Categories
XFINITY

Gray Gaulding Comes Up Short in Las Vegas Gamble

LAS VEGAS — Entering Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gray Gaulding was in a must-win scenario to make the playoffs.

Many people did not expect him to get close to accomplishing that goal, but he proved them wrong.

After finishing 17th and 18th in the first two stages, a caution would allow Gaulding the opportunity to pit off sequence; however, the gamble was fuel, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to make it to the end of the race.

During the following green-flag stretch that would lead to the finish, the driver of the No. 08 would run as high as second in the closing laps before eventually being passed by drivers who had pitted during the run. However, Gaulding would make still make it to the checkered flag finish on fuel and capture his fourth top-10 of the season with a seventh.

“It was a great night. I mean this is probably my best car I’ve had in the mile and a half all year,” Gaulding told POPULAR SPEED. “You know, we’ve, we’ve had a really successful season, you know, we rolled the dice, you know, we’re here in Vegas, we did everything we could to win. We tried to stretch it on fuel, I actually ran out, coming to the checkered. So it’s really good to, have speed but also finish top-10 and, we’re going to celebrate this one cause it’s so hard to finish top-10 as a small race team, and to be able to do that and accomplish that, I’m just really thankful, and I’m super happy right now.”

Though he will end the regular season as the first car out of the playoff, the 21-year-old is still very excited for the rest of the season. Gaulding fully believes that he can build off the energy surrounding his night in Vegas.

“You know, we, we got a lot of momentum on our side right now,” Gaulding said. “Coming off of finishing second earlier in the year, sixth at the Bristol, and now seventh here in, inside the top 15 pretty much week in and week out. I’m driving my heart out. I’m thankful to be here.”

After a career of bouncing around from ride to ride, the 2019 season has really shown what the young driver is made of with him making the most of this full-time ride.

“Bobby Dotter and SS-Green Light Racing have given me a huge opportunity because I didn’t know where my career was going,” Gaulding said. “A year and a half ago, and I just stuck with it and got in the right place at the right people, and here I am today. So yeah, we didn’t make it, but I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t easy. And we, we fought all year long and don’t, we just came up short, so we can’t, there’s nothing to be upset about. It’s part of it.”

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

‘Underdog’ Gaulding Continues To Impress

JOLIET, Illinois — The role of the underdog is one Gray Gaulding has become used to playing.

After seeing success in both NASCAR Pro K&N series, it looked like he was on his way to stardom as a part-time ride in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Roush-Fenway Racing opened up in 2016. However, after nothing was able to develop further, Gaulding’s star appeared to fade, spending the last few years of his career bouncing around between lower-funded teams.

That was until a ride opened up with SS Green Light Racing opened up.

“It’s been, it’s probably been the most fun I’ve ever had racing every week in my career because you know, the last two years has just been such a grind to stay in the sport, you know, not having a sponsor,” Gaulding told POPULAR SPEED.

Just having the ability to have one consistent ride has been welcomed for the 21-year-old, saying that it means everything.

“The pressure of me not being in a car and having to do all this other stuff, me and Patrick (Donahue, crew chief) are actually able to sit down and work on our cars and get better because we, this small group, is all we got,” Gaulding said. “We make sure we’re all on the same page and we all come to the track and do our jobs.”

He is not taking the opportunity lightly though, providing solid season so far with 12 top-20’s in 14 races, and currently sits one spot outside of the playoffs.

“I love being the underdog, but I feel like the beginning of the year compared to now, people know we’re going to show up and be fast and do the best we can,” Gaulding said. “The results have been great. I mean, we’re one spot out of the playoffs, and the guy in front of us is a Joe Gibbs car, so that’s, I feel like that’s pretty solid so far.”

The highlight of the year by far though for the No. 08 team was at Talladega Superspeedway, where they started eighth and came home with a second-place finish. A performance that had team owner, Bobby Dotter, in tears.

The day at ‘Dega was not the only strong performance for the team though, with Gaulding competing inside the top-10 all day at Iowa Speedway, before running out of tires late and falling back to a 14th place finish.

“Iowa was just a solid day,” Gaulding said. “We ran in front of some Gibbs cars and just was up there, you know, up there all day long. That’s what we need to do. But a lot of things got to go our way too. We got to make sure we, our pit stops are good. Patrick’s been making great calls lately, and I feel like I’ve been doing a great job, me and my spotter, working traffic and not really getting stuff in our head. We know what our job is, and we just got to go do it.”

