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Taylor Gray Finishes 3rd in Xfinity Series Debut

Taylor Gray

Taylor Gray pre-race at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. — Taylor Gray has had a strong start to his season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, currently finding himself fourth in the point standings. The Truck Series having an off weekend allowed Gray to fully focus on his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Richmond Raceway driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Gray had a tough qualifying session Saturday morning and started this afternoon’s ToyotaCare 250 in the 27th position.

When the race went green, Gray got off to a slow start, only making up two positions by the time the first caution came out on Lap 20 for Ryan Vargas, whose car caught on fire under the hood.

The race restarted on Lap 28 with Gray in the 25th position. However, the green flag racing did not last long as another caution came out on Lap 42 after Brandon Jones laid fluid down on the track, causing himself and Ryan Sieg to spin out while running inside the top 10.

Eight cars took the caution as an opportunity to come down pit road and make adjustments. Brennan Poole was the only driver who took tires during the stops. This gave Gray some track position for when the race went back green on Lap 57.

Gray was able to take advantage of that track position and began moving up through the field. In the closing laps of Stage 1, Gray was able to get by both Sammy Smith and Parker Kligerman to finish ninth.

All of the leaders came down pit road under caution on Lap 78 for four fresh tires and fuel. Gray came off pit road in eighth and lined up to restart in that position when the race went back green on Lap 85.

Gray quickly lost a few spots, falling back to 10th, but was able to make his way back up to ninth when, on Lap 96, Logan Bearden spun out in Turn 3, once again bringing the caution out.

The race restarted on Lap 102 and immediately after crossing the start/finish line, Gray found himself four-wide between Kligerman, Cole Custer and Kyle Weatherman going into Turn 1.

Taylor Gray

Taylor Gray during the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

Gray, who was on the inside of Custer, made contact with the No. 00 car. The contact shot Custer up the track into Kligerman, which put Kligerman in the wall.

Gray was able to get away unscathed, and with the remainder of Stage 2 staying green, Gray worked his way into the top five and finished the stage in fourth.

Once again, the leaders all came down pit road under caution for fresh tires and fuel.

While leaving his pit stall, Gray ran into the left front of Sam Mayer’s car, causing significant damage to the No. 1 car. On Lap 160, the race went back green. Gray restarted in third and Mayer restarted in second.

Right away, Mayer’s left front tire began smoking, signaling a tire rub. Mayer tried to run it out but had to come down pit road on Lap 163, effectively ending his race.

“That was the last thing I intended was to tear up the race car and ruin their day,” Gray told Fox Sports reporter Josh Sims after the race. “Again, I apologize to them.”

“The 19 (Gray) just didn’t know I was there, unfortunately,” Mayer told Frontstrech after the race. “I literally cannot be mad at him because technically that’s not his job to know if there’s a car on his outside right there or not. Just a frustrating deal.”

Meanwhile, Gray went three-wide into Turn 1 again, this time between Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Chandler Smith and Austin Hill. Gray lost position to both drivers, falling back to fifth but made it back to fourth after Mayer was forced to make his pit stop.

The race did not stay green for very long. On Lap 173, another caution came out when Joey Gase backed into the wall hard after being shoved into Turn 1 by Dawson Cram.

This caution allowed for differing strategies to play out. On Lap 179, 14 cars stayed out with Gray while the rest of the leaders came down pit road to take four tires and fuel.

The 14 cars that stayed out were banking on a late yellow so they could get a tire advantage for the end of the race. Gray’s team, by coming down pit road. put their eggs in the “no caution” basket for the remainder of the race.

Taylor Gray

Taylor Gray (19) on a restart at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

Justin Allgaier was the first car to stay out, giving him the lead at the green flag on Lap 184 while Gray restarted back in 20th.

Gray, along with his teammates Smith and Aric Almirola, began charging through the field with fresh tires. In less than 10 laps, Gray found himself back inside of the top 10.

The remainder of the race stayed green, playing out in Gray’s favor. He used the long green-flag run to continue charging through the field, passing Corey Heim in the closing laps to finish third as Smith cruised to victory.

The impressive final stint helped propel Gray to the third-place finish, as he was able to manage his tires for the long run.

“I can’t thank all of the Joe Gibbs Racing guys enough for bringing me a great A Place of Hope Toyota GR Supra,” Gray said after the race. “It was definitely as fast as Xfinity internet today.”

Gray found himself in the middle of some sketchy situations today but was able to get out of all of them cleanly.

“I made too many mistakes there throughout the race to be able to capitalize on such a fast car,” Gray shared. “I can’t thank all of my guys enough back at the shop.”

Today marked the first of six starts Gray will make in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season and the experience was valuable for Gray.

“The biggest thing is just preparing as much as possible,” Gray told Jasmine Sharpe following the race.

“I know what they’re like now,” Gray shared. “It’s definitely a little different than truck racing.”

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