Confidence in the Driver’s Seat with Noah Gragson

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to the Life is Digital podcast. I am your host, John Bianchi, get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age.

Now, I am just super excited this morning, I feel like we’ve had some really amazing guests the last couple of weeks, and another awesome individual that I have the opportunity to have a conversation with today is Noah Gragson, and he is a driver with JR Motorsports currently in the Xfinity Series. Noah, thanks so much for agreeing to be on with me this morning, I’m really looking forward to our conversation.

Noah Gragson: Yeah, any, time, I appreciate you having me on.

John: Absolutely.

I know Daytona was last week. We had some awesome races. You get to work with Dale Jr. Tell me something that people don’t know about racing, I know you mentioned a few things in the lead up to the show, just tell me something that people don’t really understand about maybe how hot it gets in the car, something that… You’d like to tell the audience that they would find really, really fascinating about racing.

Noah Gragson: Well, I think one of the main things that surprised me before I start racing that I learned was racing, I feel like is a sport, and I don’t know how many people consider an actual sport, but I feel like it is just because the fact that it gets 140-150 degrees inside the race car we’re in there for three hours, four hours at a time, and then you kind of drain yourself physically, and then on top of that, you drain yourself mentally by the end of these races, just trying to put yourself in position to run out front, and when you’re going 200 miles an hour, you have to be at the absolute max of focus. when I was down in Daytona this past weekend, it was the highest heart rate I’ve ever seen. I record all my heart rate with my watch, and then I have a heart rate strap that goes around my chest that reads my heart rate, and I was up to 205 beats per minute, so that’s higher. The highest I’ve seen during the workout is 198, so I was actually getting a higher heart rate during the race than I was working out, so it’s pretty incredible, the durability we need his drivers and we have to have to be physically fit, maybe not strong or maybe not agile, I guess, like a sprinter or something like that.It’s a different kind of fitness level and a different kind of mental state, you have to have to be able to be a race car driver.

John: Absolutely. So basically, what you’re telling me is the Ricky Bobby days are over. This is the new level of racing, and maybe it’s just Daytona, it brings something out. I think that track is just absolutely fascinating, it’s like a Super Bowl to be there any time you’re in that arena. I think that’s so fascinating to me that the mental focus you have to have to drive 200 miles an hour around the track, maintain the car, you’re processing all this information, how do you mentally prepare for that type of physical exertion and when you’re getting ready for a race.

Noah Gragson: That’s a great question. I feel like the biggest thing is preparation leading into race, and it’s hard because NASCAR doesn’t allow us to practice during the week, so they’ve actually put a rule where you can’t go testing at the race track, and during this year, since this COVID deal, we haven’t been able to practice at all. Normally, we get an hour and a half, two hours a weekend. Once we go to the race track race we practice on a Friday, I get two 1-hour practices, Saturday rolls along, you got your qualifying in the morning, you race in the afternoon, and then you fly home. Well, we haven’t been able to get any practice at all. You just show up, get off the airplane, go to the race track, wait a few hours to our race, day of usually, and you walk up to the grid with your helmet, you sit in the car for the first time, and they tell you to go haul off into turn one with 39 other race car drivers who all have the same goal in mind, so it gets really challenging, but yeah, the biggest thing I do to prepare to answer your question is I like to watch film from the races before, back in history, so maybe a year before, it may be, if we’ve been to this track earlier in the year, I’ll watch that race too, I’ll go into the shop and to the officers where the crew chief is, the engineers are, we’ll have a meeting. I actually have a meeting like that today after this interview, at the shop at Junior Motor Sports in Morrisville, North Carolina. So it’s gonna be a good weekend I’m hoping, but yeah, to answer your question, it’s just about preparation, trying to have all your ducks in a row once you get to the race track and be just confident when you get there. Confidence is key in this sport. If you feel like you can’t do it, you probably can’t do it, so you gotta… you gotta trick yourself to believe and tell yourself you can do it, and then you never know what’s possible.

John: I love that. I think that theme of visualization of success is something that, as I’ve talked to other athletes in the past, and I talk to people like yourself, visualizing yourself in that moment, focusing on the goal, that’s something that I think all of our listeners and whether they have their own businesses or they’re competing in a sport, that’s something that we can all take away, is that ability to focus and execute in the moment. Something I had to ask, and I’ve had some conversations with drivers in the past, is it different when you don’t have the opportunity to practice and then let’s say the race is over and you get back into a regular car to drive home, do you ever kind of have to break that third wall of, Hey, this is reality. Hey, I’m on the race track. What’s that like for you?

