The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 always seems to produce the novel, uncanny and unexpected.
In 2019, that moment starred DGR-Crosley Racing youngster Taylor Gray.
The annual Late Model Stock Car race at the Martinsville Speedway has seen Michael McGuire flip on top of Anderson Bowen in 2013. That same witnessed both Tommy Lemons and Dillon Bassett celebrating on the frontstretch in a controversial finish. The 2016 race feature Lee Pulliam climbing Mike Looney’s door in the closing laps for the lead.
Etc. et al.
The 2019 race will be remembered for, amongst other things, Gray flipping into a barrel roll on the backstretch.
Gray was running 16th in his debut ValleyStar 300 when Sammy Smith punctured a tire and spun in front of his DGR No. 17. Gray clipped Smith’s left front and the resulting contact sent the No. 17 rolling down the historic backstretch at Martinsville.
The car skidded parallel to the garage area with the 14-year-old driver stuck upside down for several minutes until he could be cut out from the roof, and only after the car was lifted on its side.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) October 6, 2019
As for the crash itself, Gray said he “saw it coming” once he realize Smith had cut a tire and estimated how they were going to come together.
“I had a feeling for sure,” Gray said. “We just clipped the 12 car’s left front and then momentum just took me and I started rolling. Luckily, we finally stoped, but for a second I was like, ‘man, when is this thing going to stop rolling over?’ But it finally stopped; unfortunately, I just stopped on my roof.”
All things considered, Gray just felt fortunate that the safety crew quickly and safely extracted him.
“The safety guys did a really good job rolling me back over,” Gray added. “It’s their job to take it serious, but I think they thought it was more serious than it actually was. I was perfectly fine. So that’s what’s all matters. I’m okat. My DGR Crosley guys, I feel really bad for them because they prepared a really good race car for Martinsville this weekend, and I guess we’ll have to wait till next year to get our clock.”
It was a sensation that Gray, whom has also raced dirt in a mini sprint at Millbridge Speedway in North Carolina, had never experienced.
“It’s a hopeless feeling,” he said. “You’re kind of just bracing for dear life. You can’t really do anything. I’ve always been taught to cross your hands and feet whenever something like that happens. So it’s kind of just a hopeless feeling. You don’t really, I don’t know. You can’t really do anything about it.”
Gray is the brother of reigning Pro Stock champion and current NASCAR prospect Tanner Gray and grandson of NHRA Funny Car race winner Johnny Gray. He won the spring CARS Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway and is a multi-time Limited Late Model winner at the Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars.
OMG! Taylor Gray just flipped end over end here at @MartinsvilleSwy.
— Hunter Thomas (@HunterThomas08) October 6, 2019