What do Gray Gaulding and NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes have in common?

Photo: Panini America

In addition to his racing career, Xfinity Series driver Gray Gaulding is a big NFL fan and fantasy football player.

He knows he needs help to make the Xfinity playoffs, so for Friday’s Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. on NBCSN), Gaulding is going to his bench so to speak and has joined forces with 2018 NFL MVP QB Patrick Mahomes.

Several images of Mahomes will grace Gaulding’s No. 08 Chevrolet as part of a promotion with Panini America’s release of the new 2019 Donruss Football trading card set. After the race, Panini will auction off the hood on Gaulding’s car to raise money for Mahomes’ “15 and the Mahomies Foundation.”

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“To be associated with such a high-profile player, obviously the NFL’s MVP and just the person Patrick Mahomes is, what I love about him is obviously his game and what he’s like off the field,” Gaulding told NBC Sports. “I feel that’s where I see a lot of similarities between the two of us, where we’re just ourselves, do our jobs and try to do it at the highest level possible.”

Not surprisingly, Mahomes – who threw for 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards in his MVP year for the Kansas City Chiefs last season – is on Gaulding’s fantasy football team this season. Gaulding has also invited Mahomes to race go-karts at the track behind his house in the near future and is waiting to firm up a date.

“You look at a guy like Patrick Mahomes, a lot of people overlooked him, he rode the bench the first part of his career and waited to get his shot,” Gaulding said. “When he got it, he went from being a bench player to MVP and one of the highest-profile players in the league in the last 20 years.

“I feel like I relate to him just because that’s kind of how my career started, people looked over me and I had to prove myself to keep my rides and make it to the Cup Series. Yeah, I’m a big fan. He’s incredible.”

Mahomes, who tweeted a shoutout to Gaulding on Twitter Tuesday night, won’t be at Friday’s race as he’ll be preparing for the following night’s preseason game vs. the Steelers in Pittsburgh. But Gaulding hopes to draw inspiration from Mahomes’ presence on his race car, especially since Gaulding – 13th in the Xfinity Series standings – still holds hope he’ll make the playoffs.

“Bristol is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, I’ve loved it ever since I first showed up there in the K&N Series in 2013,” Gaulding said. “What better place to go to. We’ve had road courses and now we have Bristol. Those are the best wildcard races you can have other than Daytona and Talladega because things can happen. By having the MVP on the car, we’re looking to have an MVP night.

“If you’re going forward in the season, this is one of my best shots to possibly maybe steal a win or gain a lot of playoff points going into the playoffs. Our goal is top 10, but if we can work some strategy and get up front late in the race and steal a victory, that’s what we’re going to do.

“We’re definitely in Hail Mary mode. I don’t think we can point our way in right now, but we’ve gained a lot of points in the last few weeks. We’re just going to take every week one at a time, and if it gets us in great. But if not, we can’t say we didn’t put it all out there to try and get it done.”

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