Maury Gallagher does not want his team to end up like Turner Scott Motorsports or NTS Motorsports.
He’s in it for the long haul, whether he initially planned to do so or not. As Gallagher stepped away from the tarmac onto a racetrack, he never expected to see success right off the bat.
Three years into GMS Racing’s existence, the Chevrolet team is now a NASCAR champion.
“Competitive sports like this at the highest level is something that is rare and difficult to do,” Gallagher said. “Certainly everyone aspires to it, but attaining it is something you don’t quite understand until you get there how hard it is.”
Last year, Gallagher made the biggest move of his time as a NASCAR owner. He signed highly-regarded veteran driver Johnny Sauter, who departed his long-time home at ThorSport Racing, to pilot the team’s lead truck. The move was a major coup for the team, which went from a two-truck operation to four in 2016.
Sauter’s impact was felt throughout the team right off the bat. The No. 21 truck earned GMS Racing its second triumph, winning the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, rapidly locking a spot into the Chase.
“When I talked to Mike Beam (Director of Competition, GMS Racing) on the phone the first time, my wife was in the hospital having a baby and I was in the parking deck talking to Mike on the phone about next year, or the following year,” Sauter said. “The killer instincts that Mike has, all he says is I want to win and we need to kick their butts, and it’s very motivating, for me anyway. I like to hear that kind of talk.
“Having said that, you know, I think it was very important for me to get back in a Chevrolet. I felt very strongly about that, being a GM kid.”
Entering this season, GMS Racing had one victory, coming from a dominant run in September, 2015 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway by Sprint Cup Series regular Austin Dillon.
As the team expanded, Gallagher fed more money into it.
His son, Spencer Gallagher, just wrapped up his second full-time season in the Truck Series. Still winless, he is attempting to get more sponsorship to get his father’s company, Allegiant Travel/Air, off his truck. The company was on his truck for 13 races this year, along with four events for rookie Kaz Grala and 12 contests for Sauter.
“He was terrific with the younger guys,” the elder Gallagher said. “Couldn’t ask for a better teammate, and it’s an investment. You do it, and you hope to have the outcome we had. You’d like to think that every investment pays off. It’s hard in this business, but this one has paid off in spades.”
As the organization prepares for its fourth season in the Truck Series, it will attempt to avoid the fate of its Chevrolet predecessors, several of whom ceased operations in a remarkably sudden fashion.
“I’m in the business of building businesses for the most part, and I’ve started a lot of companies in my life and you have to go places that other people don’t think you should go or can’t go,” Gallagher said. “More importantly, you have to go there with the right people, and while I didn’t expect to get to this place perhaps this fast, I certainly didn’t think we would never get there.”
Within GMS Racing’s 160,000 square feet shop in Statesville, N.C., the team built 25 frames in 2016. Gallagher praised Beam for his work, helping expand the organized as it made a smooth transition this past season.
“I think the other thing, too, is when I got started a couple years ago, I was frustrated as hell about not having good stuff compared to particularly the Toyotas out there, the Fords, in ’14 when we got going,” Gallagher said. “You know, it’s surprising but not that surprising, particularly when you get to know Mr. Beam. You ever get into that grille of his and the intensity factor that comes with him, he was not easy to talk to tonight before the race.”
For a veteran like Sauter to make the jump to a young team, he says all of the right people were in place to create success. As he held the championship trophy in front of the crowd Friday evening on the frontstretch of Homestead-Miami Speedway, he proved just that.
“As I mentioned, any successful organization in racing that I’ve ever seen, they surround themselves with people, people that work very hard and do the right things I guess a lot of times,” Sauter said. “You know, I can sit here and say that I don’t think I would have ever made this kind of move if I didn’t feel comfortable with it. When you see what we’re building, I’ve said this a thousand times, but if you check out what GMS Racing in Statesville, N.C., has to offer, the way they’re going about it, building our own chassis in house, hanging our own bodies in house, obviously we had ECR horsepower all this year.”
With a possible move to the XFINITY Series next year, GMS Racing hopes to continue the momentum from 2016 and take that success to the next level.