With 36 career wins on the World of Outlaws tour, 25-year-old David Gravel is looking for new opportunities
Gravel: “I would regret not trying to get an opportunity in the upper ranks.”
Two years ago, David Gravel joined CJB Motorsports. Right out of the gate, the team won 9 races.
In 2017, David Gravel came back with a notebook and doubled the winning percentage with 20 dirt sprint car races overall. 18 of those where on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series stage.
The 25-year-old went on to finish 3rd in series points last year, for the second year in a row. He’s the most recent winner on the 2018 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series tour. Gravel picked up the win at Tri-State Speedway last weekend.
Now, with 36 career WoO wins, he’s expressing interest in the pavement side. Not that he doesn’t love dirt racing. He’s just looking for a promotion as a professional race car driver.
So, you have interest in NASCAR?
“Sprint car racing is very demanding, physically with all the races we do. Obviously, NASCAR’s one of the ultimate things in our country,” David Gravel explains.
“That’s what I watched growing up. I didn’t know what a sprint car was until I was about 13 or 14. Coming from Connecticut, we just don’t have that stuff around.”
Connecticut. Did you ever run or have interest in the asphalt modified program?
“Oh yeah, for sure. That’s kinda what everybody did. Ryan Preece, Joey Logano, we all came from the same track. After quarter midgets, we got a legend car and did that on asphalt and also did a micro on dirt.”
“I loved the micro sprint just over the legend car for some reason. We raced at Waterford with the legend car a couple times and just ended up going the dirt route. It’s something I just liked a little bit more.”
“Looking back at it, those legend cars aren’t very nice cars and the micro just suited us better. I started racing in Massachusetts then moved to racing in Pennsylvania every week. We saw our first sprint car racing and started moving up from there.”
I heard you mention that it’s hard on the body. Do you have injuries?
“Not that I have injuries. But, I’ve gotten into some bad wrecks over the years. Just open wheel racing, it’s more dangerous than NASCAR.”
“Sprint car racing, safety wise, has come a long way with seats and head/neck devices. But, the frames have been the same for 25 years probably. It’s just a little bit different in that aspect.”
“We don’t have safer barriers like NASCAR tracks do. Some fences are scary at some places. Just stuff like that.”
In my mind, you’re already in the ultimate race car. Would you be as excited to be in NASCAR from a driving perspective?
“Well, I can’t answer that question because I’ve never driven one before. But, there’s no doubt in my mind that a sprint car is the top-3 or top-5 most thrilling race cars out there to drive.”
“I feel like a Formula 1 car would be pretty insane on a tight course. I think those trophy trucks look like a lot of fun also. When talking to Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, and Brad Sweet it’s definitely not as intense.”
“Not that they’re easier to drive. But, a little bit more lax because of how long the races are. So, I don’t know, I couldn’t answer that question fairly.”
“But, I don’t think much compares to a sprint car that has 900 horsepower and weighs only 1400 pounds. There’s not much that competes with that.”
Some fans might not like that you have that goal. I think you saw a little of that on twitter. So, what do you say to the avid dirt racing fan when you state that you want a chance in NASCAR?
“Well, I responded to him. He said his favorite racer was Steve Kinser, it took awhile to pick a new one and he chose me. Me response was, ‘Well, didn’t Steve try NASCAR and Indycar?’ You know, over the years, he tried both.”
“He was still a fan of his. I think people just love dirt racin’ so much and they’re very loyal. They do think NASCAR isn’t as exciting as sprint car racing. That’s obviously very debatable.”
“I think he’d still be a fan of mine no matter what. He obviously wants to see me at the sprint car races every week. But, just because I want a shot at NASCAR doesn’t mean I would stop sprint car racing all together.”
“It seems like all the dirt guys that are in NASCAR pretty much still race on dirt at least a couple times a year. Once you do it for awhile and then you try something different it’s probably something you still crave very much.”
Have you reached out to NASCAR teams before? Or has the door ever opened in any way for you?
“Honestly, no. I haven’t been going to teams and asking or anything like that. I have friends that are drivers and some friends that are crew members”
“I’ve seen Tony Stewart multiple times but I’ve never asked him. Is that a mistake? Maybe.”
“I typically don’t like to force things on people. I’m hoping that one day somebody calls me and gives me an opportunity. But, that might also be the wrong way to do it.”
“I know nowadays it has a lot to do with finances. I wish that we had millions of dollars. But, we don’t. I’ll just try to do my job correctly and win as many races as I can. In my mind, if I do win a bunch of races then an opportunity will come about.”
“I think I should maybe be more involved in talking to people. But, it’s also tough with our season, racing 90+ times per year. It takes a lot of mental focus and the year flies by, I’ll tell you that.”
