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Gray Gaulding details his health scare that forced a plane’s emergency landing

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Gray Gaulding’s throat started to swell. Then came the chest pains. And his body began to go numb.

The Xfinity Series driver for SS Green Light Racing was on a Stewart-Haas Racing plane Friday morning to Kansas City when he began to have health issues, leading to the plane making an emergency landing in St. Louis and medics rushing on the plane to help Gaulding.

He said everything was fine when he boarded the flight Friday morning. It left Concord-Padgett Regional Airport in North Carolina at 7:45 a.m. ET.

All was fine for the first 45 minutes of the flight. About 10 minutes after he had eaten a piece of homemade beef jerky, Gaulding said “I could feel my throat slowly start to swell up.”

Chest pains followed. His throat continued to swell. His body then began to go numb.

“I thought I was having a mild heart attack or something,” Gaulding told NBC Sports shortly after being cleared to drive in today’s Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“I went to the flight attendant and I said, ‘Hey, I need oxygen right now. She comes back and gives me oxygen and puts the mask on me and I feel like I’m going to pass out, the eyes are starting to roll back in my head. My arms, all my limbs were shaking so bad that I couldn’t control them.”

As Gaulding took oxygen, “a lot of the Stewart-Haas guys and the flight attendant were so amazing. It felt like they almost saved my life just by talking to me and keeping me awake. They’re like ‘Please stare me in the eye. Look me in the eye.’ ‘’

Gaulding’s condition worsened.

“I told the (flight attendant), you need to tell the pilots they need to land the plane now,” he said. “I can’t make it. I can’t make it. Literally, in two minutes I can feel the plane start to go down.”

The plane made an emergency landing at St. Louis Lambert International Airport at 9:19 a.m. ET. Emergency crews rushed on the plane.

“As soon as the plane landed, they opened the door, the firefighters came in and helped me get off the plane,” Gaulding told NBC Sports. “My limbs were shaking so bad I couldn’t even walk under my own power. They got me off and the medics just started going to work on me.”

He was treated in an ambulance and soon began to feel better and the swelling in his throat went away. He had told the plane not to wait for him and it left an hour later.

Gaulding remained with Jake Vrabel, a member of SS Green Light Racing who was also on the plane. Vrabel drove Gaulding across the state to Kansas Speedway. They arrived during the first Xfinity Series practice.

“He stayed with me the whole time,” Gaulding said of Vrabel. “I had no family, no parents (with me). He drove me while I slept the whole time, helped me eat and everything. He was my saving grace all day (Friday).”

Gaulding went to the infield care center and was further treated and given medicine. He was not cleared to drive the car Friday. His first lap in the car was in Saturday’s qualifying after he was cleared. 

That beef jerky could have caused his health issues stunned Gaulding.

“I asked the doctor about it, I’ve eaten beef jerky my whole life, I love beef jerky, I’m not blaming everything on the beef jerky … but the thing is, the doc looked at me and said you could get stung by a bee 40 times and the 41st time your body changes all the time and you could be allergic (to a bee sting) and you could almost die,” Gaulding said. “That could almost be my case. I’ll never pick up beef jerky (again). I’m done with beef jerky.”

Gray Gaulding out Friday after suspected allergic reaction

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Stewart-Haas Racing plane made an unscheduled stop in St. Louis on Friday after Gray Gaulding had a suspected allergic reaction.

SS Green Light Racing confirmed Gaulding had an issue en route to Kansas City. A Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson confirmed that its plane made the unscheduled stop, and that emergency personnel came on board after the plane landed. Gaulding remained in St. Louis while the plane continued to Kansas City.

SS Green Light Racing stated that after arriving at the track, Gaulding went to the infield care center and was not cleared to drive Friday. Gaulding will be re-evaluated Saturday. J.J. Yeley drove the car for Gaulding in practice Friday.

Gray Gaulding ready to gamble for $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus at Dover

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Gray Gaulding is clear what Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway represents to him.

Of the four drivers who will compete for the last of four $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prizes, Gaulding has more to win and lose.

“We’ve got a 1-in-4 chance to win $100,000,” Gaulding told NBC Sports. “For the Tyler Reddicks and the Chris Bells and Chase Briscoes, yeah, I’m not throwing any shade at them. If they win it, that’s great.

“But realistically, if they don’t win it, it’s not going to hurt the performance of their car. With us, if we win it, we’re putting that right back into our race team.”

Gaulding, who drives SS Green Light Racing’s No. 08 Chevrolet, is one of the unlikeliest drivers to get the chance to compete for the $100,00 prize.

