GRAY GAULDING, No. 23 sweetFrog Toyota Camry, BK Racing
What is it like looking forward to competing this weekend at your home track?
“Yeah, I felt like we’ve had a pretty solid season. We’ve struggled a couple races. It’s just all about learning, getting used to these cars and tracks that I haven’t been to. I feel like myself and my team, BK Racing, we’ve gelled well from the first race. Had to miss Daytona. I started at Atlanta. We felt like we had some good races there. Then now here in Richmond, I feel like we have a good car today thanks to sweetFrog, everybody at BK Racing for everything they do. If I had to look back on our season so far, I could point out a couple races that I felt like we didn’t really have the finish to show for it because of bad luck. Last week, we had a flat left front tire early in the race, things like that that haven’t really been on our side. Overall, I’m having fun. I’m loving it – loving these cars – racing with my heroes, guys I’ve looked up to my whole career, learning from them, talking to them week in, week out. Every week I’m trying to gain a little bit, trying to gain a spot here or there, learn more. I definitely learned on pit road. I’ve gotten four or five penalties, so I’m learning a lot there. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been good.”
What does it mean to be able to come back to Richmond competing in the Cup Series?
“Yeah, definitely, it’s a dream come true, man. I mean, I remember sitting in turn one as an eight‑year‑old kid with my grandfather and my dad, sitting in the grandstands just watching my heroes, watching those guys, just dreaming about the day I could come out here and race on Sunday, race here at my home track. I’m from Colonial Heights, Virginia not very far away. Grew up coming here as a kid. It’s just so cool to know I’m at this level at 19 years old. I definitely wouldn’t be here without my family, the sacrifices they made, moving from Colonial Heights to North Carolina when I was 10 years old for my racing career. I look back and, you know what, all the memories that I have at this track, not just driving on it, but as a kid, the memories I got to share with my dad and grandfather. To know the hard work and dedication we’ve been able to do to get me to this level so quickly in my career. That’s every driver’s dream is to be able to race on Sunday at their home track. I’m a very blessed guy to be able to be here. Sunday is going to be great because I’m going to have all my family, all my friends. Even the great fans here in the Richmond area that’s been watching me ever since I was a young kid, now to me growing into a young man. Learned a lot over the years. I’ve learned a lot here at Richmond. Been doing a lot of studying on YouTube, trying to talk to as many people as I can so I’m prepared enough for Sunday. It’s definitely a long race.”
What memories do you have here from watching in the stands?
“Yeah, definitely. I remember when Kyle Busch spun out Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. for the lead. I remember seeing the grandstands just go berserk. That was a good memory. There’s been a lot of good memories. I even remember coming here when I was probably seven or eight. I actually walked a Truck Series race here, pretty cool. Seeing Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick I think was in it. Pretty cool to see some trucks come around over here. Overall there’s been so many good races here. Richmond always puts on a good show. I was telling my manager Rusty and my crew chief in the hauler, I love watching racing here. When you come to Richmond it’s a good old short track. You got to have your car handling good on entry and on exit. Just an all‑around good track. Even as a driver, like tomorrow night, I’m going to be in the grandstands watching like a spectator the XFINITY race. I’m pretty excited about it. Overall Richmond has a lot of great races, a lot of great races over the year. I know Denny Hamlin, I’ve been watching here many years here in the grandstands wear these guys out. He really knows what’s good to have in your car for here. I’ve always kept an eye on him over the years.”
Did you have a dog in the fight for the Kyle and Junior famous race?
“I don’t know. I’ve always rooted for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie (Johnson). But, yeah, when I saw Kyle (Busch) spin Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. out, I knew he was probably going to have to have some security to get out of here because that place was pretty crazy.”
Do you ever have any star‑struck moments or is it too busy for you to notice as you work through your rookie year?
“Sometimes when I put the helmet on I’m kind of in my own zone. I try to focus. I’m a guy out there racing them as hard as I possibly can. But, yeah, sometimes I kind of pinch myself. Earlier today in practice, I drove for Kevin Harvick when I was 12 years old. He signed me to a developmental program to run super late models for him. I was driving my rear‑end off to stay in front of him in practice just to kind of prove a point. It’s pretty cool to race against my heroes, guys I looked up to, actually want to pattern my career like, guys like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, clearly Kevin Harvick. It’s just cool running side‑by‑side with them. They’re all smart racers. That’s one thing I’ve learned about the Cup Series, these guys are such clean drivers. Just the passes and maneuvers they make, it’s just really good for me to learn and watch. I really enjoy racing with these guys. It’s very cool to, like I said, race against guys like Kevin Harvick that I had a great relationship with when I was a young kid racing go‑karts at his house. Like you said, I’m 19 years old, still got a whole career ahead of me, still got a lot to learn. It’s just good to talk to these guys. That’s been the main thing, getting to know these guys, personally be able to say, ‘Hey, Kevin,’ ‘Hey, Denny (Hamlin), what do I need to expect after a hundred laps here at Richmond. That’s the main thing. It’s pretty cool knowing I’m racing side‑by‑side with guys I looked up to my whole life.”