Gray Gaulding will run his first NASCAR race of 2020 shortly after the Cup Series season restarts at Darlington Raceway. He will drive the #27 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing in Wednesday night’s race at the South Carolina track, and is also scheduled to run the next two races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Gaulding lost his ride with SS-Green Light Racing after the 2019 Xfinity Series season. In his lone full year in a national series to date, he finished thirteenth in points with four top-ten finishes, including a runner-up at Talladega Superspeedway. Said run was sponsored by sports trading card manufacturer Panini America.
“Panini proved in so many ways last year that they’re much more than a sponsor,” Gaulding stated. “They were a true partner, like a member of the family, that helped me and our team realize so many accomplishments and I’m beyond ecstatic to be with them again this year. It would be enough if I just appeared on their NASCAR trading cards. But this relationship is so much deeper than that. I’m proud to have Panini riding shotgun with me.”
“Gray and his team were instrumental last season in helping us establish a strong presence at NASCAR tracks across the country and to educate diehard NASCAR fans about the many positive aspects of our NASCAR trading cards,” Panini marketing VP Jason Howard said. “As NASCAR brings about the return to sports during this Covid-19 pandemic, we felt like this was a great opportunity to celebrate sports that fans everywhere are clamoring for and promote our Panini trading card products that help deepen that connection[.]”
The Virginia native began racing in the Cup Series in 2016, and contested much of the 2017 and 2018 seasons with BK Racing and Premium Motorsports. His best Cup finish is ninth at Talladega in 2017 with Premium. In 2019, he returned to the series at Bristol Motor Speedway with Ware, where he finished thirty-sixth.
With the announcement, RWR now carries or is affiliated with a rather large fleet of drivers and cars. In addition to the full-time Brennan Poole (#15), Joey Gase (#51), and J.J. Yeley (#52), Garrett Smithley and B.J. McLeod race part-time. The #52 was changed to #27 for Darlington, while the team fielded the #36 at the Daytona 500 for David Ragan. RWR also holds an alliance with Spire Motorsports‘ #77 team and maintains some relations with Premium, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, and Tommy Baldwin Racing. BJMM is set to make its Cup début at Darlington, while TBR returns to the Cup Series with Josh Bilicki, who had made every Cup start up to this point with RWR.
Yeley is listed as the #27’s driver for Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400. The race name was revealed by Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal on Wednesday, reflecting NASCAR’s partnership with The Real Heroes Project, a multi-sport effort to honour medical workers tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
CORRECTION: Per Panini’s release, Gaulding’s stint begins with the 20 May Darlington race.