However, despite the success, there is still struggles the Virginia-native faces on a weekly basis.

“It’s still a grind,” Gaulding said. “A lot of people don’t know this, but I mean I’m out during the week and doing events. Shaking hands, kissing babies, doing whatever I can to get sponsors to come on board.”

Sponsors have been a struggle for the No. 08 team, so much so that Gaulding took it upon himself to ask the fans for by launching sponsorgray.com, where anyone can go to the site and donate money to fund the team.

“From, just from the fan support and even some of my peers in racing, it just shows that you know, at the end of the day, if you’re going through a rough time, I mean, what better deal than to go to the people that care about you the most,” Gaulding said. “Your race fans, your friends, your family, and the people in the sport that are our friends. We actually got a few sponsors off the deal.”

This experience, along with teams he has worked with the past, has opened Gaulding up to the not-so-glamorous side of the sport.

“A lot of people look at NASCAR drivers, NASCAR teams, we got all the money, we show up, we laugh, we smile, we go home, we race and we go home, but for our team and myself, that’s not how it works,” Gaulding said. “We grind for every opportunity, every sponsor, and we appreciate the ones that do support us.”

Despite the hills to climb, Gaulding believes in his team’s ability and has set a standard that he hopes to attain.

“I think the goal this year is just keep building on what we got working, but also, I looked at the schedule a couple of days ago and the tracks that are coming up, probably the next 10 tracks, I don’t think I could have picked a better 10 tracks coming up for me,” Gaulding said. “From Bristol, the road courses, Kentucky, and Daytona next week. I mean all those tracks are right up my alley, especially the road races.”

He isn’t counting himself out of the playoffs either, as despite the strong competition surrounding him, he still believes in his ability to make the 12-driver field.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you probably saw the 08 and this team in the playoffs,” Gaulding said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. We’re one spot out, and we’re going to give them hell at Daytona and do the best we can for the rest of the year.”

Gaulding currently sits 13th in points, 81 points outside the cutoff.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Rookie Outlook: XFINITY Series

When looking at a rookie class one might wonder, how much success is possible for these drivers? Well, if the last couple of years in the XFINITY Series is any indication, the sky is the limit.

Three of the last five drivers to win the award have gone on to win the championship, and just by looking at whose eligible this year, it could be argued that it is likely to happen again in 2019.

With that said, let’s take a look at those who will be competing for the honor.

Chase Briscoe

Well, it could be argued that a lot of these drivers could be perceived as the favorite, Briscoe may have the best case for himself.

He has experience in the form of 17-race schedule last year, where he had four top-10’s and a win. Not to forget the 24-year-old will be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, one of the best teams not only in the series but in the sport as a whole. SHR proved the strength in their program last year by winning the owner’s championship with Cole Custer behind the wheel.

The expectations will, and rightfully so, be high for Briscoe.

Noah Gragson

Speaking of high expectations, there is Gragson, who joins JR Motorsports, whose last three rookie drivers (Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Chase Elliott) have won the championship. So, no pressure right?

However, the Las Vegas native has proven himself worthy of the ride after two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, where he scored two wins, 12 top-five’s, and 30 top-10’s.

While he may not have as much XFINITY experience as some of his competitors, Gragson did have success in his three starts last season for Joe Gibbs Racing. His worst finish with the team was seventh, and he even came close to winning in his debut at Richmond Raceway in a runner-up effort.

John Hunter Nemechek

A team that has seen strong development over the last year, GMS Racing, partnered with a driver in Nemechek whose shown capable, could prove to be a lethal combo.

Nemechek comes from a season where he split time between XFINITY and trucks, where he was able to win in both. The 21-year-old showed off his talent in NASCAR’s second-tier series, where in addition his lone victory at Kansas Speedway, he was able to produce six top-five’s and 11 top-10’s in an 18-race effort for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Despite his impressive stat line though, he seemed to be overshadowed by Kyle Larson and Ganassi’s late-season addition, Ross Chastain, whom he split the No. 42 with.

With the ride at GMS all to himself, it will be interesting to see how he capitalizes on the opportunity.