Noah Gragson: But I don’t know, the insides of the race cars are so different, and I feel like I get all my speed out on the race track and all my aggression and whatnot, but once I get it getting to the real car, I’ve never really… I don’t know why, you think that once you get done racing and you just wanna keep on going fast and hauling ass down the road and everything, but that hasn’t been the case for me when I get in the regular street car and I’m headed to the airport after race about the fly-out, it’s one of those things where I just kinda cruise, I’m so physically depleted and so dehydrated, we lose eight to 12 pounds of water weight through sweat a race, and so by that point, I’m just beat, I’m done. I don’t wanna even really think about racing, and I need a couple hours after the race, obviously, I could keep on going during the race, but when I get out of that race car, it’s like, Okay, I need a few hours to regroup or relax and typical you fly out right after the race, so everyone once in a while, I wanna go fast on the street, but more times than not, it’s just about cruising to the airport and then just getting re-hydrated.

John: Love that. No, that makes absolute sense. Let me ask you, what is it like working with Dale Jr? Obviously, there’s such a history and pedigree of racing, I’m sure he’s just the wealth of knowledge. I obviously love his commentary. I saw you guys recently did a video on Twitter with you both thanking the sponsors for signing back on. What’s it like working with Dale Jr? What’s something that the audience could take away.

Noah Gragson: Well Dale is kinda like a big brother to me or something like that. He really cares, I feel like about me and his sister Kelly, they both are very hands-on within Junior Motorsports and they genuinely care. They’re great leaders. I wouldn’t even call them a boss, I’d call him a leader, and I think just the atmosphere to provide a Junior Motorsports, it really starts from the top down and being able to listen to them, work with them and kinda see how they go about their day-to-day life and how they run a company, it’s really refreshing, so the really big family atmosphere, at Junior Motorsports, and it’s a lot of fun just to be able to go in there and it feels kind of more old school, you don’t have all these company policies and everything, you can… everybody just enjoys going to work, they enjoy, they can have fun while they’re working, and you know, it makes it easier to get your stuff done when you can have fun, and so that’s one of the things we like to focus on at Junior Motorsports, just being able to have fun, and I feel like personally, we actually compete at a better level when I can have fun and I’m not putting a ton of pressure on myself, so… Yeah, Dale Jr’s a great guy, Kelly is a great girl, and it’s definitely a big honor to be able to lean on them for advice and be able to text them, I mean Dale says, “Call me, text me at 3 in the morning if you ever need something”. He’s been a great mentor to me, has helped me a lot, just growing up as a person, so he’s gone through a lot of struggles in his life and stuff that I can relate to, so… just being a race car driver. So he’s a great guy like I said and just very fortunate to be able to lean on them for advice.

John: I love what you said there where, when everyone’s having fun, it doesn’t even feel like work, everyone can be their best and do their best in an environment where there’s leadership and everyone’s building each other up, I think, again, from distilling out these kinds of things for our audience, something that I’ve noticed, and you’re relaying as well is that the truth about how we operate in our best state of mind is when we have great leadership, when there’s a clearly delivered message, there are goals that we have to achieve, and then everyone can perform their best when they’re in that best place and that specialization, and then having fun, like you said, and I think one thing I’d like to just ask you a question about is obviously you have some, you have Bass Pro Shops, and I think you have Black Rifle Coffee, and then just a couple other sponsors that have signed back on, what’s that like, and how do you bring the sponsors into that family, like you’re saying?

Noah Gragson: Well, it’s a combination of not only my efforts on and off the race track, but it takes a village to be able to partner up with different groups, and fortunate enough to meet Johnny Morris, at Bass Pro Shops, he started Bass Pro Shops a long time ago, and has been very successful with that, Cabela’s. And then also Rusty Sellers with True Timber Camouflage, we are really tight and it just… it’s really cool to me. I remember as a kid, I’m from Las Vegas and there’s a Bass Pro Shops you pass out on the way to California from our house when I was a kid, and I always look over out the window and see it, like damn, that place is pretty cool. And then to be able to grow up to be 22 years old and they’re selling a t-shirt with your face on it and holding a trophy in Daytona, it’s like, I can’t believe this in real life, you know, so just all about making connections. But the most important thing, I think, in my opinion, to be able to just build those relationships with people is to be yourself, and that’s what I’ve really tried doing in my life and my great racing career, just… I’m probably out there more than others, and I do wild stuff after a race or I do crazy stuff and interviews, you name it, I’ve probably done it, wild stuff that wouldn’t even come to your mind, but that’s just who I am, I like being myself. And with that being said, I think that’s what makes it just so real, the relationship, most people, it’s just not faking anything. I’m an energetic guy with ADD who gets to drive a race car and like to have a lot of fun and say what’s on my mind, and I don’t know, it’s hopefully gonna work out for me, but yeah, I just try to be myself and have a personality, and whatnot. So it’s been a lot of fun up to this point, I’m very thankful for everybody who’s been able to be a part of my racing career, and even people that haven’t part of my racing career or just everybody that I’ve met, I feel like I can always learn something from everybody, so it’s definitely been great so far in my 22 years of life, and I’ve had a blast so far for sure.

