BY TADD HAISLOP
Taylor Gray jumped to third on the speed charts toward the end of Monday afternoon’s practice session for the Jeep Beach 175 at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway, the 2021 ARCA Menards Series East season-opener.
That show of speed was a sign of things to come, as the 15-year-old posted the best time in Monday’s two-lap single car qualifying session at the half-mile oval ahead of the evening’s main event.
Gray, whose first win on the ARCA Menards platform came last October in the West Series race at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, posted a lap time of 18.768 seconds / 92.072 mph in his No. 17 Ford Performance Ford to earn the first General Tire Pole Award of the 2021 season.
RELATED: Complete Qualifying Results
Rookie Max Gutierrez earned a career-best second starting spot for Monday night’s race with a lap time of 18.793 seconds / 91.949 mph. He’ll line up ahead of Gray’s David Gilliland Racing teammate Joey Iest (18.804 seconds / 91.895 mph) in third, Jack Wood (18.810 seconds / 91.866 mph) in fourth and Mason Diaz (18.840 seconds / 91.720 mph) in fifth.
Parker Retzlaff, Rajah Caruth, Daniel Dye, Sammy Smith and Carson Kvapil rounded out the top 10 in qualifying.
Dye qualified eighth after his team managed an engine change after practice and prior to the qualifying session.
The Jeep Beach 175 is scheduled to take the green flag at 7:40 p.m. ET and broadcast live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.