RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - MARCH 30: Taylor Gray, driver of the #19 Place of Hope Toyota, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on March 30, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images) | Getty Images
(Photo: Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Multi-time ARCA winner Taylor Gray impresses in Xfinity Series debut at Richmond

When Taylor Gray was a month away from his 15th birthday, he was in the pits at New Smyrna Speedway as his older brother Tanner was getting ready to race in the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East season opener.

The younger Gray brother was not quite old enough to climb aboard and compete, but he was trying to persuade anyone and everyone that he could do it and the rules could perhaps be bent to allow him to race that night.

The rules couldn’t be bent that night so he watched from pit road as his older brother fought for the win before contact while battling three-wide for third place with 20 laps to go sent him onto his side and sliding down the frontstretch. But once he turned 15, he competed in as many ARCA platform races as he could.

His platform debut came in an ARCA Menards Series East event at Toledo Speedway; he qualified fourth and finished eighth despite transmission issues that sidelined him a few laps shy of the checkered flag. The next week, he took on the tough road course at Utah Motorsports Park and again finished fourth in the first of two races in that day’s unique same-day doubleheader. He made his ARCA Menards Series debut a couple of weeks later at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, where he qualified sixth and finished fourth.

The stats in his rookie season showed a young man with a lot of talent. Twenty-two starts across the platform, his first win in the ARCA Menards Series West race at Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway in October, 13 top-five finishes and 20 top-10 finishes. He also earned his first General Tire Pole Award at the West race at All American Speedway.

Taylor Gray driver of the #17 Ford Performance Ford celebrates after winning the Dawn 150 for the ARCA Menards Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on July 8, 2022. (Kirk Irwin/ARCA Racing)
Taylor Gray, driver of the No. 17 Ford Performance Ford, celebrates after winning the Dawn 150 for the ARCA Menards Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on July 8, 2022. (Photo: Kirk Irwin/ARCA Racing)

His second season in 2021 was just as impressive. He made 21 starts across the platform with two wins, the West races on the road course at Portland International Raceway and The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 16 top-five finishes, and 19 top-10 finishes. He also scored another pole award, this one at New Smyrna where he was forced to watch from the sidelines the year before.

In 2022, the then-17-year-old hit his stride. Still not old enough to compete for a championship, Gray was still racing in as many races across the platform as he could.
His first race of the season, at Phoenix Raceway, was touched by tragedy as his hauler driver, Steve Stotts, perished in a highway crash on his way to the race. Gray and his team rallied around their late teammate and raced a hastily-prepared backup car to his first career ARCA Menards Series win.

Gray would go on to win twice more in the ARCA Menards Series that season, with another road course win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and then a big-track win at Pocono Raceway. He also earned his first ARCA Menards Series East win in a dominant performance that saw him lead 116 of 125 laps at Dover Motor Speedway after starting from the pole. He closed the season with his second straight win at The Bullring at LVMS for his second West win of the season, leading all but one of the race’s 158 laps.

Gray concentrated his efforts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023. He made 20 starts with three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes with a best finish of second in the fall race at Kansas Speedway. He also made three ARCA Menards Series appearances scoring a pair of third-place finishes at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway early in the season.

Just six races into his second full season in the Truck Series, Gray has matched the number of top-fives he scored in 2022 with a pair of fourth-place runs at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then a runner-up finish at Circuit of the Americas two weeks ago. He sits, comfortably, fourth in the series championship standings headed into the next series race at Martinsville Speedway this weekend.

Last weekend, Gray teamed with Joe Gibbs Racing to make his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Richmond Raceway. He qualified 27th but steadily worked his way through the field to cross the finish line in third place. Teammate Chandler Smith won, and another JGR driver, Aric Almirola, finished second.

The ARCA Menards Series platform returns to action in a unique same-day, cross-country doubleheader on Saturday, April 20.

First, the ARCA Menards Series takes on the biggest, fastest track on the schedule in the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway (live, FS1/MRN Radio, 12:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. CT). Then, the ARCA Menards Series West continues its season with the MMI Services Oil Workers 150 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Motorsports Hall of Fame at Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway (live, FloRacing, 11:15 p.m. ET/8:15 p.m. PT).