At this point, there isn’t an author that could put together a story more meant-to-be.
Taylor Gray, driving the No. 17 Ford Fusion for David Gilliland Racing, captured the victory in Friday’s General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway, holding off Daniel Dye, Sammy Smith, and Rajah Caruth on an overtime restart.
Friday’s triumph, the first for Gray in ARCA’s National Division, was an emotional one, coming just three days after the passing of the team’s hauler driver, Steven Stotts, after the team’s transporter was involved in a fatal accident en route to Phoenix Raceway.
After Tuesday’s tragic events, the organization returned to the shop to retrieve another vehicle, loading it onto a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hauler and commuting to Phoenix, Arizona, where they’d race – and win — in honor of Stotts, while carrying a special decal on the B-post.
“Yeah, it felt like they didn’t want me to win tonight,” Gray told Mike Massaro in a post-race interview on MAVTV. “All those guys are really tough to beat, and we had a really good racecar tonight.”
“The reason we’re here today is because of Steven [Stotts], Michael [Mizzelle], and John [Zaveri],” Gray continued. “I don’t know why we’d be here if we didn’t think they’d want us to be here, and this is all for them.
“This is just for Steven. I feel like he looked over me today and helped me get this win. Man, I’m holding on trying not to cry right now. It’s for those three guys. I love those guys like they’re my brothers. I love them to death.”
Gray started the race from second place, behind race-dominator Sammy Smith, the driver with which the No. 17 would be entrenched in a battle throughout the duration of the event. Smith would lead a race-high 78 laps, while Gray would lead 43 laps.
The other driver to pace the field in Friday’s 150-lap event, was Daniel Dye, who led a total of 32 laps late in the event, only to lose the lead – and the victory — when he chose the outside lane on a late-race restart.
Losing the lead on the second-to-last restart, Dye would finish in the runner-up position, further cementing his grasp on the ARCA Menards Series points lead amongst drivers competing for the title.
Sammy Smith recorded a third-place finish, with Rajah Caruth and ARCA Menards Series West title contender Jake Drew rounded out the top-five. Jesse Love, Nick Sanchez, Josh Berry, Derek Kraus, and Connor Mosack rounded out the top-10.
Running full-time in the ARCA Menards Series this season, Toni Breidinger finished 15th, Amber Balcean finished 30th, and Brad Smith finished 34th. Those three drivers leave Phoenix fourth, ninth, and 38th in point standings, respectively.
2022 ARCA Menards Series / ARCA West General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway:
|1||17||Taylor Gray||Ford Performance||Ford||154||---||27.664||Running|
|2||43||Daniel Dye||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||154||-0.344||27.824||Running|
|4||61||Rajah Caruth||Max Siegel Inc.||Chevrolet||154||-1.098||28.235||Running|
|5||6||Jake Drew||Sunrise Racing||Ford||154||-1.474||28.326||Running|
|6||20||Jesse Love||Crescent Tools||Toyota||154||-1.558||27.923||Running|
|7||2||Nick Sanchez||Universal Technical Institute||Chevrolet||154||-1.691||27.878||Running|
|9||19||Derek Kraus||NAPA AutoCare||Chevrolet||154||-2.121||28.413||Running|
|10||23||Connor Mosack||Nic Taylor||Chevrolet||154||-2.682||28.148||Running|
|11||99||Cole Moore||BBB Industries||Chevrolet||154||-2.769||28.646||Running|
|12||13||Todd Souza||Central Coast Cabinets||Ford||154||-2.880||28.522||Running|
|13||54||Joey Iest||Richwood Meats / Basila Farms||Ford||154||-3.344||28.645||Running|
|14||16||Austin Herzog||NAPA Auto Parts||Chevrolet||154||-3.543||28.818||Running|
|16||9||Tanner Reif||Vegas Fastener Manufacturing||Ford||154||-4.703||28.683||Running|
|17||33||Paul Pedroncelli Jr||Select Mobile Bottlers||Toyota||153||-1L||28.715||Running|
|18||7||Takuma Koga||Rise Up||Toyota||151||-3L||29.154||Running|
|19||86||Tim Spurgeon||Davids Racing Products / Nascimento||Toyota||150||-4L||29.111||Running|
|20||15||Parker Chase||Vertical Bridge||Toyota||147||-7L||28.433||Running|
|21||03||Alex Clubb||Flowers with Jazz & Jane Martin||Ford||145||-9L||31.647||Running|
|22||85||Ryan Roulette||Bellator Recruiting Academy||Toyota||144||-10L||30.627||Running|
|23||88||Bridget Burgess||HMH Construction||Chevrolet||142||-12L||29.997||Running|
|24||12||D.L. Wilson||Leggott Trailers of Waco||Chevrolet||133||-21L||29.266||Running|
|25||4||Sebastian Arias||Rubbermaid Commercial Prod / Brady IFS||Toyota||126||-28L||29.839||Running|
|26||27||Bobby Hillis Jr||First Impression Press||Chevrolet||124||-30L||31.201||Running|
|27||42||Christian Rose||Visit VW||Toyota||109||-45L||28.595||Out|
|28||11||Bryce Haugeberg||Magnum Contracting||Toyota||89||-65L||30.205||Out|
|29||10||Zachary Tinkle||Wayne Peterson Racing / Fast Track||Toyota||81||-73L||29.420||Out|
|31||21||Chris Lowden||Stoney's Roadhouse / Blue Valor Whiskey||Ford||54||-100L||31.027||Out|
|32||70||Kyle Keller||Third3ye / Eros Environmental / Battle Born||Chevrolet||45||-109L||29.132||Out|
|33||01||Tim Monroe||Fast Track High Performance Driving||Chevrolet||42||-112L||30.657||Out|
|35||39||Andrew Tuttle||Gearhead Coffee||Chevrolet||26||-128L||31.025||Out|
|36||35||Greg Van Alst||CB Fabricating||Ford||11||-143L||28.805||Out|
|37||07||Brian Kaltreider||Mystic Motorsports||Ford||2||-152L||37.224||Out|
|38||31||Paul Pedroncelli||Rancho Victoria Weddings||Chevrolet||1||-153L||37.161||Out|
|39||66||Eric Rhead||Jones Racing||Chevrolet||0||-154L||0||Out|
2022 ARCA Menards Series Point Standings: