Grant Enfinger’s Daytona Win Capped Off an Emotional Roller Coasterby Kyle Pokrefky March 1, 2015 0 comments
Photo credit: ARCAracing.com
One month prior to the drop of the green flag for the Lucas Oil 200, the opening event of the ARCA Racing Series season, Grant Enfinger did not know if he’d have a ride to compete in the season opener.
Enfinger, 30, finished the 2014 ARCA season second in points, completing the season with GMS Racing in the team’s No. 90 Chevrolet and yet found himself without a ride after the 2014 season finale at Kansas Speedway.
With no ride in place for the 2015 season in early January, prospects for a ride for the 2015 season were looking bleak with not many serious deals being placed on his table – that was until Maury Gallagher, owner of GMS Racing, called up the nine-time race winner in ARCA two weeks prior to an open test in January at Daytona with a job offer.
Gallagher, the Chairman and CEO of Allegiant Travel, presented Enfinger with an opportunity to not only test at Daytona, but race there in the season opener to defend his Lucas Oil 200 crown and race through the rest of the ARCA season on a full-time deal.
In this year’s Lucas Oil 200, Enfinger grabbed control of the 80-lap event in the middle of the race and led 36 laps on the way to his second consecutive victory at Daytona International Speedway – a feat that made Humpy Wheeler, former President of Charlotte Motor Speedway, proclaim that Enfinger should be moved straight up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from ARCA.
“It made it easy for my resume, I just had to ‘x’ out everything I had and put that in there,” Enfinger said of the praise.
To go from being without a ride to a Daytona champion in under a month was an ’emotional roller coaster’, says Enfinger.
“It seemed like it was always an emotional roller coaster in the offseason and especially when you don’t know what’s coming next,” Enfinger said. “I was fortunate enough to be with a job all winter and keep working with GMS Racing and finally we were able to put something together that got us to the racetrack.
“It’s definitely something that I’m excited about and I think everybody in the shop is pumped up. To be able to do what we did at Daytona, I think it solidifies even more and it just pumps up everybody that much more.”
Enfinger and his newly renumbered No. 23 team may not be completely out of the woods yet. While the team has sponsorship provided by Gallagher’s Allegiant Travel and from Alamo Rent-A-Car, GMS Racing are still seeking sponsorship to complete their 2015 sponsorship schedule.
“I’ve been very very fortunate to have Alamo Rent-A-Car, Allegiant Travel and WURTH USA on the car for Daytona and we’re looking for some more stuff to solidify the season,” Enfinger said. “We do have some good guys that are helping, we’ve just got to have a little bit more to make it to the end of the year.”
Up next on the schedule for Enfinger and the rest of the teams that compete in the ARCA Racing Series is the ARCA-Mobile 200 at Mobile International Speedway.
Enfinger, a native of Fairhope, Alabama, a half-hour drive from Mobile, Alabama, is the two-time defending winner of his hometown race and is excited to not only go for a three-peat at the half-mile oval, but he is excited to get the chance to compete in front of his home crowd as well.
“I’m pumped up. I couldn’t be more excited,” Enfinger said. “It’s not very often that you get to race in front of a hometown crowd. The ARCA series is so all over the board as far as where we go and there are not very many [races] that are close to home, well Mobile is my backyard. It’s where I grew up racing and it’s a track that I’ve probably got more laps on than of anybody else that’ll be there in two weeks.
“Maybe a little bit of a home track advantage but more than anything my fiancé lives down there, all of my family is down there, so we’ll have a big crowd. Lot of people that normally can’t get to our races, they’ll be there at that one. It’s definitely one I circle on the calendar every year and I’m pumped up about it.”
As for his outlook on the rest of the season, when Enfinger takes a look at from whom the toughest opposition against his bid for his first ARCA title may come from this year, he is quick with his answer – 10-time ARCA Racing Series champion and 80-time race winner, Frank Kimmel.
“There’s a lot of guys,” Enfinger stated. “Even though Frank [Kimmel] looks like he’s going to be with a couple of different teams this year, you can’t bet against him in a title fight in the ARCA series.
“I think anytime from 1990 – whenever Frank started – to now, you’ve got to put Frank on top of any list for the top of the title fight there.”
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky