For Spencer Gallagher, a simple walk through the garage area can encourage more attention then any other driver in the Camping World Truck Series.
Sporting his “Run GMS” shirt – based off the American hip hop group Run-D.M.C. – to show his GMS Racing heritage, the 26-year-old makes his passion for extroversion no mystery week-in and week-out.
“It’s attention-getting, isn’t it,” said Gallagher, who kept his red, white and blue shades tucked in his pants pocket. “It came to me just one day, no big flash of inspiration. It’s eye-catching, it’s nice to wear around the garage. It lets everyone know exactly who I’m here for.
“I try and stand out.”
Though nobody can argue that fact, the Las Vegas native has also drawn attention on the racetrack in 2016 as the No. 23 GMS Racing team has gathered five consecutive top-10 finishes – by far the longest of Gallagher’s Truck Series career.
Sitting fourth in points after a sixth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway – a race he called a “championship day” after overcoming early struggles – Gallagher gives the credit to the close-knit GMS organization for the recent run of results.
“I don’t think it’s any one thing,” he said. “I think we’re just starting to click well as a unit. We have Jeff Hensley working with us in the crew chief position this year and the rest of it is pretty much the same [No.] 23 team. We’ve been working hard to get to this level and above and beyond so it’s nice to see that consistency paying off.”
Consistency, in itself, is something difficult to accomplish in the early months of the Truck Series. With only three races before the month of May, Gallagher is happy to be finally in the “meat of the season” where momentum can truly play a role.“It makes it hard when you’re not racing for weeks at a time,” he said. “It’s such a stop-and-start, stop-and-start to your momentum. That’s when it’s nice when you get to the meat of the season and that’s why I’m happy right now. We get to race for a couple weeks solid now and go enjoy ourselves in these trucks.”
In the meantime, however, Gallagher has raced in the XFINITY Series this season, as he made his debut at Phoenix International Raceway for Maury Gallagher. Making two more starts at Fontana and Richmond, Gallagher has found an immense level of appreciation for the top teams running on Saturdays.
“No big surprises, it just kind of confirmed what I knew,” Gallagher said. “If you want to be up front in the XFINITY Series, you’ve got to be the real deal because you’re not running against Kyle Busch Motorsports or Brad Keselowski Racing. No, you’re against cars who are being fielded by [Joe] Gibbs and [Roger] Penske.
“It’s not William Byron and Christopher Bell – talented though they are – driving it. You’re driving against Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski and all the other Cup drivers that come down from Sunday. If you’re up front in the XFINITY Series, you’re the real deal. So that was a very big lesson to me.”
Hot off his first full-time season in NASCAR competition in the Truck Series, Gallagher is the first to give credit to those who shed experience onto his shoulders through this learning process up the ladder.
“You try to pick up everything you can everywhere from observing those Cup guys,” he said. “If you want to beat them on Sunday, you’ve got to be able to beat them on Saturday. It’s always a good experience when you can see what that level of competition looks like.”
In particular, GMS teammate Johnny Sauter, who brings 85 Sprint Cup Series races worth of experience to the team in 2016, has given Gallagher a strong dose of lessons in 2016.
“Johnny has been invaluable this entire season so far,” he said. “It’s great to have someone that’s been so successful at every level of the sport in one of your trucks helping you make the right decisions week-in and week-out. You can’t say enough about the value of a guy like that.”Among the unique aspects of GMS Racing is the variation of drivers that make laps each season. So far in 2016, Cup drivers like Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson joined ARCA Series champion Grant Enfinger and Truck veteran Ben Kennedy as drivers for GMS.
“I think it really speaks to the diversity and strength of GMS this year, that we’ve had as many big-name drivers as we’ve had come along,” he said. “We had Kyle Larson running up front for us at Martinsville. We had Clint Bowyer in our truck at Kansas. You know, these are big-name guys and it shows that we’ve really arrived as a team and we’re a force to be reckoned with every weekend.
“When you can get a fresh pair of eyes that’s coming down from the Cup Series and have them run your equipment, that’s some of the best feedback you’re going to get anywhere. You know those guys have a very refined sense of the feel they’re looking for. And they’ll tell you exactly what they think you need to do to get there. That’s invaluable.”
On the other side of the table is Kaz Grala, the 17-year-old who made his Truck debut with GMS at Martinsville before returning at Dover in the No. 33 Chevrolet. Having the youngster on the team has given Gallagher a path to pass on racing experience of his own.
“Kaz is a really great kid to have around. He is a barrel of fun at every racetrack,” he sais. “It’s been great finally getting to share some of the things I’ve learned and experienced in my starts in a truck and pass them on. Any time I can help speed someone else’s learning curve, that’s what I try to do.
“I had a couple people helping me out when I was younger in my career and I remember the things they did to shorten that learning curve for me that were tremendous. That’s something I try to pass on.”
With 51 ARCA starts preceding his rookie Truck effort in 2015, Gallagher says his biggest lesson learned has been centered around cohesiveness and why it’s most important toward being successful.
“I think the biggest lesson I learned was just the value of having cohesiveness with your team,” he said. “When you can all work as a unit instead of trying to chase off in this direction or that – when you can all pull together in the same direction, you accomplish things so much more effectively, so much faster. You see the results that you’re looking for when you can all work together as a team.”
With a stable, growing organization behind him, Gallagher is in prime position to showcase his personality on and off the track. As legendary NFL player Joe Namath once said: “When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”Through the process of making his way onto the NASCAR stage, Gallagher hasn’t lost an ounce of appreciation for what he gets to do each week. If you ask him, he’s one of the luckiest men alive.
“You’ll know what I’m thinking at any given day because I tell it to you,” he said. “I’m one of those guys – this was never my intended career path, so I try not to take what I so every day for granted. I wake up and I say to myself ‘Oh my god, I’m a racecar driver. How cool is that?’
“I love what I do and I wear that on my sleeve. I’m not afraid to tell people and I think they respond to it. I want people to know [that] I love what I do. This is great. We get to drive racecars for a living, how cool is that? We’re the envy of 99.9 percent of the population of the whole world and I’m not supposed to be excited about that?
“This is a beautiful, wonderful sport and we are all so lucky to be a part of it. I think everyone should be all smiles here, honestly.”
Like every other racecar driver since the dawn of motor vehicles, Gallagher has seen his share of low times. Needless to say, his gratitude pays bonus during those tough times.
“Racing is a sport of the highest highs and the lowest lows,” he said. “You find yourself in those low moments, that’s what helps me keep my head on straight. It’s to remind myself that next week I’m going to sit back in the seat and do a job that millions would give their kidneys to do. I probably shouldn’t be too upset if we have a rough weekend.”
To join the colorful outlook on the sport, Gallagher is able to still keep one eye on the prize: A Truck Series championship.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s serious business,” he said. “It is serious freaking business when you get our there and race because there’s competition, there’s bragging rights and there’s real money on the line. But at the same time, win, lose or draw, I always remember that next week I’m going to be sitting in a racecar again and that brings a smile back to my face.”
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