The 2018 Speedweeks were good to Spencer Gallagher.
The son of GMS Racing owner Maurice Gallagher Jr. watched on Friday night as his family’s No. 21 truck of Johnny Sauter won the Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway. The younger Gallagher represented his father in the media center after the race and displayed that he could one day run the team.
The next day, Gallagher raced his No. 23 NASCAR XFINITY Series car to a sixth-place finish in the PowerShares QQQ 300 (or 357 if you account for overtime).
“This is a huge milestone for GMS,” Gallagher said. “This is a huge milestone for me as a driver. That’s the best I’ve felt in an XFINITY car at a plate track.”
It was Gallagher’s third career top-10 finish and his second at Daytona. Gallagher was eighth in the July Daytona race in 2016.
“I think it puts us on the right foot forward,” Gallagher said. “This is a great way to start the season. … We showed the rest of the field we’re here and we’re here to play, so watch out for us.”
Gallagher started the race in fourth and scored points in both of the stages with a ninth and a fifth.
“[We were] hauling ass from the drop of the green flag, got to really learn a lot watching the masters of the craft go around there,” Gallagher said. “We were able to stay in there, stay with a good crowd around the top 10 for most of the day.”
Despite the race being a complete wreck-fest, Gallagher kept his Chevrolet Camaro in one piece — at least for the scheduled distance of the race. In the second overtime, Gallagher made contact with Ross Chastain and spun out on the backstretch. It left the No. 23 with a dent behind the left front tire, and a ride through the grass tore up the left side splitter.
“Surprisingly, it’s not that dent you want to look at, it’s the lack of a left side splitter [as slowing the car down],” Gallagher said. “And surprisingly, for not having half the splitter, [the car drove] pretty darn good. I really though we might have been in trouble there after that hit. I could hear it dragging and see it shooting sparks from under the hood.
“But by god, bring home the trophy or burn it down,” Gallagher said. “She hung on quite well.”
Gallagher survived the remaining three overtimes to limp the car to a top 10.
“By god, this team did not give up,” Gallagher said. “We rallied back and pulled a sixth place out of our butts somehow.
The race went 23 laps longer than it was scheduled, making it the longest in NXS history at Daytona.
“That was a ‘Thrilla from Florida,'” Gallagher said. “It was the race that wouldn’t end for a good while… but it just builds excitement for the fans. That’s what we’ll call it. I knew it was going to be longer, but I didn’t know how much longer, but man, I had to pee them last couple of laps.”