Justin Haley

How about a dark horse? Haley enters the 2019 season, relatively under the radar, despite being impressive in 2018.

The 19-year-old was able to capture three wins in the truck series last year, and produced a strong enough playoff run to get himself into the series’ Championship 4. He also made three starts in XFINITY for GMS, where he was one legal pass away from winning at Daytona International Speedway.

This year though, Haley will be with a different team in Kaulig Racing, whose fielded a playoff entry in each of the last three seasons and, saw a noticeable increase in performance last year, scoring 11 top-10’s with then-driver, Ryan Truex.

Gray Gaulding

A driver who actually has more experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Gaulding looks to develop a much more stable schedule after spending the last few seasons jumping around multiple teams.

He joins SS-Green Light Racing to drive the No. 08 Chevrolet. The team fielded an entry for Spencer Boyd in 2018, averaging a 26.9 finish.

Seeing how Gaulding has never had one season-long ride to himself, it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old can improve being with just the one team.

Matt Mills

Mills, who ran eight races last season in XFINITY, will join B.J. McLeod Racing in 2019 to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet.

The 22-year-old did get the chance to run two races with the team in 2018, where he was able to grab his season-best qualifying effort (25th) and matched his career-best finish (27th) at Richmond Raceway.

Part-Timers

The least experienced of all the drivers listed, Zane Smith, will join JR Motorsports for a limited schedule driving the No. 9 Chevrolet.

Despite his lack of experience, Smith is still well-accomplished, with four wins in the ARCA Racing Series and, a fifth-place finish in his truck debut last year.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

BK Racing Rookies Embrace Opportunity as Cup Drivers

AVONDALE, Ariz. — With two rookies running the No.’s 23 and 83 for BK Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the team knew 2017 would be a learning season for drivers Gray Gaulding and Corey LaJoie.

Entering this year, both racers only had two previous Cup starts and never competed full time in any of NASCAR’s three national series. But team owner Ron Devine gave them the opportunity run in stock car racing’s premier level and let them experience the career of a full-time NASCAR driver.

“Ron is a good supporter, and he knows we have a lot to learn,” Gaulding told POPULAR SPEED. “I know I’m here to work as hard as I can and show Ron I deserve to be in this car. I want to go out every week and give him the best finish possible.”

Gaulding said running at 1.5-mile tracks for the first time was “the most fun I’ve ever had behind the wheel,” particularly in Atlanta, which has an aged surface and tire fall-off is always a factor.

“That race was so fun because the tires get old and everyone is sideways,” he added. “In Vegas, we had a decent run. I felt like we could have finished in the 20s, which is a good run for our team, but I got two speeding penalties on pit road, which killed us under green. … It just comes with time and experience.”

LaJoie had a rocky start to the season. His No. 83 Toyota is unchartered, unlike Gaulding’s No. 23, so he had to race his way into the Daytona 500 in the Duel race.

He qualified for the “Great American Race,” and rolled off 31st, but made contact with the tri-oval’s outside wall on Lap 31 as he tried to slow down to pit road speed.

There was damage to the right front of LaJoie’s car, but he salvaged a 24th-place result in his first 500. Nevertheless, he was happy to make the show as 42 cars attempted Daytona with 40 spots available.

“It was a pretty big moment regardless, whether you were locked in or not, “LaJoie told POPULAR SPEED. “The Daytona 500 was pretty intense. I didn’t go there for a week to not make that thing.

“Obviously, the first three races weren’t quite how we envisioned them to go, but Daytona was cool because we made it.”

Looking ahead, LaJoie will run select events in the JGL Racing No. 24 Toyota in the XFINITY Series, including at Auto Club Speedway next week. He’s scheduled for 14 Cup races this year, and it there could be more if sponsorship is found.

Gaulding’s goal for his rookie season is to finish top 30 in the points standings. After competing in two of the first three Cup events this year, he sits 38th in the standings, two spots behind LaJoie.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Front Row Buys BK Racing Charter; Leases to TriStar

A day after Front Row Motorsports revealed the acquisition of one of its Charters by TriStar Motorsports, the organization has bought one of BK Racing’s two Charters for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

BKR’s No. 83 Charter now belongs to TriStar though because FRM is leasing it to the new Cup Series No. 72 team. BKR will compete in the upcoming season with only one Charter for the No. 23, which will be driven by Joey Gase and Gray Gaulding.

