Race Weekend Central

Taylor Gray Shows Flashes of Greatness But Falls Short to Sammy Smith at Milwaukee

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – There were two leaders in the ARCA Menards Series’ Sprecher 150 at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday (Aug. 28). Sammy Smith led the most laps while runner-up Taylor Gray led the second most.

They finished where they started, as Smith won for the third time this ARCA season and Gray finished second.

During the first 50-lap segment, Smith led Gray. But during the first pit stops, one of Gray’s David Gilliland Racing crew members remarked his No. 17 Ford was fast enough to contend.

Sure enough, Gray showcased that speed as he took the lead from Smith on lap 75, the halfway point of the race.

But after the second competition caution, Smith retook the lead for good.

Gray piloted his No. 17 to a second-place finish, 3.306 seconds behind Smith.

See also
Sammy Smith Wins 3rd ARCA Race of 2022 at Milwaukee

“I needed a lot more front grip there,” Gray told reporters post-race. “The second stage at the end, a little bit into the second stage I thought we were a lot better than the No. 18. There at the end, he caught me a little bit and found a little bit of speed, but I think clean air was enough where we were too even to where he couldn’t pass me, being behind me in my dirty air.

“In the third stage, we just struggled, man. We missed. We didn’t go enough on the adjustment for the track to get as tight as it did. Way too tight there at the end. Thought we had an OK Ford Mustang today.

“We just got to go back to the shop and keep working. Can’t thank all my guys enough for bringing good Ford Mustangs to the racetrack every weekend. We’ve got to keep working, still got some catching up to do to get those guys. Just got to keep working and find some more speed.”

Gray’s runner-up finish marked his seventh top five and ninth top-10 finish of this main ARCA season. He didn’t take much solace from that, though.

“We always come here to win,” he said. “Those guys bust their asses every week. We come here to be in victory lane. Obviously second is a good points day, but at this point in the season, we’re out of points. There’s no reason for us to be points racing at this point in the season. So we come here for wins and whenever we don’t get that result, I’m a little upset.”

The Sprecher 150 was a combination event for the main ARCA series and the ARCA Menards Series East. Gray entered the day second in East points, trailing Smith. Smith’s victory stretched his points lead over Gray, likely resulting in Smith winning his second straight East title later this season at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Make no mistake about it, though — Gray enjoys racing at the 1-mile track. His results prove it, as he has a fourth- and second-place finish in his two ARCA starts at Milwaukee.

“This place is so much fun,” he continued. “You’ve got multiple grooves. As you saw at the end of the second stage, Sammy was running the middle or whatever you want to call it, and I was running the bottom, and we were pretty even…

“To answer your question, yeah, I love this place. I love coming here.”

See also
Eyes on Xfinity: Is Sammy Smith Ready for ARCA-to-Xfinity Jump?

The final 50-lap drive to the finish was caution free. As a result, once Smith passed Gray, he eventually stretched his winning margin where Gray was unable to catch him, even as they weaved their way through lapped traffic.

Gray still knew he had the second-best racecar. But even if there would have been one more restart, the DGR driver was doubtful he would’ve caught Smith for the victory.

“Mechanically-wise, [Smith] was just better than us,” he said. “I’m not saying that maybe you could go into [turn] 1 and slide him, get him in my dirty air. I mean, as for performance, he was a lot better than us that whole third stage.

“If we wind up side by side, I think if I would’ve went into [turn] 1 and was able to slide him, I might’ve been able to hold him off for a lap or so. He was so much better than us, I don’t know if I could’ve held him off any longer than that. We just got to go back to the shop and keep making gains.”

For the 13th time in their ARCA careers, Gray and Smith raced each other. Smith has the edge, 8-5, but both drivers have been successful.

Smith has three wins, 11 top fives and 11 top 10s in that stretch. Gray, meanwhile, has three wins, 10 top fives and 12 top 10s.

Follow @MarkKristl


About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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