Among the drivers to take part in the four Dash 4 Cash races this year, he’s the only one who doesn’t compete for Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing or JR Motorsports.

The underdog shot at the prize is a result of Gaulding’s second-place finish last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was Gaulding’s first top five in 84 starts across NASCAR’s three national series. It was also the best finish for team owner Bobby Dotter in 172 Xfinity starts since 1995.

“We need that money to keep running the way we’ve been running to make it all work,” Gaulding said. “I feel like for us it’s more of a ‘must go win it’ than the other three guys.

“I think I kind of have an edge on them as far as doing whatever it takes to win the hundred grand. If I have to bump somebody out of the way to win the hundred grand for 20th place, I’m going to bump them out of the way. That’s just how hungry we are to make this happen. We have a lot on the line this weekend.”

While Gaulding’s late-race surge at Talladega to finish behind Reddick may have been surprising, Gaulding’s team has been consistent through 10 races. After a 34th-place finish at Daytona, Gaulding hasn’t finished worse than 21st and has three top 15s.

Before the season began, Gaulding made a promise to Dotter, who he has known since he first moved to North Carolina as a kid.

“I’m going to be your best salesman this year,” Gaulding said. “I’m going to show people with me driving and the crew members we have and how you own this race team, we can go out and not be a 25th-place team or a 30th-place team. We’re going do things with very little.

“Sure enough, that’s what we’ve done.”

They’ve done so with help from sponsors like Panini, a sports card collecting company. They sponsored Gaulding at Bristol after his father, Dwayne, made a cold call. After Gaulding finished 15th, he talked with Panini VP of Marketing Jason Howarth about keeping the party going.

“We said, ‘Hey, here’s the deal. If you can find a way to pull off a way to get me an engine for Talladega, we will go there and have a chance to win,'” Gaulding said. “If they didn’t do what they did for Talladega, we definitely wouldn’t have had the chance to win.”

Panini came to the 21-year-old’s rescue this week. When Gaulding’s original sponsor for Dover fell through, Panini returned as an associate sponsor. Gaulding’s primary sponsor will be World Wide Safety Consulting.

While Gaulding’s team will be able to afford a full set of tires, they won’t be able to lease an engine from ECR as it did for Talladega.

But Gaulding thinks the nature of Dover could be forgiving to the team despite its lack of a top-tier engine.

He also is hoping for an assist from Mother Nature.

“I feel Dover’s one of those tracks that if your car is handling well and your car is driving good on older tires you can make up for a little bit of a difference,” Gaulding said.

“If we were able to work some pit strategy and stay out and gamble on winning the race or just finishing in front of those other three guys to win the $100,000, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re gambling as much as we can on this race in trying to win that Dash 4 Cash.”

Gray Gaulding secures sponsorship for Dover Xfinity race

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It’s a “different ballgame now” for Gray Gaulding, who confirmed to NBC Sports on Wednesday that he has secured primary sponsorship for this weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway, where he will compete for the final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

The SS Green Light Racing driver will have World Wide Safety Consulting as the primary sponsor on his No. 08 Chevrolet. He will also have support from Mane ‘n Tail and Panini.

Panini, a sports card collecting company, was his primary sponsor at Talladega where he finished second to earn a spot among the four Dash 4 Cash drivers, which includes Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe.

Gaulding announced on Monday that his original sponsor for Dover had fallen through. He then created a website in an effort to land sponsorship for the Dover race and beyond. World Wide Safety Consulting had been an associate sponsor of Gaulding before making the decision to step up to a primary role.

Through the team’s winnings from Talladega and the primary sponsorship, the team will be able to purchase a full set of tires for the race weekend. But due to the late development of the sponsorship, it will not be able to lease an engine from ECR, like it did at Talladega.

Dash 4 Cash driver Gray Gaulding seeks Dover sponsorship

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While Talladega Superspeedway didn’t provide an upset winner over the weekend, it teased one with Gray Gaulding‘s surprising late-race charge to a second-place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

The SS Green Light Racing driver earned his best finish in 84 starts across NASCAR’s national three series. He also qualified for the final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Gaulding will compete for the money against Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell.

But the good feelings took a hit Monday. Gaulding posted a video on Twitter revealing that the sponsorship planned for the Dover race had fallen through.

Gaulding has created a website, sponsorgray.com, in an effort to secure sponsorship for Saturday’s race and beyond.

“We have the entire season open,” Gaulding said in the video. “So if you guys know of anybody that not only wants to do one race, but maybe more races, we’d love to have you.”

In the eight races since the season-opener at Daytona, Gaulding and the No. 08 Chevrolet have not finished worse than 21st and have three top 15s, including the Talladega finish.