After 150-laps around the historic Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) Saturday night, a 14-year-old Late Model rookie out-dueled several CARS Tour veterans to score his first victory in just his second start with the series.
Taylor Gray – the younger brother of 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champion Tanner Gray – took the lead from Late Model Stock ace Tommy Lemons Jr. with 15 laps to go and never looked back on his way to victory lane.
“It feels great to finally get that win,” Gray said. “I definitely didn’t expect to win my second CARS Tour race, but we just had a good car all weekend long. We were at the top of the charts all day in practice on Friday and were pretty fast in Saturday’s practice.”
Gray began his asphalt career and found success racing weekly at the 3/8-mile track in a Limited Late Model under the Lee Faulk Racing banner in 2018. After making the jump to racing a Late Model Stock for DGR-Crosley in 2019, Gray had the CARS Tour race at Hickory circled with the hopes that his previous knowledge of the track would help him contend for a win. That it did.
“We qualified fourth and had good track position and just had to save tires,” Gray said “My guys gave me a great car and did a great job telling me to save tires every lap. We just got it done.”
Seasoned veterans like Lemons and Hickory dominator Josh Berry challenged Gray throughout the race, but they were no match for the 14-year old racer.
“Josh Berry and I had a pretty good battle and raced clean,” Gray said. “He’s a great guy to race with and probably one of the best late model drivers out here. So, it feels good to be able to beat him.
“Tommy Lemons and I duked it out for several laps,” Gray continued. “I honestly don’t know how I passed Lemons on the top, but we did. I guess things happen for a reason.”
Lemons ultimately crossed under the checkered flag in the runner-up position, while rising star Brody Pope completed the podium. 2017 CARS Tour champion Josh Berry and 2018 CARS Tour champion Bobby McCarty rounded out the top five.
Race fans can find on-demand updates and photos from Saturday’s race by visiting Speed51’s Race Day Now coverage.
The CARS Tour Late Model Stocks will be back in action April 6-7 for the $30,000 Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC.
-Story by: Madison Mabry, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com