FRM’s two full-time cars will both remained guaranteed into all 36 points events for Landon Cassill and David Ragan because both entries are chartered. At the end of the 2017 season, TriStar’s Charter lease will end, and it will be returned to FRM, giving the Ford organization three Charters for 2018.

As the season gets closer and closer, the MENCS field is becoming more and more clear. To avoid any confusion, here is a list of all 36 Charter teams that will be guaranteed into every race this season:

  1. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing
  2. 2 Team Penske
  3. 3 Richard Childress Racing
  4. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
  5. 5 Hendrick Motorsports
  6. 6 Roush Fenway Racing
  7. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
  8. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing
  9. 13 Germain Racing
  10. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing
  11. 15 Premium Motorsports
  12. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
  13. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
  14. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing
  15. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
  16. 21 Wood Brothers Racing
  17. 22 Team Penske
  18. 23 BK Racing
  19. 24 Hendrick Motorsports
  20. 27 Richard Childress Racing
  21. 31 Richard Childress Racing
  22. 32 GoFas Racing
  23. 33 Circle Sport-The Motorsports Group
  24. 34 Front Row Motorsports
  25. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
  26. 38 Front Row Motorsports
  27. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
  28. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing
  29. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
  30. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
  31. 48 Hendrick Motorsports
  32. 72 TriStar Motorsports
  33. 77 Furniture Row Racing
  34. 78 Furniture Row Racing
  35. 88 Hendrick Motorsports
  36. 95 Leavine Family Racing

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

BK Racing Still Trying to Secure 2017 Plans Around Youthful Driver Lineup

As Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway inches closer and closer, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organization BK Racing still has not finalized all of its 2017 plans. The No. 23 entry appears set for the upcoming season, but the No. 83’s situation isn’t entirely clear.

Here’s what we know:

The team’s two full-time drivers from 2016 have not returned for this year. Matt DiBenedetto and crew chief Gene Nead join GoFas Racing for the upcoming season, and David Ragan returns to his former team Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 38 Ford.

In late December, Joey Gase was announced as the driver of the No. 23 Toyota for three races in 2017, starting with the season-opening Daytona 500. He’ll also be in the car at Kentucky Speedway in July and Bristol Motor Speedway in August.

Earlier this week, BKR announced a 35-race deal with 18-year-old Gray Gaulding, who will drive the No. 23 for 33 races starting at Atlanta Motor Speedway and two more races in another car. Also, Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 83 on a part-time basis beginning with the Daytona 500.

What we don’t know:

The number of races LaJoie will compete in is undetermined at this point. And since he’s a part-time driver, the No. 83 will probably have at least one other face behind the wheel if the team will continue full time. A crew chief is yet to be announced as well.

Also, Racer.com reported on Wednesday the No. 83’s charter potentially could be on the market shortly. The team’s lack of security stems from questions about sponsorship, a need for crew chief, and a need for more drivers.

The No. 23 will definitely be full time with a charter, but the No. 83 will likely become a part-time entry if BKR decides to sell its charter.

What we want to know:

If the No. 83 keeps its charter, who else will be in the car? Of the trio of drivers that will compete with BKR, LaJoie is the oldest at 25. The organization has served as a stepping stone for young racers such as Landon Cassill, Alex Bowman, Ryan Truex and Jeb Burton since its inception in 2012, so it would only make sense if another up-and-comer gets his feet wet in NASCAR’s premier level. Who that could be is anyone’s guess.

And, is Gaulding ready for the Cup Series? He turns 19 next month and has only participated in 17 races across NASCAR’s top three series – 13 of them in the Camping World Truck Series, two in the XFINITY Series, and two in Cup. That’s not much experience. But if you ask him and team owner Ron Devine if he’s ready, they’d say yes.

“A lot of people might say I’m not ready. I’m too young. I feel like I’m physically and mentally ready,” Gaulding stated in an interview with CBS 6 Richmond. “I’m definitely going to feel some bumps in the road, but that’s part of being young. That’s part of being a rookie.”

Devine told CBS 6, “I think he’s earned the right to run at this level. He’s been successful at all the other levels, and that’s what you look for. You look for guys that can run up front at any level and then have good car control. He has great car control, and he’s fast.”

Your prediction?

