MARTINSVILLE, Va. – After expressing optimism throughout the day, Taylor Gray’s first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway ended in another first: his first time getting upside down in a race car.
Gray was running 16th with 68 laps to go Saturday night when he and the No. 12s of Sammy Smith made contact off the second corner, sending Gray’s No. 17 Toyota Camry up and over down the backstretch.
Smith slowed up coming off the exit of the corner with a flat left-rear tire, and when his car drifted down to the inside, Gray had nowhere to go and ramped over the front of Smith’s machine before flipping.
The car skidded part of the way down the straightaway before coming to a halt, with Gray stuck head-down for several minutes before safety crews could successfully extricate him from his vehicle.
The good news, however, was that Gray walked to a waiting ambulance under his own power before being checked and released from the infield medical center.
After being medically cleared, Gray told reporters that he “knew it was coming” before the crash began.
“I had a feeling, for sure,” noted Gray. “We just clipped the 12 car’s left front and then momentum just took me and I started rolling. Luckily, we finally stopped, but for a second I was like, ‘Man, when is this thing gonna stop rolling over?’ But it finally stopped; unfortunately, I just stopped on my roof.”
Gray went on to laud the Martinsville Speedway safety crew for their quick response and efforts.
“They safety guys did a really good job rolling me back over. I know it’s their job to take things seriously, but I think they thought it was more serious than it actually was. I was perfectly fine. So that’s all that really matters. I’m OK. My DGR-Crosley guys, though; I really feel bad for them because they prepared a really good race car for Martinsville this weekend. We were just saving our stuff and waiting to hit the buttom.
“I’m bummed, man; I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to get our clock.”
Gray confirmed that Saturday night was the first time he’s been wrong side up in his short career.
“It’s new, it was different, but it’s definitely not a fun feeling,” he said with a wry smile. “I had my hands crossed and my feet crossed. It’s a hopeless feeling, really. You’re kind of just bracing for dear life. You can’t really do anything about the situation at that point. It’s just hang on and ride it out.”
Prior to the incident, even though he was running outside the top 10, Gray was confident he could have run among the top five and contended for the winner’s share if he had been able to survive.
“Man, we had a really good race car,” Gray said. “It’s just really unfortunate that that had to happen, because I do think we definitely had a car that could have been contention to win or even finish in the top three, whatever. We were kind of just playing the race out and letting everybody wreck, but unfortunately, we were one of the ones that wrecked.
“I guess we’ll just have to race another day, and thankfully we’re able to do that.”