Marty Gaunt is reminded weekly of the progress his single-car team is making, even if it takes someone else – like David Wilson of Toyota – to deliver the message.
For example, when the No. 96 Toyota of Daniel Suarez finished 30th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the second race of the year, Gaunt admitted he was disappointed and somewhat embarrassed.
“But (David) said, ‘Yeah, but the week before you didn’t run,’” said Gaunt, referencing their DNQ for the Daytona 500. “I said, ‘You’re absolutely correct.’ Then we went to California and were 28th. We got to Phoenix and were 21st.”
That progress, has helped Gaunt and his organization put missing the Daytona 500 behind them. It was a setback at the time, and certainly a hard pill to swallow. But Gaunt says it has only been brought up twice since leaving Florida, one of which being during his conversation with The Racing Writer’s Podcast.
“It hasn’t affected us, as crazy as that sounds moving forward,” said Gaunt. “There’s a financial piece that goes along with that that didn’t happen and will not happen. But that is what it is, and we can’t change the result, and that’s behind us.”
Gaunt Brothers Racing is competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series this year for the first time in its short history. The team debuted in the 2017 Daytona 500 and didn’t make its second start until the 2018 Daytona 500. From 2017-19, GBR, with five different drivers, ran 38 races.
Going from a part-time to full-time effort is a monumental task. Gaunt didn’t start building for the full-time endeavor until January. The extra two or three months the team could have had by starting at the end of 2019 would have been beneficial.
“The biggest challenge, and the challenge we face every day, is the people aspect of this sport, getting all the correct people into place. And that is not done overnight,” says Gaunt. “We were literally out trying to recruit in mid-January where all the people that were available for 2020 and beyond had already accepted jobs and other positions with other teams.
“That is the hardest piece of it right nowm going from part-time to full-time. Hey, we can all go buy parts and pieces and trucks and trailers, for the most part, and we had a lot of those in place from running part-time. The biggest thing is the personnel, and people are what make NASCAR cars go. We’re up against teams that have been racing 25-plus years, so we don’t have the parts and pieces that a Joe Gibbs or Stewart-Haas or Hendrick or Roush, Penske. But they’ve been putting those parts and pieces in place for years, along with their personnel.”
Suarez is the team’s hired hand this year. At 28, Suarez is driving for his third team in the Cup Series, and he is in the unfamiliar territory of having to help build an organization; his previous stints having come with championship-winning organizations in Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.
Gaunt broke into NASCAR in the late 1990s, working with Michael Kranefuss at Kranefuss-Haas Racing. In addition to learning from Kranefuss, Gaunt also got to learn from Roger Penske when the two operations merged. Gaunt has also spent time working for Red Bull Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Robby Gordon Racing.
“Daniel is young; he’s an aggressive race car driver, so that can’t be my mentality that I run out of patience, because if you run out of patience, you’re going to run out of time very quickly,” said Gaunt. “I have to be patient. Now, there’s [times] inside of me that I’m impatient, but I can’t show that. Obviously, Daniel wants to go faster next week than we did the previous week. We’re all about that, we’re all on board with that. But you have to understand that Daniel came from Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas, and we’ve had this discussion several times – he came from a team that’s been established for 20-plus years, they’ve both won championships and races and sat on poles. We have done none of those, none of the above. We are building a team.
“I can have more patience because I can look back on my experience, all the way back to the ‘90s when I was at Kranefuss-Haas and trying to make the Daytona 500 in 1997. Then, fast-forward to starting our own truck team, and knowing the trials and tribulations and the parts and pieces and people you have to put together to get that thing up and running. To Red Bull, when we started, and we ran the old car and the new car, the COT car, the same year, and unfortunately, we missed races, but so did so many other new teams that were coming into the sport at that time.
“So I can learn from that; I can look back from that and go, you know what, those days past but you have to learn from your mistake and build on it.
“With that, I have more patience because as the years go on, you hope you gained some more wisdom, and you can lean on that. And Daniel hasn’t been exposed to that. Like I said, he came from Joe Gibbs and Stewart-Haas, race-winning established organizations, and we’re not there yet by any means. I think him being impatient is OK. I don’t know if you really want a patient driver inside the car because then you get mediocrity as a race result.”
For Gaunt, whether it’s missing the Daytona 500 or just trying to improve from week to week, it’s all about looking out the windshield and tackling the next objective.
Listen to the full conversation with Gaunt below: