By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
An opportune caution allowed Gray Gaulding to gamble on fuel mileage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series driver was running quietly inside the top-15, one lap behind the leaders when the caution waved on lap 128. Gaulding’s No. 08 JT Marine Chevrolet Camaro SS received the free pass for being the first car one lap down. The Patrick Donahue-led crew packed the car with fuel.
With the full tank, Gaulding was on the same strategy as eventual Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 winner Tyler Reddick. As his competitors ducked onto pit road, the Bobby Dotter-owned car climbed up to second on the running order.
However, Gaulding fell back as he saved fuel. With three laps to go, he fell out of the top-five. On the final lap, Gaulding fell off the lead lap. His closest competition, John Hunter Nemechek, wasn’t close enough to take sixth from the 21-year-old. Gaulding ran out of fuel as he took the checkered flag.
“It’s awesome. We knew we wanted to roll the dice. Hats off to all of my guys at SS-Greenlight Racing, Bobby Dotter. Pretty cool to have JT Marine on the car this weekend. Going into the weekend, we knew we had to do whatever we could, stretch out on fuel, whatever we had to do, and my car was pretty fast.
“It’s been a fun season, I didn’t know what path my career would take a year and a half ago, but to say that I’m here, racing for a playoff spot, it’s not for a lack of effort. It’s hard to do this, race in the top-10, even when you have a good group around you. I’m having fun, living my dream.”
The sixth-place finish is the fourth top-10 for Gaulding this season. It is also the 11th for Dotter’s SS-Greenlight Racing. The mark puts Gaulding one top-10 finish shy of the organization’s single season high mark, set by Dotter himself in 1995.
The top-10 finish was not enough to propel Gaulding to a playoff berth. He ends the regular season as the first driver on the outside looking in.