The owners of a local Mexican restaurant stepped up to the plate and helped out a Virginia native in Saturday’s NASCAR race at Richmond....

The owners of a local Mexican restaurant stepped up to the plate and helped out a Virginia native in Saturday’s NASCAR race at Richmond.

Pepe’s Mexican and Hibachi Box restaurants — which are owned by Nelson and Paulo Benavides and located in Midlothian and Richmond — sponsored Colonial Heights native Gray Gaulding’s No. 23 Toyota Camry in the ninth race of the season.

Unfortunately for them, Gaulding finished 35th out of 38 drivers.

Sam Tucker, general manager of Hibachi Box of Richmond, said the brothers decided to sponsor the car when a mutual business partner of theirs and Gaulding talked to them about it.

“It was very last-minute,” Tucker said, adding that the brothers only had a week’s notice or so.

He noted that the Benavides brothers grew up in Colonial Heights as did Gaulding so they wanted to sponsor him when presented with the opportunity.

Gaulding, 20, drove two races in NASCAR’s senior circuit in 2016 for the Motorsports Group and 27 races last year, 18 with BK Racing and nine with Premium Motorsports. He finished the 2017 season 34th in points out of more than 40 drivers and is currently 33rd in points.

Gaulding’s best finish came in last year’s Oct. 15 race at Talladega where he placed ninth.

He and BK Racing plan to run a full schedule this year.

Editor’s note: The Benavides Brothers’ father, Rafael, owns Don Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant at 2101 W. Hundred Road in Chester.