Racing’s No Longer A Drag For Tanner Gray

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 18 2019
Tanner Gray, the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champion, will drive cars and trucks that make turns in 2020.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Tanner Gray moves into NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series next year after only one full season in K&N Pro Series East and he readily admits that he faces a “steep learning curve.”

Gray, who finished third in the standings for the series renamed ARCA Menards Series East for 2020, will pilot a Ford for DGR-Crosley, a move he believes will be a positive one for his career.

“From talking with everyone at Ford, they are really hands on,” Gray said Tuesday at the Ford Performance Technical Center. “They definitely have a really good understanding of what they need and what they have going on. Obviously, it will provide me with more resources and more opportunities to better myself here with the simulator, getting to talk with all of the Xfinity drivers and the truck guys.

“By no means is it going to be easy. I feel like I will have a pretty steep learning curve, but I have a lot of great people around me so that will definitely smooth that out and, hopefully, help the transition.”  

The 20-year-old Gray said he was “really excited” to go to Daytona because “it looks fun and it looks wild.” Three of the eight ARCA races in which he competed this year gave him a taste of the 1.5-mile tracks. 

“I like mile-and-a-half racing a lot,” Gray said. “I feel like it’s a lot of good racing and I like the concept of moving around with the air. Just different stuff you don’t get to experience on a short track. I feel like I do a little better job on the mile-and-a-half stuff.”

Toward the end of the 2019 season, Gray competed in three truck races and noted he wasn’t happy with the results. His best finish was 16th at Homestead in the season finale.

“Obviously, at Martinsville we got wrecked coming to the checkers and we should have run in the top 10 there,” Gray said about the 20th-place finish. “Homestead we got a pit road penalty and Phoenix we were just off (and finished 17th).  The competition, moving from K&N and ARCA to truck is day-and-night difference. It’s more intense and aggressive, up-on-the-wheel the entire race. That’s what I like about it.”   

Gray moved to NASCAR after winning the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock championship. However, long before he earned that title he dabbled in other motorsports. At age 8, Gray stepped into a Junior Dragster. Two years later he climbed aboard a dirt bike. By the time he was 13 years old he was racing a mini sprint. He also raced Outlaw Karts and tested 360 Sprint Cars and Midgets. Next on Gray’s agenda was super late models, but things didn’t go according to plan and he gravitated back to the NHRA for two years. 

The third generation driver doesn’t have a timetable for moving up the NASCAR ladder. 

 “I feel like you need to be able to win in what you’re doing before you move up,” Gray said. “I didn’t feel like I won enough in the K&N and ARCA stuff, but it’s one of those deals where the timing just fell into place for me to move up in the truck series.”

In addition to the truck series, Gray plans to compete in next year’s ARCA races at Daytona and Talladega. The Mooresville, N.C., resident also would like to race in the Charlotte ARCA event. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 18 2019
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