DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Defending ARCA Racing Series champion Grant Enfinger is the very definition of a throwback racer, having earned all of his success through the perfect blend of natural talent, hard work and a tireless dedication to the sport he loves.
In many ways, his graduation to the Camping World Truck Series this season is the culmination of a lifetime spent in on southern short tracks, in various NASCAR shops as a mechanic and countless seasons loosely piecing together a career through patchwork.
But more than anything else, Enfinger is proud because he knows he deserves the chance to run for rookie of the year honors for GMS Racing, and perhaps, the entire Truck Series championship.
“Its the culmination of everywhere I’ve been, but really, I feel like I’ve earned this damn ride, you know what I mean,” Enfinger told Popular Speed on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway. “I feel like I’ve put the blood, sweat and tears into this sport and I don’t think everyone can say that.
“I’m proud of that and I’ll do everything I can to make the most of that opportunity and its a huge deal for me to be in top notch equipment, to be at Daytona and to be racing.”
Enfinger has high hopes for his team, because after all, it’s largely the same group he won six ARCA races and the championship with in 2015. In addition to his driving duties, he works full-time in the GMS shop and has a natural chemistry with crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz.
The 31-year-old still isn’t sure if he will go full-time this year, but even if he doesn’t, he’s just happy to be back in NASCAR and contributing to the growth of a team he joined halfway through the 2014 season. But with the win-and-you’re-in playoff format making its way to the Trucks in 2016, Enfinger knows he can help his case by winning one of these first two guaranteed races.
“Obviously, that would be huge for us, but listen it’s not all about me,” Enfinger said. “It’s about GMS racing. We’ve got three trucks here this weekend and the goal this year is to have a truck champuonship at GMS Racing.
“If any of these three trucks end up in Victory Lane this weekend, next week, that’s a big deal. So that’s our main focus — on the team.”
Despite his team-first mantra, Enfiner has to be considered one of the favorites. He’s won the past two ARCA events at Daytona and was fast in both Friday practice sessions. He says his Daytona experience gives him a lot of confidence, even if it is in a different kind of machine.
For what it’s worth, Enfinger has made two Truck Series starts at the World Center of Racing, so he doesn’t expect a tremendous learning curve on Friday night.
“There’s probably a confidence booster here with me since Jeff and I have ran this track before,” Enfinger said. “Drafting in the ARCA car is different than the truck, but it’s not like its a polar opposite either.
“Everything that happens in the ARCA, happens a lot more violently in the Truck Series — like all the little games you play with the air? They’re five or 10 times more noticeable in truck. So some of the experience does transfer over to the truck.”
Enfinger doesn’t know for sure how many starts he will make but he’s thankful for Champion Power Equipment for returning after backing the second half of his ARCA campaign last season. He knows he will run enough races to compete for rookie-of-the-year, but he also knows he will have to perform in order to attract more funding and starts.
“Champion has been a huge supporter of mine over the past year and into the Truck Series and that’s a big deal to me,” Enfinger said. “I’ve been informed that I will be running for rookie of the year but other than that, I don’t really know.
“There’s some stuff that we’re working on and I’m excited to be here, and pumped up for next week too. I couldn’t ask for a better situation and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Townley Looking to Sweep Speedweeks
John Wes Townley has already won during Daytona Speedweeks, taking the ARCA Racing Series season-opener last Saturday. It was his second such victory at the World Center of Racing and now Townley is looking to go two-for-two by winning the season-opener in the Truck Series on Friday night.
“That win definitely helps,” Townley said. “It gives me a lot of confidence heading into Friday night. The Truck Series trucks are a lot more exaggerated in the draft than the cars but we have a full head of steam heading into the weekend.
“Athenian Motorsports is off to a fast start and we’re hoping to have a good start to our Truck Series season.”
Townley enjoyed his best overall season to date last year, and even scored his first Truck Series victory at Las Vegas. His entire team, from the crew chief to the tractor-trailer driver is back intact.
“We’ve got the band together for another season,” Townley said. “I would put my crew chief, Michael Shelton, up against anyone in the Truck Series garage. And I’ve got Terry Cook, a former driver in the Truck Series, back in the spotters’ stand.
“It’s pretty rare in this day-and-age to not lose anyone during the offseason. I’m ecstatic that all of our guys are back with us. That will bode well for us at Daytona and beyond.”