Gray Gaulding, who has spent the opening four months of the season competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for SS GreenLight Racing, is set to make his first NASCAR Cup Series start since October 2020, as the series travels to World Wide Technology Raceway.
Reuniting with Rick Ware Racing, Gaulding will occupy the driver’s seat of the No. 15 Ford Mustang in Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300, with backing from long-time sponsor Panini America.
“Personally, today is an exciting career day for me with this opportunity to return to the NASCAR Cup Series along with our sponsor Panini America, and with a team that wants to excel like Rick Ware Racing,” said Gaulding. “Jason [Howarth] and Rick [Ware] have both believed in my ability as a brand ambassador and driver, I do not plan to disappoint them.”
Having contested a partial schedule in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2016, Gaulding’s return to the series on Sunday will mark his 60th career start, 11 of which will have been behind the wheel of a Rick Ware Racing machine.
“Ever since we started working with Gray [Gaulding] and his family, he has been more than just a brand ambassador for us, he’s been more like a member of the family,” said Jason Howarth, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Acquisitions for Panini America. “Gray has been a huge part of our growth in the NASCAR trading card space, and we’re excited to team up with him and Rick Ware Racing one more time.”
For Rick Ware Racing, this isn’t just a reunion with Gaulding as the driver, but also with Panini America as the primary sponsor, after the three parties united for a nine-race deal in 2020, with a best finish of 25th at Texas.
“It will be good to have Gray race with us again,” said team owner Rick Ware. “He has driven for us previously and we’ve been making overall improvements to the team since then. It’s also great to have Panini America as his primary partner again, too. Like us, they have been growing their company in some major areas and we look forward to having a great race with them.”
After only contesting a pair of NASCAR National Series events in 2022, Gaulding stepped back into the spotlight to compete for SS GreenLight Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, which so far this season has netted him an eighth-place finish at Talladega.
While defeating a career-high ninth-place finish is unlikely for him and Rick Ware Racing this weekend, the driver will look to gain experience with NASCAR’s NextGen car and put the organization on a track to continue its solid stretch of runs.