By Dustin Albino

DOVER, DE — Dover Motor Speedway has never been one of Noah Gragson’s favorite race tracks on the Cup Series schedule, so he wasn’t thrilled to have 400 miles at the “Monster Mile” on Sunday. But you wouldn’t be able to tell how challenging it’s been to him after another solid points day.

Gragson became more optimistic about Dover after earning the best qualifying effort of his career in fifth on Saturday. He raced inside the top five early in the race, but similar to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe, sunk through the field during a long run to end the stage. Still, he was barely missed out on stage points in 12th position.

The second stage was more of a struggle for Gragson, dropping to 19th. But his race changed with 78 laps remaining when Josh Berry and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made contact to bring out the caution during a cycle of green-flag pit stops. Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief of the No. 10 car, had just called Gragson to pit road. The caution flew as he was leaving his pit box and gained valuable track position.

When the race resumed, Gragson was inside the top five. He would remain inside the top 10 throughout the rest of the race and take the checkered flag in sixth position.

“Kind of up and down and fell back in the middle of the race, got lucky with the pit strategy where that caution flew during the green flag cycles,” Gragson said of his Dover race. “We ended up sixth here. If the roles were reversed, we were going to finish seventh at Texas when we came out on the final green-flag pit cycle. The favor returned.

“Overall, it‘s great momentum and great confidence for this group. I‘m extremely grateful to be part of it.”

The sixth-place finish follows the best finish of Gragson’s career last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway when he placed third. It’s the first time the Las Vegas native has earned top 10s in consecutive weeks.

With other drivers woes, Gragson jumped six points in the regular season championship standings to 21st. Had it not been for a 35-point penalty at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season for adjusting the roof rail deflectors, he would be 20th in the standings.

Through 11 races, Briscoe is the lone SHR driver on the positive side of the elimination line. But the No. 10 team is beginning to run well at a variety of race tracks and has leaped nine spots over the last two weeks.

“We still haven‘t showed our full potential,” Gragson added. “I think there‘s a lot of things that we‘re going to continue to strive to work on and grow together as a team. Just keep building week in and week out. Setting realistic expectations.”

Even better news for Gragson is he thoroughly enjoys the set of tracks coming up on the schedule. He has Xfinity Series victories at Kansas Speedway and Darlington Raceway, which are the next two races the Cup Series competes at.

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