It didn't take long for Adam Gray to cement himself as one of the elite drivers in the Late Model class at Stafford Motor Speedway, (CT). After just a few years of competition at the legendary Connecticut half-mile oval Gray scored his first championship in 2013. Fast forward a year and he's now just a few races away from winning a second straight title.
The 26-year-old from Granby, Mass. has been racing Late Models since 2006 and won his first championship at Monadnock Speedway (NH) just two years later.
A year removed from his first Stafford title, Gray has a 20 point lead over Jay Stuart with four races remaining.
"Obviously anything can happen with (four) races left," said Gray. "We are more or less trying to keep it in one piece and keep our finishes going."
Back-to-back Late Model championships would be an amazing feat for Gray, considering the depth in the division. There have been seven different winners in 13 races this season. Gray is tied with Stuart for the season high with three wins apiece.
"Stafford's got a good field and on any given night three-quarters of the field can win," he said. "We have fields where if 15 cars show up 13 of them have a good shot at winning."
That's part of what made Gray's championship from last year more gratifying than his title from the New Hampshire bullring.
"I had very good competition at Monadnock but the championship at Stafford to me was earned," said Gray. "The championship there was a lot harder and a lot more fought for."
In addition to the higher competition level, Stafford is just a hard race track. It's mostly a one groove race track; something that Gray is well aware of.
"If you get stuck starting on the outside you're gonna have a rough night," he said. "There's not really a good outside groove there. So it's one of those things where I'd rather be lucky than good and just strive to do our best."
Gray's been good and lucky, for the most part, the last two seasons. He only finished worse than third on two occasions last season. This season Gray has been just as fast, but he's struggled a bit in the luck department the last few races.
On multiple occasions Gray has made his way to the front of the field only to get caught up in an incident and have to come back through the field again. But even still, Gray has managed to score 12 top-10s and nine top-fives in 13 races this year.
"It gets stressful," said Gray. "Last week was the same deal. We get a late restart starting second. We had a few issues, fell back to 12th and made it back to seventh. You've gotta get yourself in that right position."
Gray doesn't know what he's going to do after this year. He said he'd love to race an open wheel car if the opportunity was available. But he's first trying to focus on the rest of this season and not get too caught up in the stress of another championship battle.
"There's a little bit of self doubt and nervousness," said Gray. "Obviously a second championship a second year in a row would be amazing."
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT, NJ) – Twitter: @RobBlount.
Photo Credit: Driscoll Motorsports Photography.