*Editor’s Note: The full audio of this interview with Gray Gaulding will be available on an upcoming episode of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast.
FORT WORTH, Texas — This weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway marks the one year anniversary of Gray Gaulding’s announcement that he was going to move to SS Greenlight Racing for the 2019 season. Little did anyone know at the time, that announcement — and the lack of interest given to Gaulding during it — would be the catalyst for what has turned out to be an incredible 2019 season for the 21-year old driver.
“This time last year, this race we announced that I was coming here,” Gaulding explained in an exclusive interview with TobyChristie.com. “I think it’s so funny that nobody cared about the press release or me in the media center. There were like five people listening. I told myself a year ago, ‘Those people are going to listen and they’re going to see me next year this time,’ and sure enough that’s what we did.”
They sure have.
30 races into the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign, Gaulding has turned into one of the biggest feel-good stories in the garage. But just how good of a season has it been for Gaulding and Dotter’s organization?
In 159 NXS starts since 1996, Dotter’s team had collected just one top-five finish and two top-10s.
The Virginia native has scored four top-10 finishes this season, which includes a stunning runner-up effort at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring. Gaulding, who was an afterthought going into the season, turned into a near-Playoff contender as the season hit the homestretch.
As he sits 14th in the Championship standings with three races remaining in the season, the driver and team have surpassed even Gaulding’s wildest expectations.
“I knew we had the potential, but being realistic and kind of having goals are kind of two different things,” Gaulding explained. “You gotta wait until you get to the race track to see what you’ve got. But I knew by the first couple of weeks once we started building our race cars better, getting better set ups I started getting more comfortable with my guys and all of that type of stuff. I knew we were going to be a contender and we’ve proved it. We’ve had a hell of a season.”
For Gaulding it has been a wild ride to finding his path in NASCAR.
He was once a heralded developmental talent with a huge sponsorship in Krispy Kreme Donuts. Then he lost his sponsorship, and his career was derailed. After bouncing from underfunded operations, Gaulding has finally landed on his feet. But as 2018 was coming to a close, Gaulding had no idea what the future held.
“I had no clue what was going to happen,” said Gaulding. “Luckily enough, I have driven for a lot of great people that have believed in me even when I didn’t have any money. I started out my career and had a big sponsor. They got bought out by an overseas company that didn’t understand NASCAR and it was kind of a rude awakening. Then you’ve got to hit the streets and you’ve got to start working again — not saying we weren’t working before but things came a little bit easier when you had a sponsor. When I didn’t have that I had to grind for every opportunity.”
After scratching and clawing to stay relevant in the sport, Gaulding is finally starting to showcase why he was a highly touted talent in his teenage years.
“I always knew I could do it,” Gaulding stated with confidence. “I knew I have the talent, I knew I had the drive. I have the drive and determination to go get it done and nobody could take that away from me. Not in a cocky way, but I really think if I had the right opportunity I could show people that I want to be here and I want to stay here for a long time. I feel like that has been the difference in my career is this year has been a career year for me.”
Gaulding, who was 23rd and 22nd fastest in the two Xfinity Series practice sessions at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, is working on returning to SS Greenlight for another season in 2020.
“Yeah that’s the plan. This is a business — it’s a sport, but it’s also a business. Gotta work out some of the details and that’s what we are working on right now is to get a couple of things squared away and get back here with SS Greenlight Racing. Bobby Dotter has been the best owner I’ve ever driven for. I’ve known him for a long time and our realtionship is pretty darn close, and that’s the way I like it. If I could come back and possibly run for a championship with Bobby and his guys that would mean the world to me.”
Gaulding will look to end his impressive 2019 campaign with a bang as he has three shots left to shock the world with a victory.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.