Taylor Gray faced the ultimate test in picking up his first career CARS LMSC Tour victory at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday evening, as he had to hold off Late Model veterans Josh Berry and Tommy Lemons Jr. on several occasions during the final laps of the MTP Tire 300.

The young Denver, North Carolina native proved to be more than capable of the challenge, as he passed Lemons with less than 15 to go and pulled away to pick up the win.

“It was a hard battle,” Gray said. “I just had a great run on the outside, and I didn’t think I would get him on the outside. I had an awesome race car all weekend long, and I have to thank everyone at DGR-Crosley. It’s so awesome to win in just my second CARS Tour race.”

After starting in the fourth position, Gray was able to quickly move up into second and settle into a rhythm behind polesitter Bradley McCaskill, who led for most of the opening 40 laps. After the Lap 40 competition caution, Gray got the run he needed on the outside to pass McCaskill and took the top spot away from him to lead his first laps in his CARS Tour career.

The rest of the race would feature numerous accidents that eliminated several strong contenders such as Layne Riggs and Justin Carroll, but Gray maintained his grip on the top spot while drivers like Berry and Lemons attempted to conserve their equipment.

Berry would be the first to get to Gray, as he passed him for the lead on a Lap 106 restart, but the 2017 CARS Tour champion would only be out in front for a handful of laps as Gray used the bottom to regain control at the front.

Berry’s car would fade over the last 50 laps of the race, which allowed Lemons to move into second and secure the top line on the restart following another caution. Lemons passed Gray for the top spot on Lap 129, but his decision to take the inside lane on the last restart of the race would cost him, as Gray used the momentum on the outside to take the lead for the final time.

Lemons did everything he could to get by Gray over the final 10 laps, but he was unable to do anything as Gray held on for his first career CARS LMSC Tour victory while Lemons held on for second place. It was an emotional moment for Gray, as he got to celebrate with his family, crew and car owner David Gilliland, but he added that it felt more special having an opportunity to race against and beat so many talented Late Model competitors

“These are really stout Late Model racers out here,” Gray said. “It was really good to beat Berry, Lemons and all those guys.”

Brody Pope, who started the 150-lap LMSC feature in 16th, came home in third, while Berry and Bobby McCarty rounded out the Top 5.

Unofficial Results:

  1. 17 Taylor Gray
  2. 27 Tommy Lemons Jr.
  3. 1 Brody Pope
  4. 88 Josh Berry
  5. 22 Bobby McCarty
  6. 07 Bradley McCaskill
  7. 08 Deac McCaskill
  8. 25 Zac St. Onge
  9. 12 Austin McDaniel
  10. 17p Stacy Puryear
  11. 4 Jonathan Findley
  12. 81 Mini Tyrell
  13. 54 Tanner Gray OUT
  14. 77 Trevor Ward -4
  15. 2 Brandon Pierce -18
  16. 15 Ryan Millington OUT
  17. 95 Jacob Heafner OUT
  18. 63 Tyler Matthews OUT
  19. 98 Adam Lemke OUT
  20. 01 Camden Gullie OUT
  21. 4h Leland Honeyman OUT
  22. 57 Justin Carroll OUT
  23. 14 Vince Midas OUT
  24. 99 Layne Riggs OUT
  25. 4w Dylon Wilson OUT
  26. 74 Ronald Hill OUT
  27. 18 Ty Gibbs OUT
  28. 1m Craig Moore OUT
  29. 19 Cameron Bowen OUT