By: Ashley McCubbin
Despite the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season getting off on a rough note, Grant Enfinger rebounded with five top-six finishes in the final seven races including a victory at Lucas Oil Raceway Park to place seventh in the year-end standings. The GMS Racing driver recently spoke about the year with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
What are your thoughts as you look forward to 2023 next year?
You know, at the end of the day, we didn’t have the 2022 that we set out for at the beginning of the year, but we made so much progress especially the second half – well, the last third of the season. I want to just continue down that path and keep making it better. That’s the mindset in the shop. There’s going to be a few things a little bit different, but everything is taking the direction that we’re feel confident in what we found and going further down that road. Jeff Hensley has been hard at work and trying to just dot all Is and cross all our Ts to prepare for next year. We’re not whole sailing or anything like that, just keeping going down the path we’re already on.
I was just going to say that through the second half of the season, we saw top-five’s come together, as well as the win at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. How much does that help the confidence for yourself with this team?
Definitely helps the confidence. That’s the goal each and every time that we unload, for sure. I’d say the negative part is that I feel we only had a truck capable of winning two times this year. We were fortunate to put everything together and do what we were supposed to do at IRP, and I am very thankful for that. I had a great truck that night. The other time I feel like we were capable of winning was Homestead(-Miami Speedway). And really, outside of that, we didn’t have winning speed.
So we started off the year a little bit off and we just kept building, kept building, kept working all season long and the last seven or eight races, I feel like we had top-five speed each time we unloaded, and a couple of those we had winning speed. The good thing is we got in victory lane, just not enough and not enough speed throughout the course of the year. It was not for a lack of effort and very, very pleased with everybody’s work throughout the season. We just started off the year way off and were able to continue to progress all season. I’m very, very proud of that.
What are the goals and expectations for 2023 now?
Dominate a season and win the championship. That’s the goal I’m sure for a lot of guys. I feel like we’re one of a few in a situation where that’s attainable and I don’t think that’s an unrealistic goal. With GMS Racing, it’s an incredible organization. We have all the resources we need – from Chevrolet on that side of the camp, as well in-house with the brain trust that we have at GMS and Petty GMS for that matter. I truly feel like it’s attainable. That’s the goal for a lot of guys at the beginning of the year, that’s for sure, but this will be my fifth year with Jeff Hensley.
We feel like we know the direction that we want to head down and we’re going to keep bulldozing down that path. If that proves to be correct, we’ll unload in Daytona and Las Vegas and Atlanta at the beginning part of next year and we’ll have Champion Power Equipment Chevrolets that can win races. At that point, I can tell you whether my dream is a reality or not.
What track are you most excited to get to?
I’m a big fan of the history of our sport and a big fan of going to places that I’ve never been before. I’m pumped to go to North Wilksboro (Speedway). That’s the one that is circled on my calendar this year. The other one that I’ve never been to is Milwaukee (Mile). That’s a place that’s got a lot of history, as well. Definitely looking forward to scratching those two off the bucket list.
What track do you wish was on the schedule that currently is not on the schedule?
Well I’ll say – I’ll first give a feather in the cap to NASCAR as they did a great job getting us back to IRP. I think that’s a true truck series track, and definitely glad that we’re going back there now. But at the same time, I’ll jab them a little bit because we should be going back to Eldora (Raceway). Eldora is the dirt track that puts on the best show for our trucks. I think the truck series needs to have a race or two on the dirt. Eldora always put on a heck of a show. Not that it’s not cool to go to Bristol and put the dirt on it, but in my opinion, Eldora is a better show and a better race. I hate to say it, but there’s more excitement around it, too. I think that’s something that we’re missing the boat on a little bit. I hope we go back one day.
One of the strengths that I always see with GMS is the strength of the drivers across the organization. What is it like for you working with your teammates?
I think it’s a talent across the entire shop. There’s depth – there’s not just the drivers, there’s so many just smart guys and great leadership there. Obviously, you know our main leader there is Mike Beam whose run the company since 2015. Under his direction, he’s been able to get a lot of wins there on the truck series side, and obviously they’ve broken through on the (NASCAR) Cup (Series) side to win there at Darlington (Raceway).
But across the board, you’ve got Dave Elenz, Luke Lambert over there now, so many great engineers. Those are guys that myself, Jeff Hensley, and all the guys in there can lean in when we need to and there’s talent behind the wheel for sure, but the man there’s a ton of talent and ton of smart racing minds in that building. I think that’s one advantage that we have at GMS Racing.
What would be one piece of advice you would offer to someone getting started in racing based on the road that your career has taken?
I’m 37 years old. I first kind of got behind the wheel of a sure enough race team, fully funded, set-up ready to win races seven or eight years ago at GMS as a matter of fact. But I started racing when I was 11 so there’s a 15 year window in there that it was a struggle, a huge struggle a lot of times going to the track in sub-par conditions. But I would say the biggest thing is to keep after it if your goal is to make it in racing one day.
The other would be to truly focus on the business side of things, on how do you as a racecar driver make it make sense for a company or a team? What is your value that you can bring? Everybody wants to race. This is a childhood dream for all of us to be able to race, but how do you make it make sense for the guys around you, for your support group? I think a lot of people coming up now have support from their immediate family and that’s what kind of gets them there, but then they forget that doesn’t last forever. You have to make it make sense for business and that comes from a lot of different creative ways.
It’s definitely a tough sell to just have the name of a business on a truck or car or something like that. You have to do more than that these days and you have to be creative about it. So I would say that’s the biggest business advice that I would have for somebody.
Categories: ashley asks...., Interview, NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series
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