NASCAR Cup Series rookie Noah Gragson has had a season to forget in 2023. During the FireKeepers Casino 400 weekend, it reached an even lower level.
Coming into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Noah Gragson was one of the hottest young commodities in the garage following four successful seasons with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, where he totaled 13 wins, 60 top five finishes, and two Championship 4 appearances.
Unfortunately, things have not worked out for the 25-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native in his first Cup Series season. In 21 starts, he has placed no higher than 12th and sits in 33rd in the point standings, last among full-time drivers.
Of course, not all of those struggles are his fault. Legacy Motor Club have had a disappointing season across the board, scoring just five top 10 finishes, all courtesy of Erik Jones, and they have only led 19 laps through 23 races. However, Gragson has made a multitude of mistakes, has been involved in many crashes, and has been well off the pace of his teammate.
In a debut season as horrible as Gragson’s, few could have even envisioned that it would get even worse. Yet here we are.
On Saturday morning at Michigan International Speedway, mere minutes before FireKeepers Casino 400 practice and qualifying were scheduled to take place, Legacy Motor Club announced that they had suspended Gragson indefinitely, following his alleged “like” of a social media meme mocking the death of George Floyd.
While the rookie quickly owned up to his actions and apologized for his mistake, that didn’t stop NASCAR themselves from also suspending him indefinitely.
He was replaced at Michigan by JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry before it was announced on Tuesday morning that he would miss at least the following two races as well.
Team co-owner Jimmie Johnson appointed 24 Hours of Le Mans Garage 56 teammate and former Rolex 24 at Daytona teammate Mike Rockenfeller to drive the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and at Watkins Glen International.
But even with Gragson’s replacement confirmed for the next two races, there are still 11 races on the 2023 schedule afterward. It remains unclear who will drive the No. 42 Chevrolet once Rockenfeller’s two-race stint is complete.
Here are three drivers who could possibly replace Gragson if he does not return.
Possible Noah Gragson replacements: No. 1 – Josh Berry
This is the obvious and most likely choice for Legacy Motor Club. Not only did Josh Berry drive the No. 42 Chevrolet at Michigan in place of Noah Gragson, but he has also seemingly been appointed as the Cup Series’ super-sub in 2023.
Earlier this season, he made eight relief appearances in points races for injured Hendrick Motorsports drivers, including five for Chase Elliott and three for Alex Bowman. During that time, he scored three top 10 finishes, including a second place finish at Richmond Raceway.
Driving a car in which he has a lot less pressure to perform than he did at Hendrick Motorsports will help him develop outside of the spotlight before he makes his full-time debut with Stewart-Haas Racing as Kevin Harvick’s replacement next year.
In addition, Legacy Motor Club will also be very comfortable with what they’re getting from Berry — a steady, reliable, and experienced driver who, aside from Michigan last weekend, won’t go over the top to impress.