In a racing environment where the rides often go to the drivers who bring money to the team owners, Grant Enfinger has proven it’s still possible to achieve success in one of the sport’s top series through sacrifice, hard work and talent.
During the week, the 30-year-old Enfinger works in GMS Racing’s Statesville shop as a mechanic, sometimes putting in a 12-hour day. Then, when sponsorship is available, the Huntersville resident climbs into one of the cars on which he’s worked and challenges for a trip to victory lane.
“This is by far the best situation I’ve been in at GMS Racing,” Enfinger said. “It’s been a struggle. It’s still a struggle, but it’s been getting better and better. I’ve been blessed with a lot of good opportunities to get this far.”
In the ARCA Racing Series season opener Feb. 14 at Daytona, Enfinger successfully defended his title in the Lucas Oil 200.
However, just a few weeks before the 20-race season’s beginning, Enfinger didn’t know when he would get to drive again. He was without a ride and sponsorship despite producing a stellar 2014 season in which he recorded six victories, 11 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes, one pole, and a second-place finish in the point standings.
“They kept me with a job and kept me working here through the winter, so I had a working job I just didn’t have a driving job,” Enfinger said about GMS Racing.
A few weeks before the Daytona race, team owner Maurice Gallagher secured the financial backing needed for Enfinger to compete in the event. Now, it appears Enfinger will be able to again challenge for the ARCA championship.
“We still have to have some sponsorship to finish out the year, but we’re on the right track and everybody is moving in the right direction now,” said Enfinger, who led 1,075 laps last year and has already pocketed 36 this season. “It’s kind of a roller-coaster in the racing world. We’re on the good side of it right now.
“There have been a lot of changes (at the team) over the winter. They’ve got a new competition director (former NASCAR crew chief Mike Beam). It’s all going forward right now for GMS Racing.”
After last year’s successful season, Enfinger admitted it was disappointing to initially be without a sponsor and a ride for 2015, but he wasn’t surprised.
“I’ve been through a lot of peaks and valleys (in racing) and at the end of the day this is a business and it’s all about sponsorship dollars,” he said.
Last season, Enfinger won ARCA’s first three races. He hopes to repeat that feat this year as the series heads for the Fairhope, Ala., native’s home track – Mobile International Speedway – on March 14.
“That’s a good one for me because all of the people that normally can’t come to the ARCA races will be at that one for us,” Enfinger said about the season’s second race. “That’s one that’s always circled on the schedule.”
Enfinger enjoys returning home where he began racing go-karts at age 11. He moved into Legend cars four years later, collecting more than 50 victories and the Alabama Pro Legends division state title twice.
He then honed his driving talent on the short tracks in super late models. He’s competed in the Snowball Derby eight consecutive years and has finished second twice in the prestigious short-track event.
In NASCAR, Enfinger has competed in six Camping World Truck Series races with his best finish of 12th coming three times, once in 2011 at Talladega and twice in 2012 at Daytona and Las Vegas. He also attempted to qualify for the Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead in 2011.
It’s been ARCA, however, where he has enjoyed his most success since transitioning from the super late model ranks. In 72 races, he’s earned nine victories, 33 top-five and 49 top-10 finishes, and led 1,642 laps. But he’s discovered that placing a timetable on his driving career is impossible.
“I tried that when I moved up here seven or eight years ago and I’m done with that,” said Enfinger, who moved to North Carolina after earning a marketing degree from the University of South Alabama. “I tried to set goals and everything was dependent on other people and other situations.”
Enfinger didn’t have a job when he moved to North Carolina, but he soon found one: first with Corey Stott Racing and then Andy Belmont Racing, where he drove the team hauler and worked in the shop.
Eventually, he convinced that team to allow him to drive its start-and-park car. He qualified well and soon landed a sponsor that allowed him to compete in a few races. This year will be his third full-time season in ARCA and he would like to progress into NASCAR’s top three national touring series.
“That’s always been the goal, but the No. 1 focus is making a living driving competitive race cars,” Enfinger said. “Hopefully, as time goes on it can work into the higher ranks, but I’m very, very blessed to be here at GMS Racing. Like I said, this is definitely the best situation I’ve been in.”
Concord kicks off March Madness
Concord Speedway officials have taken a different approach this year to kicking off their 2015 season.
Instead of conducting races that will determine the track champions, the March Madness Championship this month will be comprised of INEX point events. This month’s champions will be honored April 3 when speedway officials begin the track championship point events.
The March Madness races are run every Saturday with the gates opening at 9 a.m. Pit passes are $25 for adults and $15 for those ages 15 and younger. The entry fees are $40 for Legends and $20 for Bandoleros with the winner in the Open Legend Class receiving $500.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Deb? Email her at email@example.com.