Will Gaulding have a successful rookie season in NASCAR’s top series? Will BKR have two full-time cars this year?

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Gaulding Adds to Youthful Line-Up at BK Racing

It seems the key to BK Racing’s line-up for the upcoming season is youth.

18-year-old Gray Gaulding will drive the No. 23 Toyota Camry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“When I first walked into the BK Racing shop I felt at home, it has the perfect mixture of corporate America and the old-school race shop feeling” said Gaulding. “Everyone was elbows deep preparing for Daytona, Atlanta, Las Vegas and the entire season. Ron Devine has invested a lot of time, effort, and equity into BK Racing and it shows as you walk the shop floor. To be back with Toyota is great, I’ve kept a great relationship with them and they’re a great technical partner. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and represent everyone at BK Racing and our partners that allow us to be at the track.”

The Virginia native ran two XFINITY Series races and two Cup Series races last year, with a best XFINITY finish of 13th and best Cup Series finish of 37th. He previously spent two years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, scoring one top-five and two top-10s in 13 starts.

The NASCAR Next Alumni was able to break into the top-three NASCAR divisions after having success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Gaulding scored his first career win at Phoenix International Speedway in 2013, to go along with 13 top-fives and 25 top-tens in a span of three years.

“I got involved with NASCAR and in ownership the middle of last year because of the opportunity to be a part of the life of a gifted young man, Gray Gaulding” said Steve Lynn, CEO of GGR Enterprises. “I am honored and pleased that he and we are now partnering with BK Racing. Ron Devine and his BK Racing team are an outstanding place for Gray to grow and learn, as he continues his rise in this wonderful sport.”

Gaulding’s first race with the team will be in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. Gaulding joins another youthful driver, Joey Gase, who announced he’d previously run the Daytona 500 for the organization. It was also confirmed on Monday that 25-year-old Corey LaJoie will run a select number of Cup races for BK Racing, as well.

“Over the years, BK Racing has given many talented young drivers the chance to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and make a name for themselves,” said Ron Devine, owner of BK Racing. “We see Gray Gaulding as a potential superstar in our sport.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Gaulding Gears Up for Cup Debut

18-year-old Virginia native Gray Gaulding is gearing up to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Martinsville Speedway later this month.

The NASCAR Next alumnus will drive the No. 30 Feed the Children Chevrolet for The Motorsports Group.

“It’s exciting bringing a new partner into the series and to be making my NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at a track like Martinsville where we’ve had a really good history in the past is honestly unfathomable,” Gaulding said. “I’m excited to partner with Feed the Children and use NASCAR as a platform to deliver our message and work to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. A lot has happened in a short period of time but I’ve never been as excited to debut this beautiful Feed the Children car next week at Martinsville.”

Not only will Gaulding compete at Martinsville Speedway, but also at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 13 and the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. Feed the Children will be on board for both those events, as well. 

In two XFINITY Series starts this season competing for Roush Fenway Racing, he finished 13th at both Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

Gaulding isn’t coming into Martinsville Speedway without a notebook to draw on, as he has made four starts in the Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway with a best finish of 14th.

The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 from Martinsville Speedway can be seen on NBCSN on Oct. 30 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com
TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Gaulding Rallies for 13th in XFINITY Debut

Gray Gaulding made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut in the Food City 300 on Friday night and after a late-race spin, he rallied for a 13th place finish.

Gaulding signed with Roush Fenway Racing earlier this season to drive the No. 60 Ford in a two-race deal at Bristol Motor Speedway in August and Richmond International Raceway in September.

He qualified 21st at the high-banked half mile and settled into the top 20 for most of the night. On Lap 193, he had a left rear tire go down, and the car spun on the exit of Turn 2, backing into the outside wall to bring out the fourth caution of the race.

“We could have had a top-10 finish if not for that cut tire,” Gaulding said. “We had a good car, and I learned a lot in my first XFINITY race. We can’t wait to go to Richmond and do it again.”

Gaulding, the 18-year-old from Colonial Heights, Va., has 13 career Camping World Truck Series starts, including four in 2015. His best career finish in a national series race is fourth, which came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 250.

In 2013, he competed in both the K&N Pro Series East and West and became the youngest winner in series history when he won the season finale at Phoenix International Raceway at 15 years old.

