David Gravel has been a star on the rise in recent years, finishing third in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series standings each of the last four years and winning the famed Knoxville Nationals last summer.
The 28-year-old, who now resides in West Palm Beach, Fla., captured 44 victories with the World of Outlaws during the last four seasons — second only to 10-time series champion Donny Schatz. Gravel’s success has led to an opportunity on pavement, which will fulfill a childhood dream.
Gravel recently discussed his whirlwind of success with SPEED SPORT.
Q: How has your sprint car career aligned with the goals you envisioned?
GRAVEL: I don’t think anybody could expect to have the success the greats have had or that I have had. Going into it, you want to win your first Outlaws show and you want to be competitive. At the time Joey Saldana, Jason Meyers, Donny Schatz, Craig Dollansky were the top ones. Time flies by and boom you’re one of those guys. When I got the Roth (Motorsports) ride in 2014 and had some success that was a good sign. If you ask anybody like Donny Schatz at the beginning of his career, did he think he’d be this successful, I’m sure he would say no like I would.
Q: What is your racing dream and how do sprint cars fit into the plan?
GRAVEL: My initial goal as a young kid — 6 years old — I wanted to be a NASCAR driver. That was my first love and what I wanted to do. Growing up in Connecticut there are no dirt tracks, no sprint car racing. I saw my first sprint car race in Pennsylvania when I was 13 years old. Back home with the modified racing, I feel like there was a lot of crashing and it was hard to pass. It didn’t look as appetizing to us. The sprint car racing looked more fun and more racy. We never envisioned racing with the World of Outlaws.
Q: How did your friendship with NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon form?
GRAVEL: It came about with meeting Jeff at the Chili Bowl two years ago. I was hanging out with Rico (Abreu) at the Center Bar at the Hard Rock Casino. Jeff ended up being at our table because Rico knew him. Jeff must have watched me for a while. That night me and him talked the whole night. He wanted to get me a sponsor for the Knoxville Nationals or a ride for the truck race (at Eldora Speedway). Neither of us thought I’d go out and win the Knoxville Nationals. I guess in his eyes that validated the help.
Q: Prior to the pandemic, what was your plan for competing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series?
GRAVEL: There were a lot of talks after Knoxville. In November or December is when I found out what I was going to be getting on the NASCAR side. It was a long process. I think we were supposed to know in September. Things kept getting pushed back.
I have a six-race deal (with GMS Racing). I was supposed to run three truck races by this point (mid-June) and I haven’t got to run any. It’s been tough. I’ve been preparing, going to the simulator. To get told a week or two before that I’m not going to race because of circumstances or the race being canceled because of the pandemic has been tough.
A big thing is not practicing or qualifying right now. It’s hard to make my debut with no practice at the track before the race. I don’t get to say when I want to race because there are other drivers on the team, but I can say I’m going to race sprint cars that weekend if they offer a date. It’s going to be tough (to fit all six races in by the end of the year). Hopefully, I get at least five.
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