By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
He may have only two starts to name in the 2020 Xfinity Series season, but Gray Gaulding has made his name heard.
Following an eighth-place finish on his season debut at Talladega Superspeedway in June, the 22-year-old returned Friday night at Daytona International Speedway to finish second after a last-lap wreck took out multiple leaders.
Gaulding avoided the crash which saw race leader AJ Allmendinger spin in front of the nine-car pack in the final corner.
“I came here to win, and we just came up one spot short,” Gaulding said. “What an ending. I hope all the fans back at home [enjoyed it] — I really miss the fans in the grandstands.
“To have a shot to win at Daytona and finish second, I’m a kid from a small town who dreamed about being here and sat in the grandstands as a kid watching these races. I’m just so so appreciative.”
Taking the white flag in eighth place, Gaulding still knew he had a chance at the win if things got crazy.
“I definitely had a wild seat tonight,” he said. “I played offense all night. This is a one-off deal, Walk Ons said they want to put me in and Bobby [Dotter] said, ‘Let’s do it.’
“I’m super pumped for everyone who believed in me. I actually wasn’t in this race one week ago so to show up here and finish second, I showed everybody that I can do it. Hopefully, I get back in this series full time.”
Two-for-two with top 10s in 2020 for team owner Bobby Dotter, Gaulding tied his career-best result Friday, finishing second previously at Talladega in 2019 with the same team.
Gaulding’s love for Daytona made Friday’s result an emotional one. And one worth a party.
“We fight every day to stay here,” he said. “I’m just thankful for my family. This is the World Center of Racing.
“I want to say hello to my family back home and all my friends. Wish they could be here to celebrate but I can promise when I get home, we’ll celebrate.”