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A balancing act: Noah Gragson set to run for three different teams in 2022

Noah Gragson is going to have his hands full in 2022.

For starters, he’s slated to drive for three different NASCAR teams. He re-signed with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series for a full-time schedule. He’ll also make a run for the Daytona 500 with Beard Motorsports, and then he’ll tap in for an additional 14 Cup Series races with Kaulig Racing.

“Well, I already told the Kaulig guys that I’d like to apologize for Saturdays in advance, but Sunday, I’m going to be full on board with them,” Gragson said Wednesday on a Zoom teleconference. “So, I’m gonna race the (expletive) out of them on Saturday and race them hard on Saturdays, and then be all in and a teammate on Sundays.”

GRAGSON: JRM return in Xfinity | Kaulig part-time in Cup | Daytona 500 bid with Beard

The Xfinity Series usually plays on Saturdays. Gragson’s No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet will be in direct competition with Kaulig Racing’s No. 10, 11 and 16 Chevys of Landon Cassill, Daniel Hemric and AJ Allmendinger, respectively. Gragson owns five career Xfinity wins but has yet to win a championship in three years of work. His best finish yet has been third, last year.

The Cup Series then races on Sundays for the most part. Gragson will split driving responsibilities in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet there with Hemric and Allmendinger. JR Motorsports does not have a Cup program and therefore won’t be a competitor at that level.

The Beard Motorsports opportunity is different because Gragson isn’t technically guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500 (Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He’ll have to qualify the organization’s sole No. 62 Chevrolet, which he failed to do in 2021. If he makes it, the season opener will mark his first official career Cup Series start, with more guaranteed down the road with Kaulig Racing regardless — the first of those coming on March 20 at Atlanta.

“It’s going to be a challenge out there,” Gragson said. “But I really don’t have any expectations going into the season other than learning. And then once we get a few races down the road, we can kind of regroup and reevaluate where we’re at on speed and we’ll have a clearer vision on what’s a realistic expectation.”

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The Xfinity Series schedule alone consists of 33 events. Say Gragson does earn a bid into the Daytona 500, he’ll then add 15 Cup Series races to his plate. That’s 48 races total – 12 more than a normal Cup Series calendar.

Certainly more than Gragson has ever experienced in a single year with NASCAR.

“It’s definitely mentally taxing and physically taxing on your body,” Gragson said. “And mentally I need to do a better job of not being so hard of myself when maybe we don’t have a good weekend.”

Gragson is taking on all that he can in order to build his racing resume and knowledge. There’s still more to be accomplished in the Xfinity Series, and he has barely scratched the surface when it comes to the Cup Series, especially with the introduction of the brand-new Next Gen car. The 23-year-old plans to learn from his experienced teammates at each level – Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry at JR Motorsports and Hemric, Allmendinger and Justin Haley at Kaulig Racing.

The line between teammate and competition, though, may be a little blurred at times with some of them.

“I’m sure,” Gragson said, “there’s going to be more apologizing throughout the season.”

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