90 races. Is there just as much testing time?
“No. Really, we don’t have any time for testing. People can. But, us racing on dirt tracks it just takes a lot for the officials to prep the race track.”
“We only have 3 months off in the off-season and then we’re racing down in Florida. It takes the guys at least 2 months to get everything ready to roll again.”
“There just really isn’t too much time for it. Once the season has started, there’s zero time.”
It’s interesting to here you say that. I know for a fact that on the late model side, those guys are testing all the damn time. Just as much as they’re racing.
“Yeah. Late model guys race just as much. Or some, even more than us. They got that St. Louis race. They got a lot of stuff.”
Which NASCAR track would you be most excited to run?
“Well, obviously Daytona is the biggest NASCAR race and Indy would be really cool.”
“But, as a drivers track… I’ve always liked Richmond and Bristol. I always liked the short tracks for some reason. Definitely those two tracks would be on the top of the list.”
NASCAR recently bought ARCA. At what level would you consider crossing over? Would it have to be a Truck ride? An Xfinity ride? Or would you consider stepping in at the ARCA or K&N levels?
“Preferably, I’d like it to be a truck ride. Or a K&N. I don’t know. I know the licensees and stuff, you gotta have experience. I would like to start out as high as I can with the right opportunity.”
“Running the ARCA Series worked out for Chase Briscoe. Somebody that just worked hard and stayed dedicated in North Carolina and got an opportunity ARCA. Then, ended up winning the championship and several races.”
“Now, he’s hooked up with Ford pretty well and gets to drive all types of different cars right now.”
Chase Briscoe was the 2016 ARCA Racing Series champion. For 2017, he drove in the NASCAR Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing where he picked up a win and the ‘Most Popular Driver’ awared.
At the end of 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing closed it’s doors after winning their last race ever, Chase Briscoe was that driver. In 2018, he’s is now co-piloting a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste and another car with Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. On top of that, he’s still at the dirt tracks along with another part-time ride in the IMSA Continental Series.
“I guess, whatever comes about I would be happy for. I can’t demand anything. I’m just here to race for a living and that’s all I wanna do. I don’t really care what kind of car it is.”
“It’s just like anything else. It would be like getting a promotion if you made it to NASCAR. You always want to try to reach the ultimate.”
“Coming from Connecticut, I just didn’t grow up around the dirt tracks and the World of Outlaws. Not because we didn’t like it. Just coming from Connecticut, it wasn’t available. NASCAR and modified racing was more available for us.”
“I love sprint car racing dearly and it’s awesome. But, I would regret not trying to get an opportunity in the upper ranks. It’s one of the ultimates. You wanna at least experience that and try to get that chance.”
In the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series ranks, Donny Schatz is the man to beat. But, that’s nothing new. Schatz has collected 269 wins in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series alone. Along the way, he’s also claimed 9 series championships.
Schatz currently sits 3rd on the all-time World of Outlaws winners list. At 25-years-old, Gravel is 17th on that same list with 36 wins.
Schatz has won the last 4 championships in a row on the Outlaws tour. How do you beat Donny Schatz?
“He’s won a lot of championships. He is the most consistent guy out there. He’s just really good at what he does.”
“He’s been with the same team for over 10 years. They just have a really strong team. How do you beat him? I think it just takes time to be good 90 times a year. Consistency and not having part failures and not crash out of races.”
David Gravel won 18 races last year, Schatz won 20. Shane Stewart was 3rd on the wins list for the 2017 season with 8 wins. Gravel was right with him in the wins department.
“We were on par with him as far as winning races. It was just a little bit of consistency. We weren’t bad at consistency. He’s just exceptionally well.”
Let’s say you do go to NASCAR. Would there be a certain dollar amount where you go, ‘Ok, I’m done with NASCAR, I’m going to go back to the dirt?’
“No, I don’t think so. It all depends on your happiness level. You see some drivers go to a team and have a great career like Jimmie Johnson. Or Kasey Kahne at Evernham and then kinda struggled at Hendrick.”
“So, it all depends. If you’re with a good team and you’re having a good time and love what you’re doing, I think you’ll stay as long as you want. As long as you’re welcome.”
“I guess it all depends on your situation. A dollar number isn’t really all that important to me. As long as I can race for a living. Family time and holidays, all that stuff’s important too. When we’re on the road racing so so much. I’m lucky to get home once a month. Sometimes it’s once every two or three months.”
“Stuff like that just makes it a little harder. In NASCAR, you’re literally home every week. You’re home the night of the race typically. That makes it a little nicer and easier on your family, that’s for sure.”