After the race at Bristol, Gaulding tweeted:

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Gaulding Takes Next Step with Roush Fenway Racing

NASCAR Next driver Gray Gaulding’s lifelong journey will take him up to the XFINITY Series in August when he makes his series debut for Roush-Fenway Racing.

Gaulding has raced his way through the ranks from Bandoleros to Late Models to Trucks. Las week, the 18-year-old from Colonial Heights, Virginia signed a deal to run at least two XFINITY races with Roush.

“This is a really good opportunity,” Gaulding said in an interview with POPULAR SPEED.  “Especially to being able to sign with Roush Fenway Racing is really cool.  I’ve looked up to Jack [Roush] and his entire organization my entire racing career.  He’s a legend in this sport. To race for him is a true honor.”

As of now, Gaulding will make two appearances for Roush-Fenway, his first at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway in August and his second at his home track at Richmond International Raceway in September.

Additional races could be added for Gaulding.

“Richmond is my home track and Bristol is my favorite track,” Gaulding remarked.  “Those two are good for me. Those two probably won’t be the only ones. Roush Fenway, their marketing team is getting everything figured out to search for more partners to get me into more races.

“I’m not sure which other ones I’ll do. For sure, Richmond and Bristol. I love running Bristol. Most fun race I have is going there.  Going to Richmond is cool because it’s like a homecoming for me. All the kids I went to school with, my friends and family come out to the races to support me. That’s one race I always circle to win.”

Something that both tracks provide for Gaulding is familiarity. Gaulding has raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at both Bristol and Richmond and has also raced a Late Model Stock Car at Richmond.

“It’s really important to have laps at a track you’re going to go to in a different car and motor,” Gaulding stated.  “I should’ve won the K&N race there in 2013. That’s where I broke Chase Elliott’s record for youngest pole sitter. Going there and having laps, knowing grooves. I’ve been studying last year’s race to see if it gets loose or tight. Having laps at Richmond means a lot but it’s a different vehicle with a different feel.

“I’m looking forward to strapping in and hopefully going out and making some noise.”

Like many before him, Gaulding started out in Bandoleros, then moved to Legends cars before progressing to Late Models and eventually the NASAR K&N Pro Series. Where Gauding has stood out his entire career is that he’s raced in every level at the youngest minimum age.

Gaulding was the youngest driver to ever win a race in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model Series when he won at Wake County Speedway in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2011.  In 2013, he became the youngest driver to win a pole in the K&N Pro Series at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida and then became the youngest race winner in series history at Phoenix International Raceway.

However, when Gaulding started racing, NASCAR wasn’t where he envisioned he would be.

“When I grew up racing, I started racing motorcycles and saw my future in motorcycles,” Gaulding commented.  “When I turned nine, got a Bandolero and won my first race. That got me hooked up in stock cars and that’s where I wanted to be, running NASCAR.

“I’ve won in Legends, I’ve won championships in Legends and Bandoleros. Once you get in the 12-14 age, start to get older, some kids are just getting out of Legends cars at 12, 13.  Just to know I signed with Kevin Harvick and was racing in a 700hp Super Late Model.  That’s insane looking back now.”

As Gaulding progressed as a driver, so did his career.  Instead of dominating at one track in one style of racecars, his father, Dwayne, brought him up to the next level when he was ready.

“My parents always moved me up when I was ready to move up. I never stayed in something and consistently dominated. What’s the point of staying?  I raced bigger, better, older competition like Jay Fogleman, guys who cut their teeth racing on short tracks. Every level I’ve raced in, I’ve raced at the highest level for my age.”

After racing in Super Late Models, the next step for Gaulding’s career was the K&N Pro Series, which would prepare him to race in the Camping World Truck Series. Even when he moved up into the K&N Series and the Truck Series, he was still the young buck.

“Once I moved out of Super Late Models and into K&N and Trucks, the competition was better and I was still the young buck. Every level, I’ve been the young guy coming in,” he said. “I think it’s been fine with me and I’ve really enjoyed it because the competition is so stiff and I’ve learned so much racing those guys who been in that level longer than I have.

“In Trucks, racing against Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, racing with them is really cool. Racing with them at 16. Who would’ve thought I’d be in the top levels at 16?”

It was five years ago when Gaulding was racing Super Late Model.  For Gaulding, those five years seem so short.

