut battle for the IndyCar championship won by young American driver Josef Newgarden on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway:

“Without gimmicks, elimination rounds, stages or bonus points, IndyCar has naturally produced the finale NASCAR yearns for every season: five drivers go into the season finale in contention for the title.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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