Gray Gaulding and Panini America will reunite with Rick Ware Racing for Sunday's Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway, occupying the seat of the No. 15 Ford Mustang.
Gaulding, who hasn't competed in a NASCAR Cup Series event since October of 2020, will get his first crack at the NextGen car this weekend, as he aims to continue a string of solid runs for the No. 15 team.
Panini America, a long-time sponsor of Gaulding's efforts in NASCAR's top-three series, will come along with the 25-year-old driver has he returns to NASCAR's top-level.
“Ever since we started working with Gray [Gaulding] and his family, he has been more than just a brand ambassador for us, he’s been more like a member of the family,” said Jason Howarth, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Acquisitions for Panini America. “Gray has been a huge part of our growth in the NASCAR trading card space, and we’re excited to team up with him and Rick Ware Racing one more time.”
Since his last start in the NASCAR Cup Series, Gaulding has been a frequent contestant in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where this season, he's run the majority of the schedule for Bobby Dotter and SS Green Light Racing.
“Personally, today is an exciting career day for me with this opportunity to return to the NASCAR Cup Series along with our sponsor Panini America, and with a team that wants to excel like Rick Ware Racing,” said Gaulding. “Jason [Howarth] and Rick [Ware] have both believed in my ability as a brand ambassador and driver, I do not plan to disappoint them.”
Sunday will mark Gaulding's 60th start at NASCAR's top-level, which has spanned over eight seasons, making his debut at the end of 2016, at the age of 18.
“It will be good to have Gray race with us again,” said team owner Rick Ware. “He has driven for us previously and we’ve been making overall improvements to the team since then. It’s also great to have Panini America as his primary partner again, too. Like us, they have been growing their company in some major areas and we look forward to having a great race with them.”
In 2020, Gaulding and Panini America joined forces with Rick Ware Racing, contesting a nine-race slate in the NASCAR Cup Series, in which the driver-team combination scored a best finish of 25th.
This weekend at WWT Raceway, Gaulding will serve as a teammate to JJ Yeley, who will pilot the team's No. 51 Ford Mustang in the Enjoy Illinois 300, after finishing 16th in the Coca-Cola 600.
Image Courtesy of Rick Ware Racing