Marty Gaunt is taking things in stride at Daytona International Speedway.
The Gaunt Brothers Racing team owner participated in a Toyota manufacturer and team owner availability session Saturday, and was as upbeat as he could be. Gaunt will not have his No. 96 Toyota in the Daytona 500 field after driver Daniel Suarez was involved in an accident in his Duel race and had no safety net to fall back on.
Gaunt even made the room erupt in laughter by being able to inject just a small bit of humor into the situation. As fellow single-car team owner Bob Leavine was about to field a question about his hauler being parked on the front side of the garage, Gaunt jumped in: “He’s inside the garage,” said Gaunt as he patted Leavine on the back.
Missing the season-opening Daytona 500 is both a setback and, naturally, a huge disappointing for Gaunt Brothers Racing. How big a setback will it be for the team? Gaunt said he isn’t sure there is a proper answer.
“It’s definitely a setback because, again, we did not plan to come down here and miss this race,” said Gaunt. “We’ve been fortunate to make it the last three years. But when we were putting the deal together, we all understood the risk was Daytona. This is the one that’s going to be the hardest race of the year, and it’s our Super Bowl, so it’s a disappointment. As every hour goes by, I can say it gets a little bit better; but I think tomorrow when they start the race, it’ll get worse for us because we’re not in it.”
Gaunt and Suarez announced their partnership for 2020 at the end of January. With it, Gaunt is embarking on his first full season in the NASCAR Cup Series as the organization has run just 38 races since debuting in 2017. That includes 14 last year with Parker Kligerman.
Gaunt Brothers Racing does receive TRD motors and engineering support.
“Having Daniel on board — he did everything he was supposed to do during the race,” Gaunt reflected on Thursday night. “We were running 10th, 12th during the race, we were in good shape, the car had good speed, we were drafting with our Toyota teammates — everything was looking good. We had to get through the pit stop, that happened, and then … unfortunately, it’s racing.
“So, it’s a setback. But like I say, as every hour goes by, it gets better. I flew home Thursday night, spent the day in the shop with the guys on Friday,
and then flew back this morning. But right now, we’re focusing on getting to Las Vegas, and we’ve got to get out of the gate. We thought here we’d get out of the gate and build some momentum and get into Vegas, but it’s a huge learning experience, and it’s just something that we’re just going to have to work through.”