Race 33 of 33: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Track Details: 1.5-mile paved oval / 200 laps
No. 08: Gray Gaulding Result: 17th
Team 08 Panini Chevrolet Camaro:
Gray Gaulding and his No. 08 Panini Chevrolet Camaro team scored a 17th place finish for SS Green Light Racing in his first ever Homestead-Miami Speedway appearance Saturday in the Ford EcoBoost 300.
Gaulding’s first laps on the 1.5-mile paved oval came early Saturday afternoon during qualifying after practice was rained out on Friday afternoon. The 21 year-old driver from Colonial Heights, VA. posted a lap of 33.597 seconds, which earned him a 26th place starting position for Saturday’s 200 lap race.
The first caution of the day came early after Gaulding’s teammate (Ray Black Jr) went up in a cloud of smoke, which ended his day prematurely. Gaulding was able to drive from 26th to 18th in the opening five laps of the race. On lap 14 the caution waved again after the 15 car made contact with the outside wall. Gaulding radioed to crew chief Patrick Donahue that he was fighting a tight handling condition on free roll in the center of the corner. Donahue elected to bring his driver to the pits for a quick wedge adjustment during the caution. Gaulding restarted in the 26th position and was able to drive back up to the 23rd position before the third caution of the day on lap 32. Donahue decided to leave Gaulding on track for the final laps of the first stage. Gaulding restarted in the 12th position on old tires and managed to finish the first stage in the 18th position.
Donahue called Gaulding to the pits under the stage ending caution and serviced the No. 08 Panini Chevy by adding left front packer, four fresh tires, fuel, a wedge adjustment, and an air pressure adjustment. Gaulding would roll off from the 22nd position for the beginning of the second stage. Gaulding was able to work his way up to the 17th position during a 40 lap green flag run in the stage. On lap 89 caution waved after two cars made contact just before the conclusion of the second stage. The caution would serve as the stage ending break with Gaulding in the 17th position.
Despite having a few radio issues, Gaulding was able to communicate to his team that the car was pretty good, he just needed to be freed up a bit more. The 08 crew serviced Gaulding with four tires, fuel, and another slight adjustment. Gaulding restarted in the 13th position before another quick caution waved after debris was spotted on the race track. The race resumed on lap 100 with Gaulding in the 14th position, but after a wild restart the 08 dropped back to the 20th position. On lap 123 the seventh and final caution of the day waved after the 98 of Chase Briscoe blew a tire. Gaulding communicated the car wasn’t bad, but he needed to fire off better. After a blazing fast pit stop, Gaulding would restart in the 16th position with 73 laps remaining. Gaulding made his final stop of the day under the green flag on lap 160. After a 73 lap run to the finish, Gaulding came across the line in the 17th position. The finish put an exclamation mark on a career year for Gaulding.
In 33 races Gaulding was able to achieve: 13th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings (best non-playoff driver), 0 DNFs, second in most laps completed (99.1%), 28 top-20 finishes, 17 top-15 finishes, four top-10 finishes, and one top five finish (2nd at Talladega).
“I just want to start off by saying how thankful I am to my race team and my team owner Bobby Dotter for believing in this small group to go out and have this awesome season together. This season was a big year for me to go out and prove to myself that I do belong here and I felt that we as a race team turned a lot of heads this year. For me, that was the goal from day one. I had a blast this year and it’s bitter sweet that the season is over; however, I can’t wait for the 2020 season to get started in Daytona. Thank you to all of our partners and fans for their support. It means a lot and we definitely couldn’t make this season happen without them.”
Bobby Dotter Thoughts on the 08 Team:
“Gray and the 08 guys fought hard all day. This track is already challenging and when you mix in no practice time with no previous experience at this track, it makes for a difficult task. I thought Gray handled himself well and was able to deliver a respectable finish. 2019 has been the best year in our team’s history and I’m really thankful for everyone’s hard work. To finish 13th in points and be the best non playoff team says a lot about our program.”