Preparations for the 2019 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com are underway. The ballot was recently revealed and sent out to a panel of industry experts to determine the top short track racing prospects in North America.
As we prepare for the draft, we’ll be taking a look at a handful of drivers and providing scouting reports just like you would see ahead of the NFL Draft. These scouting reports will take a look at a driver’s on-track performance, as well as other qualities that may make or break their chances of making it to the top levels of NASCAR.
We continue our round of scouting reports today with a look at Taylor Gray, who will be looking to make the list of top 51 prospects for the first time.
Current Level: Late Model Stock Cars
Hometown: Denver, NC
Highest Pick: N/A
Anticipated Pick: 40th– 51st
Taylor Gray comes from a strong racing lineage, as the son of famed NHRA racer Shane Gray and younger brother to NHRA Pro Stock Champion Tanner Gray. While Taylor is a relative newcomer to the Late Model Stock ranks, he is already making waves. Gray scored a pivotal win this year on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour at Hickory Motor Speedway in just his second start with the series, beating out veterans such as Josh Berry and Tommy Lemons for the triumph.
Rising, Falling or Holding Steady: Rising
Last year, Gray was just getting his feet wet with Late Model Stock Cars. Since then, he has added wins in both a Limited Late Model and a Late Model Stock Car at “The Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars.” Gray currently sits second in CARS Late Model Stock Tour points, just four markers behind Josh Berry.
On-Track Accomplishments: B
It’s not a huge sample size to date for Gray, as he is still early in his development as a racing driver. However, the data within that sample shows plenty of promise.
Last season, Gray scored his first Late Model win, taking the checkered flag in a Limited Late Model feature at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) at just 13 years old. In his second CARS Tour event, Gray again visited victory lane at Hickory, fending off Late Model Stock veterans such as 2017 series champion Josh Berry and two-time ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Tommy Lemons, Jr. for the win. Gray also finished second in the $30,000-to-win Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway (NC).
Especially for such a young driver, Gray is very well-spoken and a great interview. He has a positive attitude as well as a quiet but humble confidence that he can compete with the best in racing without being boastful.
With time, his interviews and public persona will only improve, but in comparison to many racers of his age he is ahead of the curve.
Sponsor Appeal: A
Between his strong family lineage and currently racing for DGR Crosley’s Late Model Stock program, Gray is already aligned with some top-notch sponsors such as Valvoline. He also has the right personality to one day be a very marketable presence for a potential sponsor, although he could do more to sell himself.
Social Media: C-
The biggest mark against Taylor Gray is his social media presence – or lack thereof. He has a Twitter account, but the vast majority of his timeline is simply retweets of media, photographers, team members or friends discussing his on-track exploits. The family “Gray Motorsports” Facebook account keeps fans abreast with updates as well.
Occasionally you get a rare glimpse at Gray’s personality, such as this tweet ribbing Short Track Draft prospect Ty Gibbs or this video shared by Anthony Alfredo. Even as a young driver, you can see he has the sense of humor fans would love to see more on social media.
For the remainder of 2019, Gray will continue to compete on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and pursue that championship. He will also enter some of the marquee events in the discipline such as the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA) and the Myrtle Beach 400. Strong runs in those events could improve his draft stock even more for 2020.
-By: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor