NASCAR Cup rookie Gray Gaulding earns career-best finish at Talladega

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There’s something about Talladega Superspeedway that seems to bring out the best in NASCAR Cup rookie Gray Gaulding.

The 19-year-old Virginia native earned his best Cup career finish in May at the 2.66-mile tri-oval track, when he completed all 191 laps and took home a 20th-place showing.

That all changed in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega, as Gaulding bettered his career best with a ninth-place finish. In addition, it was only the second time in 24 starts this season that Gaulding has gone the entire distance, completing all 188 laps in Sunday’s race.

Driving the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota and starting from the 39th position, Gaulding earned Sunoco Rookie of the Race and the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award for his ‘Dega showing.

“This is Talladega and this is why the stands are still packed,” Gaulding said in his post-race media release. “It got wild and I was on my toes but I never went into defense, I was pushing forward from the green flag.

“I cannot believe it, we’re leaving here with a top-10 in the Cup Series.”

Gaulding has long been a fan of Talladega, and having his father and grandfather in attendance Sunday made it all the more special, he said.

“I grew up watching these races, dreaming of these races, and our team was able to race with the best and bring home an awesome finish for our partners, team and fans.

“It was awesome to have my dad and my grandfather there this weekend. They’ve been my No. 1 supporters since the first time I strapped into a race car.”