Saturday, June 4, 2022

TRUCKS: Taylor Gray’s truck won’t refire after minor incident at Gateway

PHOTO: @BudgetRacing51

Taylor Gray picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Toyota 200 Presented by CK Power at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when his #17 Ford Performance Ford was eliminated in a crash after 45 of 165 laps.

The finish came in Gray’s 8th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #17, the 115th for Ford, and the 172nd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th for the #17, the 992nd for Ford, and the 1,290th from a crash.

It’s been an emotional season for David Gilliland Racing, and for Taylor Gray’s team in particular. In March, their hauler driver Steven C. Stotts was killed in a traffic accident near Longview, Texas. Stott was driving the hauler to Phoenix for the upcoming ARCA race, where Taylor was set to drive the #17. The team managed to make arrangements in time to bring another car to the speedway, and Taylor led the final 17 laps on his way to victory. The win was his first in ARCA national competition, his fourth in West races, and would be followed in April by an East Series win in Dover.

Taylor has also competed alongside his brother Tanner Gray in the Truck Series, running the #17 Ford on a part-time basis alongside Tanner’s full-time #15. Taylor’s series debut came last summer in Watkins Glen, where he finished 35th, but his next start was at this same Gateway track, where he finished 12th. Only once since then has he run better – an 8th in the fall race at Martinsville. His two previous starts in the 2022 season, where he’s shared the #17 with Stewart-Haas Racing reserve driver Ryan Preece, each yielded only 26th-place finishes.

Gray’s weekend in Gateway began with a 13th-fastest speed in practice, then improved in qualifying to secure 9th with a speed of 137.535mph (32.719 seconds). After G2G Racing withdrew their second entry, the #47, there remained 39 trucks for 36 spots. Missing the show were Blake Lothian, whose #43 Toyota drew a caution in practice when his truck stalled, plus Matt Mills in the #20 J.F. Electric Chevrolet and Justin S. Carroll in the #90 Carroll’s Automotive Toyota. Jake Garcia, who like Carroll missed his Truck debut at Martinsville when rain cancelled the session, rebounded to qualify 21st in the McAnally-Hilgemann #35 Chevrolet.

Starting 36th and last was Texas last-place finisher Derek Kraus, whose #19 NAPA AutoCare Toyota was prohibited from qualifying due to issues in inspection. He’d be joined by three other drivers sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments: 26th-place Hailie Deegan in the #1 Monster Energy Ford, 33rd-place Mason Maggio, making his series debut in the #33 HMY Yacht Sales Toyota, and 34th-place Spencer Boyd in the #12 Hans Wiemann Chevrolet.

When the race started, Maggio was last across the stripe, 3.884 seconds back of the leader. Kraus, the last-place qualifier, was up to 31st ahead of the docked Deegan, Boyd, and Maggio, plus 31st-place Brennan Poole in the #46 G2G Racing Toyota and 35th-place Tate Fogleman in the #30 Rangeline Group Toyota, which had both dropped in behind Kraus before the start. Maggio retained last at the start with Boyd and Poole racing for 34th some distance ahead. By Lap 4, Poole had dropped Boyd to 35th place, and Maggio behind by open track. Maggio stayed within a half-second of Boyd until Lap 11, when the gap grew to 0.785. The interval was 1.158 the next time by, 1.738 on Lap 14, 2.217 on Lap 16, and 3.240 on Lap 21. By Lap 24, the leaders put Maggio the first truck one lap down. By the end of Stage 1, the leaders had lapped everyone up to Timmy Hill and Dean Thompson, who were racing for 30th spot. Hill got the Lucky Dog.

Maggio reported handling issues with his truck, specifically in the front end, as he lost ground from the center-off, particularly in Turns 1 and 2. He came down pit road with the other lapped drivers, but overshot his stall and had to be pushed back. Due to a miscommunication between the crew chief and his crew, Maggio still incurred a penalty for pitting outside the box. During the exchange on Lap 42, Maggio finally climbed past Poole’s #46. The problems weren’t over for the driver of the returning Cole Trickle “throwback” scheme from Darlington. Poole was warned his truck might “roll over” more on the start since a spring rubber fell out after his stop. Poole himself reported a vibration that made him reconsider shifting. And the team’s spotter warned Poole to lag back in case a big wreck unfolded in Turn 1. The wreck didn’t happen – at least not right away.

On Lap 46, Taylor Gray was racing Ty Majeski in the #66 Road Ranger Toyota for the 8th spot through Turns 3 and 4 when the two made contact. Gray slid up the track and backed into the outside wall with the left-rear corner. Rajah Caruth, making his own Truck Series debut in the #7 Confluence Music Festival Chevrolet, was committed to the high lane and locked up the brakes, narrowly missing Gray as he spun to the inside of the track. While Caruth returned to the track, Gray’s truck wouldn’t refire. The driver reported he had 50 pounds of fuel pressure, but the #17 refused to cooperate. The truck had to be towed to the garage, ending their afternoon despite relatively minor damage.

Finishing 35th was John Hunter Nemechek, whose three-wide bid for position ended with his #4 Mobil 1 Toyota spinning off Turn 4, where he was collected by other trucks. Nemechek made it to pit road, but couldn’t clear the “Crash Clock,” ending his day. Brennan Poole finished 34th, ultimately out of the race with rear gear issues. Kris Wright was involved in multiple incidents before his #44 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet was eliminated in a wreck, leaving him 33rd. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Ty Majeski, whose #66 kept rolling after he backed into the wall, crossing the line under power.

Derek Kraus came close to climbing from 31st across the line to his first career victory, only to be caught by eventual runner-up Christian Eckes in the final laps. A caution forced an overtime restart, where Corey Heim took the victory over Eckes and Kraus slipped to 7th.

After his earlier spin, then a pit road speeding penalty and unscheduled stop for tires, Rajah Caruth very nearly finished 10th in his series debut, ultimately taking 11th behind Chase Purdy.

And Johnny Sauter, while scaled back to a part-time effort, maintained his near-perfect record at Gateway with a 5th-place showing in his #13 Toyota. Sauter’s last-place run in 2020 remains his only finish worse than 5th in ten career starts at the track.

*Gray is the fifth consecutive first-time last-place finisher of a Truck Series race.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #17 in a Truck Series race at Gateway.
*The 45 laps that Gray completed are the third-most of a Truck Series last-place finisher at Gateway. The current record is 49 laps held by Tony Raines, who lost an engine on his #19 Pennzoil Ford after 49 laps of the inaugural event on September 19, 1998. The second-most was 44 laps set by Rich Bickle with a blown engine on #08 Green Light Racing Chevrolet on April 30, 2005.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #17 in a Truck Series race since November 19, 2005, when polesitter David Reutimann’s #17 NTN Bearings Toyota lost the engine after 24 laps of the Ford 200 at Homestead.

36) #17-Taylor Gray / 45 laps / crash
35) #4-John Hunter Nemechek / 57 laps / dvp
34) #46-Brennan Poole / 77 laps / rear gear
33) #44-Kris Wright / 93 laps / crash
32) #66-Ty Majeski / 104 laps / running

1st) David Gilliland Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) AM Racing, Front Row Motorsports, G2G Racing, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (3)
3rd) Toyota (2)


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