Dreams often come and go. It appeared that Grant Enfinger’s dream of racing in NASCAR’s top divisions might never come true after years of a strenuous sponsorship hunt.
But when GMS Racing picked him up after Howard Bixman’s Team BCR scaled back in the middle of a runner-up season in the ARCA Racing Series, it gave Enfinger hope at a fresh start in stock car racing. The next season, he went on to win the championship, earning six triumphs on the year and leading 29 percent of laps run (792 of 2,727 laps).
Finally, the Alabama native earned a part-time opportunity to move to the Camping World Truck Series, being scheduled for seven races with GMS Racing. And Enfinger made the most of his chance to compete in NASCAR, winning at Talladega Superspeedway in October, leading 45 of 94 laps en route to holding off teammate Spencer Gallagher for the win.
Thanks to the success Enfinger had in 2016, one of his dreams came true. Now behind the wheel for ThorSport Racing, the 32-year-old is racing full-time in the Truck Series, starting off the year with a pair of top 20s, including a top 10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Frontstretch spoke with Enfinger prior to the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, discussing his new opportunity, his time with GMS Racing and what the future holds.
Joseph Wolkin, Frontstretch.com: How much does the opportunity of getting to race full-time in the Truck Series mean to you?
Grant Enfinger: It’s definitely a dream come true for me. It’s something I’ve been working my whole life for. I’ve been beating my head against the wall for quite a few years, but I’m very fortunate and blessed to be in a good situation with good people around me and with everyone sharing the same goal.
Wolkin: You have won 15 ARCA Series races, but what kept you from moving through the rankings in the past?
Enfinger: A lot of it is just situations and sponsorship. It is kind of hard to get everybody involved on the same page at the same time. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of good people supporting me and not getting up on me. I think it’s going to make this year even more special, knowing how hard we’ve all worked for it.
Wolkin: What has the biggest struggle been for you in terms of finding sponsorship?
Enfinger: It’s the same struggle a lot of people in this industry have. It costs a lot of money to go pick-up truck racing and it’s crazy. We’re fortunate enough that we have some good partners with JIVE Communications, Champion Power Equipment, RIDE TV and Curb Records. We don’t want to just take someone’s sponsorship money and not be able to deliver. It’s all about trying to position yourself with companies and guys you trust to help them sell products. That’s what it’s all about and it’s the only way you can make it work long-term.
Wolkin: How do you work to give back to those sponsors?
Enfinger: It’s about doing events like we did a couple of hours ago [Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway] with Champion Power Equipment. At a lot of these races, we actually find campers in the infield and outside the track that have Champion generators, and we go meet with them and talk with them.
A lot of times, we’ll give them some hero cards, koozies and stuff like that. We try to find their guys and their customers to be part of it. With a company like JIVE, it’s about connecting them to other businesses that can actually use their phone systems. It’s the name of the game, and it’s very difficult. You can ask any driver out here and they’ll tell you how difficult the sponsorship aspect is.
Wolkin: Last year, you had the opportunity to compete with GMS Racing in the Truck Series. What was the environment like moving up with the team from ARCA to trucks?
Enfinger: Everybody at the shop worked with me because I worked with them in the shop. Everybody was behind me and I had a great relationship with all of those guys. They were all amped-up that I was getting the opportunity to race in the Truck Series, and we had everyone’s support over there. I think it is even better here at ThorSport. I had a relationship with a lot of the guys who are over here already.
I’m not spending every day at the shop, but I’ve been spending quite a bit of time there. We’ve all been getting along really well. It’s kind of different for me because I’m a hands-on type of driver who works every day on my own stuff. But now, I have to take a bit of a step back. I’ll try to help those guys when and if I can, but for the most part, they have it handled. We have some good guys led by Jeff Hensley, and I feel really blessed to be in the situation that I’m in.
Wolkin: How did this deal come about?
Enfinger: We had some some stuff going and (David) Pepper (General Manager, ThorSport Racing) called me while I was at the Snowball Derby and we got to talking there. Through another mutual friend of ours, he found out we had nothing done. He thought our deal was done and it wasn’t. We got to talking and it took a lot of hard work for a few weeks, then we got it all done.
Wolkin: Do you feel like the win at Talladega helped you land this ride?
Enfinger: Definitely, not just from a ThorSport Racing mentality, but it’s big for our sponsors. I feel like everybody had confidence that we can get the job done. Now, we’ve actually done it. We just need to get it more consistent at it.
Wolkin: Once again, you are working with multiple teammates, with one of them being a veteran, followed by a few younger guys. How are you going to be feeding off of them this year?
Enfinger: I can promise you I’ll be leaning on all three of them as much as I can. Obviously, Matt (Crafton) has been there and has done everything I am trying to do. I’m going to be leaning on him a lot. But you learn from every lap you make out there and every driver you talk to. I’ll be on hopefully the same page with all three of my teammates every week and trying to do my part when debriefing about what we’ve learned and what helped and hurt us. Hopefully, it will make all four of us stronger.
Wolkin: What are your expectations for this season? Do you feel like you have a shot at the title?
Enfinger: Absolutely. It’s the only reason we’re out here doing this. It’s to go out here, win races and win the championship. It’s everybody’s goal. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say we can’t do that. I’m a rookie still and I’m going to places I haven’t been to before. But we have some teammates. I’m really happy with my crew chief, Jeff Hensley. What I lack in some of these new places, he’ll be able to step it up.
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