By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Late-race pit strategy helped Tanner Gray earn his career best NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series finish in the E.P.T. 200.
After a series of back-to-back cautions, Gray’s crew chief called for four fresh tires on the No. 15 Ford / Ford Performance F-150. The rookie-of-the-year contender was one of few trucks with fresh tires in the pit box on lap 109.
Gray restarted deep in the field. The fresh tires helped former NHRA Champion work his way through the traffic. With 10 laps to go, Gray had a spirited battle with fellow rookie Derek Kraus. The duo traded positions and after several laps the DGR-Crosley driver prevailed.
The 21-year-old picked up another position when Austin Hill got loose in the closing laps. Despite having one of the fastest trucks on track, there was not enough time for Gray to run down the leaders. He took the checkered flag in fourth.
“Really proud of everyone at DGR-Crosley,” reflected Gray. “They’ve been working their butts off so it’s nice to see their hard work pay off. They did a really good job overnight, making the right adjustments, and bringing back another truck for today.”
Gray also explained he still has a lot to learn in a post-race video that DGR-Crosley Tweeted:
— DGR-Crosley (@DGR_Crosley) July 25, 2020
The second race in the Kansas Speedway doubleheader was not smooth sailing for Gray. A mistake he made on a restart on lap 83 continued a rash of cautions and ended the day for several. Gray attempted to bump-draft Clay Greenfield as the duo ran inside the top-10.
However, the shot Gray gave to Greenfield’s truck sent the No. 68 spinning in the middle of the pack. In the end, 12 trucks were swept up in the incident ending the race for Natalie Decker, Stewart Friesen, Johnny Sauter and four others.
Gray did not break into the top-10 until the final stage of the 200-mile race. He started 18th after finishing mid-pack in Friday night’s Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200.
The fourth-place finish is the first career top-five for Gray and comes in his 12th career start. It is also his third career top-10 finish in the Truck Series.
The top-five moved Gray from 14th to 13th in the points standings, 58 behind the playoff cutline held by his Ford teammate Todd Gilliland. He is 163-points behind leader Hill.
Next for Gray and the Truck Series is a 200-mile race at the 2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway on August 7.