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Taylor Gray Inching Closer to First Career Win with Fourth-Place Result at Las Vegas

Image Credit: John K. Harrelson, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

What a difference a year can make.

At this time last season, Taylor Gray hadn’t even begun his full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series campaign — he wasn’t old enough to run at the bigger tracks. Now, three weeks into the 2024 season, the TRICON Garage pilot is on the precipice of securing his first victory after competing for top-five finishes at Daytona, Atlanta, and Las Vegas.

Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 was an example of a near-miss for the Denver, North Carolina-native, quickly surging to the front of the pack from his 19th-place starting spot, only to finish seventh in the race’s first stage – which only featured 27 laps of green-flag action.

Throughout the evening, the No. 17 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro looked to be among the fastest trucks in the field, leaving the five-time ARCA Menards Series West winner to fight against his teammates Corey Heim and Christopher Bell, as well as front-runners Rajah Caruth, Ty Majeski, Kyle Busch, Nick Sanchez, and Tyler Ankrum for a top-five position during the race’s final stage.

Busch, Sanchez, and Majeski would all end up falling by the wayside during the cycle of green-flag pit stops inside the race’s final 40 laps, due to unnecessary penalties on pit road. Taylor Gray didn’t have those same issues and found himself exiting the pit lane as the race’s effective leader – while waiting for others to complete the pit cycle.

Caruth, the eventual winner of Friday’s Truck Series event at Las Vegas, exited pit road just behind Gray with his sights set on securing his first victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, much like the Toyota-backed driver. Sitting about one second behind the No. 17, the Spire Motorsports driver obliterated the gap quickly, passing Gray before the pit cycle had even ended.

The final 25 laps of the event saw Gray, who moments ago was seemingly in the best position to score the victory, trying to catch back up to Caruth, to no avail, while also trying to hold off his teammate Corey Heim and Tyler Ankrum, who both eventually moved past the Mobil 1-sponsored entry to finish in second and third place.

Gray would have to settle for a fourth-place result, earning back-to-back top-five finishes for the second time in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career, as well as his fourth top-five result in the last seven events — all while driving for TRICON Garage.

Related: 2024 Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 Results

“It just sucks,” Gray said about losing out on the victory Friday. “We came out two seconds – or I don’t know what the exact number is – in the lead and it just sucks. I can’t thank everyone at TRICON Garage for bringing me a really good Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. I can’t hang my head too bad. We ran in the top five and had a pretty good points day. Gotta keep working hard, and we will go get them in Bristol.”

While the disappointment of losing out on your first victory is immeasurable, there is always a glimmer of hope that accompanies a finish inside the top five as Gray had on Friday, considering his whole season to this point has featured him being a contender week-in and week-out.

Granted, Friday’s event, despite paying the same amount of points as the first two rounds of the 2024 season, offers a more significant outlook of the season ahead, as the Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway marked the first non-drafting track of the season for the NASCAR Truck Series.

Even with a sense of disappointment looming over the conclusion of Friday’s event, Gray can take solace in knowing that the remaining 20 NASCAR Truck Series events ahead in 2024, with veteran crew chief Jeff Hensley calling the shots, are bound to be strong ones, and could result in the youngster hoisting a couple of trophies.

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