Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Noah Gragson out for Sonoma with concussion, Grant Enfinger to sub

Grant Enfinger will make his NASCAR Cup Series début on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, though not in the circumstances that anyone would have wished as he will replace the injured Noah Gragson in the #42 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Legacy Motor Club. The team announced the driver substitution on Thursday.

Gragson suffered a concussion in the most recent race at Gateway when his brake rotor failed—an unusually common trend that day—and sent him barrelling into the turn one wall. The impact resulted in fluid leaking from his car that necessitated a red flag for track cleanup, while Gragson was evaluated and eventually released from the infield care centre. He began to experience concussion-like symptoms after returning home to North Carolina, though some observed his behaviour was already affected during his interview after leaving the medical centre.

He is almost certain to receive a waiver to take part in the playoffs should he be eligible. Fifteen races into the 2023 season, the rookie is thirty-second in points with a best finish of twelfth at Atlanta, meaning he will likely need to win to qualify.

The injury adds to a difficult year for Legacy Motor Club, who has struggled mightily on track, and is another knife twist as it comes a day after team-mate Erik Jones was docked sixty points for a greenhouse violation. Many have also raised concerns about yet another concussion suffered in a Next Gen car accident, with Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch getting hurt in 2022, and the latter has stepped away from full-time competition since due to his injury; ironically, NASCAR had announced safety upgrades to the car earlier on Thursday

“Noah’s health is the highest of priorities and we commend him for making the decision to sit out this weekend,” reads a joint statement from Legacy co-owners Maury Gallagher and Jimmie Johnson. “We are appreciative that Grant was available and willing to step in since the Truck Series is off this weekend.”

With Gragson out, Enfinger will get his second shot in a Cup car after failing to qualify for the 2011 season finale at Homestead for Sinica Motorsports. Since that ill-fated attempt, he has been a champion in the ARCA Menards Series and one of the top drivers in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he sits third in points with two wins including at Gateway last Saturday.

Enfinger finished eleventh in the 2022 Truck Series race at Sonoma. The road course was removed from the 2023 calendar, leaving the weekend free for him to take part in Cup.

“My thoughts are with Noah, I know how much he loves this team and the guys on it,” commented Enfinger. “I’m happy to help out Legacy Motor Club and the #42 team.”