NASCAR: Paint scheme of Gray’s car part of throwback week

September 2, 2017 GMT

Fans of NASCAR’s past will have their memories sparked this weekend as cars sport throwback paint schemes, honoring cars of bygone years.

And one of them will have a special meaning for Rome native Henley Gray. A former driver and owner on both the Grand National and Winston Cup series from the 1960s and 1970s, Gray’s No. 19 Chevy Malibu will be remembered with a similar paint scheme on Matt Tifft’s No. 19 in today’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

Gray, 84, said he found out about the throwback to one of his former cars from his son, Steve Gray, who works on the crew for JGL Racing, which has two cars in the Xfinity Series this year.

“I found about three weeks ago from my son,” Henley Gray said. “I saw recently someone pull up pictures of all the different cars I had over the years. I never did stay with one certain thing.”

The car being honored today was the one driven by Dale Earnhardt at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1977 when he was a rookie driver.

It is white with red and blue stripes, similar to the one sponsored by Belden Asphalt.

Gray started racing in 1956 on dirt tracks, like the one in the Chulio Hills neighborhood that was near the current location of Rome Speedway. He worked his way up and began racing in NASCAR in 1964.

“I was one of the independents. There were about 30 of us. We would just all show up at the race track,” Gray said. “You had to be there by Thursday at noon.”

He ran in 374 races all across the country and had 55 top-10 finishes. After a wreck on pit road in 1977 during practice for a race at Michigan International Speedway, Gray’s injuries forced him to end his driving days. He became a well-known owner until 1995.

It was two months after the wreck that Dale Earnhardt drove Gray’s No. 19.