Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – As the 2022 season at Stafford Speedway approaches its halfway point this Friday night, July 15, no driver and team has been hotter than Adam Gray and the #97 Meadows Motor Cars Late Model team.
Gray began the season by failing to post a top-5 finish in the first three races, but once the calendar hit June, Gray and his team have been nearly unbeatable, scoring 4 consecutive wins before back to back second place finishes going into this Friday night’s 30-lap feature event.
“The season has gone from really bad to really good,” said Gray. “At the start of the year our thought was ‘this is going to be one of those seasons’ and then things turned around for us.”
Gray’s performance over the last 6 Late Model races is reminiscent of his first championship season at Stafford in 2013, where he scored 16 consecutive podium finishes (6 wins, 5 2nd, 5 3rd place finishes) in an 18 race season.
“It definitely feels like 2013 or even 2014 was good for us,” said Gray. “We kind of had a monkey on our backs at the beginning of the year but we’re definitely going in the right direction now. Going forward, we just have to go out there, stay out of trouble, and see what we can do. Big thanks to Meadows Motor Cars, Leon’s Auto Repair, Statewide Auto Auctions and my entire crew for all their help and support.”
Through the first 3 races of the year, Gray finished 12th, 7th and 6th and found himself in 10th place in the standings. In the search for more speed in his #97 car, Gray and his crew decided to go back in time for setup inspiration and that look backwards has helped to unlock a performance level that Gray hasn’t seen since his dominant championship run in 2013.
“To be completely honest, we went back to our notebooks from 2013 and 2014,” said Gray. “Over the years we’ve ventured away from what we were doing to try some new things with the car and we ended up going back to basics. As stupid as it sounds, we dove back into our old notebooks and the car has been good ever since.”
Gray’s current 6-race hot streak of 4 wins and two 2nd place finishes has seen the Granby, MA native climb from 10th place in the standings and 30 points out of the lead to leading the standings by 12 points going into the July 15 feature event. Despite the turnaround and continued success, Gray isn’t thinking about points right now and his only goal is to add to his trophy count for the 2022 season.
“We’re going to approach the rest of the season like we’ve been doing so far and go for wins,” said Gray. “Staying out of trouble and finishing up front will definitely put us in position to contend for the championship, but at this point, as much as I hate to say this, we’re trophy hunting. I haven’t looked at the points since the third or fourth week of the season. I think that when drivers look at points, they start to do things differently on the track because the points are on their mind. The way I look at it is that winning races and finishing up front is fun, and we’re here to have fun, so let’s keep on doing that.”
It won’t be easy for Gray to continue his hot streak. With his consistent finishes at the front of the pack, Stafford’s handicapping system sees Gray having to start at the rear of the Late Model field each week and drive through the pack to get to the front.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Late Model competition at Stafford, it doesn’t matter how many cars show up to race, there’s 85% or 90% of the field that can win a race on any given night,” said Gray. “A lot of that has to do with luck like getting in the right lanes on starts and restarts and staying out of trouble on restarts is one of the most important things because guys can get bottled up and start tearing cars up.”
Gray’s Late Model success isn’t the only racing success in his family during the 2022 season. Gray’s son Jacob is currently in his second season of Wild Thing Karts competition in the Tiger Cub division and father and son are enjoying a friendly rivalry of who can accumulate the most trophies during the season.
“To me that’s been the best part of the season,” said Gray. “Last year Jacob won 6 times and every time he won he would tell me ‘Dad I got another trophy, how many do you have?’ It’s been pretty cool to have a “mini-me” that’s just as into racing as I am and we harass each other back and forth. He has 3 wins in karts and he won a big wheel race at the kids night and after he won this Monday, he told me that we’re tied again for wins this season. It’s been a really cool deal because I started racing young but not as young as Jacob is right now and it’s been a lot of fun to see the same kind of drive and want that he has to go racing and win.”
Gray will look to continue his hot streak this Friday night, July 15 as part of The Senator’s Cup program. Stafford’s SK Modifieds® will race 50-laps instead of their customary 40 while the SK Light, Limited Late Model, and Street Stock cars will join the SK Modified and Late Model cars in feature action. Tickets for The Senator’s Cup are available now online at StaffordSpeedway.com/tickets and tickets will also be available for purchase at the admission gates. Tickets for The Senator’s Cup are $20.00 for adults, $5.00 for kids 6-14, and free for kids 5 & under. Reserved seating is priced at $25.00 for all ages and pit passes are $35.00 with a valid 2022 Stafford Competition License and $40.00 without a Stafford license.