“I just turned 18 and I’ll be running for Roush Fenway in a few months. Lots have been going on, been very fast,” he said. “Seems like just yesterday I got in K&N and I’ll be strapping in an XFINITY car. I learned a lot and can’t wait to strap in at Bristol.”

Racing doesn’t just require talent but also requires money so, while he works hard on the track, he works just as hard off the track to get sponsorship and funding to compete.  Gaulding’s marketability, however, has made him the target of criticism by some in racing who disparagingly call him a “rich kid.” That doesn’t matter to Gaulding because he gets respect from his peers where it matters – on the track.

“I think, those guys give me respect because they know I’m fast, I’m a competitor,” Gaulding explained.  “I’m not just making laps and in the way.  When I get in the car, my goal is to win the race, to be there when it counts. I haven’t had many people call me a ‘rich kid’ because, if they know me, they know me and my family came from nothing.

“We work our guts off to get where we are. People who say I’m a rich kid or whatever, they don’t know me because we’ve worked countless hours and time and effort has gone into be being where I am now. A lot of work and effort has got me to this point.”

Gaulding has held the help of his father, 43-year-old Dwayne Gaulding, but the elder Gaulding said it’s Gray’s hard work that deserves the credit.

“It’s just been amazing,” Dwayne Gaulding said. “I’ll be honest. I’d love to take credit but I’ve got to give it to Gray. That kid has wanted to work day in and day out to make it happen. I’d get discouraged at time because racing is a tough sport especially with kids paying for rides.

“I’ve said, the day you quit working is the day you quit racing. He said he wants to associate with the right company and right team. The kid set out and we’ve worked very hard. He’s had many meetings with lots of teams. The Roush team has treated us like gold. It’s been an amazing journey so far and just a short one.”

No matter how far Gray Gaulding gets, whether it’s just XFINITY or Cup, he knows he can look back and say it was hard work that got him there.

“When we can look back at this and know we worked our tails off to get this deal, with our partners like Krispy Kreme and Ford and so many people supporting me… at the end of the day, we know hard work is what pays off,” he said.

“Every series I’ve run in, I’ve gained respect with the guys and I’ve always been the young guy, very aggressive. I know when to be aggressive when it counts and when to be smart and that’s where I get respect the most.”

Containing aggression is one of the key things Gaulding has had to learn throughout his career. When he made his K&N Pro Series debut at Daytona in 2013, he got a little too aggressive while leading on the final lap which prevented him from scoring the victory.

“I spun Michael Self going into turn one, not intentional, in the moment kind of deal,” Gaulding said.  “Drove in too deep, spun him out, going into turn three, blew the corner and, I laugh about it now because I had a five car lead and could’ve broke early and still made it. I hate I gave one away. I was just a rascal that didn’t know a ton about the car. If I knew what I know now and could go back in time, I wouldn’t make that dumb mistake.

“Finished second, great first outing but I know not to do something that stupid and learned from it.”

The race at Daytona, which was held on a temporary 4/10-mile course setup along the Daytona Superstretch, was Gaulding’s introduction to primetime. It was a race at Daytona, it was nationally televised on SPEED (now FS1) and it was his K&N debut.

“That was a really cool moment for me,” Gaulding explained.  “What’s funny was my birthday was five days before that race so I just barely made the cutoff to run that race. It’s Daytona. Live on TV. NASCAR.

“Everybody’s watching and I drove every lap like it was my last. Daytona’s so special to me as a driver as it is to every driver. Everybody wants to win there. I cut my teeth in that race. Started eighth or ninth and moved to the front.”

Off the track, Gaulding’s personality is attractive to fans, sponsors and the media. Gaulding is charismatic without being ‘vanilla’.  One instance of his down-to-earth personality was displayed during an interview with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie in 2013 when he flirted with the Fox Sports reporter.  That moment is something Gaulding says people still talk to him about to this day.

Dwayne Gaulding says he wishes every parent could spend time with his son or have a son like Gray.

“I wish every parent had an opportunity to be with Gray Gaulding because they would cherish what being a parent is about,” the elder Gaulding said.  “I’m just thankful to God every day I have great kids like Gray, McCall and Kennedy that any parent could spend six weeks with.  It’s been an honor.”

Already this season, Gaulding has made a start in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards at Daytona, scoring a ninth place finish.