John: I love what you’re talking about, about creating that authenticity, being your own brand, like you said, creating that content that draws people, and I think fans can really relate to the accessibility of the athlete, I think sometimes in some other sports, there’s a little bit of that wall and maybe people don’t get to know you or someone that’s competing like you in that personal sense, how important is that to be accessible to your fans and create content that they can engage with?

Noah Gragson: It’s definitely key, and I think to this world and the world of social media, it’s everything, right. So to be able to be at home 20, 30 years ago, you had to… The only way you could get your name out there in the racing world was your performance on the race track. Well, now, you have to be good on the race track, but you also have to be marketable, you have to have a great following, and I have a lot of great fans as well, so I’ve worked really, really hard trying to show my personality, more of a behind-the scenes style on my social media, I do a lot of Instagram of lives, a lot of Snapchat stories, stuff like that, where it kinda shows the behind the scenes, and I think that’s really fun, because when I was a kid, before I started racing and I looked up to these drivers, I still do look up to drivers, but the guys who I wanted to be like, I’d see the things they did and I was wondering, I wonder what they’re doing during the week? It would be cool to see more of their inside life during the week. And so that’s kind of the approach I’ve tried to take, is just try to try to be really just impactful on there and just try to post a lot of stuff of scenes the scenes and whatnot. So it helped being able to connect with people on social media and whatnot.

John: Well, Noah, I have to thank you so much for being with me today. This has just been fascinating, and I love having these conversations. And as we wrap up today, I wanna ask you maybe for a couple of parting thoughts or maybe what your really, really… a favorite memory or impactful memory or something that you’re looking forward to that you could leave the audience with as we close today.

Noah Gragson: Well, the thing that I think about is, when I’m in the race car, no matter if really I win or I lose or what happens is I always try to try to take one or two things from that weekend, really not, not even just in the car, but day-to-day, what can I take one thing from each day that I learned, and how can I try to better myself from that. So I’m growing up right now as a young 20-year-old and trying to figure out life, and there’s definitely been a lot of curve balls have been thrown everybody’s way this year and whatnot, but I think just trying to try and always build that snowball and try to keep it growing, it’s the biggest thing, and trying to always learn from everything. You can learn from the smartest person in the world, you can learn from the dumbest person in the world what not to do or what you do, so with that being said, I try to just take every opportunity and experience in mind as a learning opportunity and I’m fortunate to be able to do what I love. And that’s what racing a race car for a living, and I hope to… I hope to have a lot of success with it, but at the end of the day, if I can lay my head down on the pillow and know that I tried my best and I did everything I could to be the best I can be… I couldn’t do any better. So I’d be satisfied like that.

John: I love that, I love that champion’s mindset that you have, that we’re always learning, we’re taking something that happens, we improve upon it, we try to do, you know we try to maybe make that adjustment as we move forward each day, each week, I think that’s such a powerful point, and I love that you said you can learn from everyone, whether it’s what to do or what not to do, but being in that open-minded learning experience, state of mind is so important, especially as you said, as different things come up, or, “Hey, we didn’t know that racing would change this dramatically this year”, so it’s been an adjustment and for us to figure out. And I think in business, I think, like you said with with social media and things like that, it’s important to adjust and to bring your fans into that experience, and how important it is to create content. Well, Noah, I really appreciate you hopping on with me this morning, I certainly learned a lot from this conversation, I hope maybe, you maybe learn something from me, whether it was good or bad.

Noah Gragson: It’s been great, I appreciate you having me on for sure.

John: Absolutely Noah, I really enjoyed it. So thank you so much for being here.

Noah Gragson: Thank you.

John: Well, we appreciate you joining us for this episode of Life is Digital. Once again, I am your host, John Bianchi. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe to the show, there are some links in the comments below. Until next time. Don’t stop marketing.

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