By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – When it comes to Talladega, the underdog teams circle this race as one of the events they have a legitimate shot at going toe to toe with the larger teams in the sport due to the level playing field restrictor plate racing presents.
In Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series MoneyLion 300, four underdog teams found their way into the top-10 by the time the checkered flag flew, with Gray Gaulding, driver of the No. 08 Chevrolet for SS Green Light Racing leading the charge and snagging a runner-up finish on the day.
Avoiding the carnage that befell some of the other contenders, Gaulding held steady in the top-10 as the laps wound down and when the race restarted with two laps to go following a 14 minute, eight second red flag, the Colonial Heights, VA native made his move.
Gaulding found himself behind race leader Tyler Reddick on the final lap, ducking high and low trying to find a way around him to take over the lead and score his first career win. Ultimately, Gaulding ran out of time and real estate to make it happen, but happily settled for the best finish of his career.
“That was awesome. I tried every trick in the handbook to get it done,” Gaulding said. “I was at least trying to get to his bumper and try to move him out of the way or do something. Can’t say enough about my team. My team gave me a great car. ECR Engines, this is the second time we’ve had them and to show out like we did with Panini on the car.
“This is Talladega, man. This is freaking awesome. This is what every driver wants to have is that last lap chance to win a race and we did. Just came up a little short.”
Saturday’s finish was not only the best finish of Gaulding’s career, but also the best Xfinity Series finish for the Bobby Dotter owned team, eclipsing a fifth-place finish by Andy Lally at Mid-Ohio two years ago.
“We’re the underdogs everywhere we go and I like it like that. At the beginning of the year, people didn’t really pay attention to us, but now it seems like every week, with the cars we’re building, the way I’m driving, and the way my crew chief Patrick and my guys are setting my cars up, we’re going to have a shot at it one of these days.
“Can’t say enough about Bobby Dotter and his guys. That was a great car. I drove the heck out of it. I gave it all I had.”
Another tidbit coming out of Gaulding’s second-place run at Talladega was the fact that both of the 21-year old’s career best finishes in both the Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have come at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Gaulding finished ninth with BK Racing at the track in October 2017.
“It’s crazy. I never though of myself as a plate racer and every trip I come here, it’s just like I’m either up front or I have a chance at the end. I just love it. It’s just an awesome feeling to get out there three and four wide and feel the air, feel the moves.
“Earlier today, I don’t think I had many friends, but by the end of the race, everybody wanted to give me a hand because they knew we had a fast car.”