If you believe that a racer is only as good as his last race – and I believe that’s a wrong way of thinking – then at least one driver improved by leaps and bounds in mid-October. This photo (thanks, Hunter Thomas/ The Fourth Turn) is how Taylor Gray’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway ended. Two weeks later at Hickory Motor Speedway, the younger brother of 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champion and 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro East Series race winner Tanner Gray found his way back to victory lane, at the Fall Brawl at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Now Taylor won’t have the stigma of just being the guy who rolled his car at Martinsville. That’s unfair anyway, because more than six months before Martinsville, he won in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour, also at Hickory. But it took young Gray only two weeks to shake off the bad label, for an incident that wasn’t really his fault in the first place.
Winning seems to cure almost everything in racing, and not winning leaves situations open for the wrong memories and images. Michael Simko and Don St. Denis are still known for the Glass City 200 windshield-dropkick incident from 2006, and not surprisingly neither have won features since that time (St. Denis races very rarely now and Simko now targets bigger races which are naturally harder to win). Georgia-based Late Model driver Gary Jones’ racing program and reputation never recovered from the event in which he went out of the ballpark over the turn-two wall at the track then called Peach State Speedway in the late 1990s. And it’s going to take something really good to happen for Garrett Smithley in NASCAR’s national series, because he has two incidents of wrecking frontrunners while laps down in 2019 and now he’s known as a backmarker weapon.
So anyone who was at Martinsville or keeping track of that early-October race can feel better for Taylor Gray. Here’s hoping all of you can recover from any rough moments, whether they’re in the distant past or recent weeks.