BY KEITH WALTZ
After winning eight races and claiming the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock drag racing championship, Tanner Gray’s career literally took a left-hand turn. The then 19-year-old, third-generation drag racer walked away from the straight-line sport to focus on a future in NASCAR racing.
Born April 15, 1999, in Artesia, New Mexico, Gray is the son veteran drag racer Shane Gray and the grandson of longtime sportsman and professional drag racer Johnny Gray.
Gray honed his driving skills by competing in a variety of race cars, including late models, modifieds and outlaw karts. He made his NHRA Pro Stock debut in 2017, competing alongside his father as part of the family team. Shortly before his 18th birthday, Gray became the youngest driver to win an NHRA Pro Stock.
Gray began his transition to oval-track racing in 2019 by running a mixed schedule of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series East and West races. He contested the full Truck Series schedule a year ago, recording eight top-10 finishes.
This season, Gray is driving the No. 15 Ford for David Gilliland Racing, which is now co-owned by Johnny Gray, and he’s part of Ford’s driver development program.
“Tanner has done a great job in his transition to stock car racing. I was really impressed with how well he picked up the feel of the car and was able to provide very detailed feedback,” team co-owner David Gilliland said prior to the 2020 season. “It’s a big step up to the Truck Series, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s ready for it.”