Thetford’s Gray adds to winning ways — away from the basketball court

  • East Thetford's Jason Gray (00) competes in the final Bear Ridge Speedway race for the Sportsman Modified division in Bradford, Vt., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Gray won the race despite a broken left front shock tower, giving him eight victories in 13 starts to claim his first championship at the dirt track. Alan Ward photograph

  • Jason Gray works on his Sportsman Modified race car in East Thetford, Vt., on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Gray is also the Thetford Academy boys basketball coach. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to valley news file photograph —Jennifer Hauck

  • Thetford Academy Coach Jason Gray gives his team a last word before they take the court against Enosburg in the Division III championship at the Barre Auditorium in Barre, Vt., Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to valley news file photograph — James M. Patterson

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/5/2020 10:06:41 PM
Modified: 10/5/2020 10:06:33 PM

THETFORD — As the DJ Khaled track goes, all Jason Gray does is win, win, win lately.

The 30-year-old from East Thetford hasn’t had much time to work the past few months with his Thetford Academy boys basketball team, a group with whom Gray has claimed back-to-back VPA Division III state championships. Part of that is coronavirus pandemic-related, but there’s his schedule, too: Gray races cars in the summer, and with two young children at home, he chose to commit to nearby competition this summer at Bear Ridge Speedway in the headlining Sportsman Modified division rather than cross the state to his other preferred oval.

Gray won his eighth feature race in 13 starts on Sept. 26 to clinch his first BRS track championship. That accomplishment came the same day his college alma mater, Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, announced it would be adding him to its athletics hall of fame for his sports exploits there.

Some guys.

“With kids, work and racing, I haven’t done a thing (with basketball),” Gray admitted last week.

Racing has been a regular thing for Gray since he was 15. A normal summer would have him spending most of his time traveling to Albany-Saratoga Speedway, where the Modified competition is stiffer and the car counts greater. Gray and his wife, Katelyn, also have two little girls, ages 3 and 1, so making the 6-hour round trip to the Ballston Spa, N.Y., track didn’t make sense this year.

Gray’s decision to stay home paid off handsomely. Bear Ridge’s pandemic-delayed season started on June 20 with Gray winning the opening-night Sportsman Modified main event. He claimed three of the first four races and ultimately outpointed Jordan Fornwalt, 950-865, for the championship.

Gray counted his past Albany experiences as good preparation.

“Going to Albany and racing there, there’s 36 to 40 cars a night trying to qualify for 32 spots, and that’s helped me,” he said. “There’s a learning curve out there, and what I learned there I brought back to Bear Ridge this year. Everything worked out in my favor. …

“Pretty much, it’s hard to beat a place that’s 15 minutes up the road. By the time you get done at 11 p.m., you’re back home by 11:15. That’s a plus.”

Although the former Lyndon State College announced its hall of fame class the same day Gray won his racing honors, he’s known it was coming since April.

A 2009 Thetford graduate, Gray played four years of soccer and basketball at Lyndon.

He scored 1,345 points on the hardwood and made the all-North Atlantic Conference team three times, landing on the first team as a senior.

His Hornet achievements included 836 rebounds, 145 assists and 154 blocks; he led the league in blocks as a freshman and senior and helped Lyndon reach the NAC tournament championship game as a sophomore.

Gray also played goalkeeper on the Hornets’ men’s soccer team, starting his final three seasons. His sophomore campaign included trips to the NAC championship match and the ECAC tournament.

The pandemic has put any induction ceremony on hold until at least next year.

“I had to pretty much build a resume, get some references and stuff like that, then submit it to the hall of fame board,” said Gray, who was nominated for the honor. “It’s kind of a shock when you get the phone call that you’ve been welcomed into the hall of fame.”

Last winter’s Thetford basketball team surprised a lot of people, too, overcoming a six-losses-in-seven-game midseason slide that dropped the Panthers to the seventh seed at states. TA swept Green Mountain, Randolph, Peoples and Enosburg to take its second straight title, and the Panthers will get three top scorers (Ryen Wolf, Eli Dunnet, Jackson Ramson) back this winter for a run a three in a row.

Gray hasn’t had time to think about that during his summer of success. He’s left the job of offseason coaching to assistant Tim Nalette, at least to the extent that the pandemic has allowed for workouts.

“As my assistant says, if we’re allowed to play basketball, we’ve looked very strong,” Gray said. “I haven’t been to practices. I’m taking his word on it, trusting him.”

Given how everything’s gone his way lately, it may be Gray’s latest winning combination.

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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