MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – David Gravel seemingly always finds himself chasing someone as the calendar flips to the month of October.
The latest task: overcoming 120-point margin to World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series championship leader Brad Sweet with nine races left.
“I‘m not really worried about it,” Gravel said. “It‘s a pretty big gap. If I gain 50, 60 points [on Sweet] the next two weeks, maybe I‘d start to worry about it. Right now, man, trying to go out and win races.”
That takes Gravel‘s latest big-game hunt with Big Game Motorsports to this weekend‘s National Open at Williams Grove Speedway. Friday’s program feature s a 25-lap prelude to Saturday’s 40-lap, $75,000-to-win spectacle, and that‘s where Gravel‘s tone shifts.
“I am motivated to win that race,” Gravel said. “To win it the third time would be pretty awesome.”
At 29, Gravel has already made a strong case for being one of the best drivers in sprint car history to never win a World of Outlaws title.
If all stays well and he continues to do what he‘s developed a knack for – win the big races – a championship will eventually come.
Being a Knoxville Nationals champion currently tops his list of achievements. He added to it last April, sweeping the inaugural Bristol Throwdown at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
A third National Open title this weekend would put him in elite company alongside Doug Wolfgang, Kenny Weld, Steve Smith and Stevie Smith. Only Donny Schatz (six), Steve Kinser (four) and Lance Dewease (four) have more.
Ten wins with Big Game Motorsports this year runs his victory total to 61 on the World of Outlaws tour since 2016, behind only Schatz (86) and Sweet (62). Closing the gap hinges on one skill.
“Consistency,” Gravel said, “with me and me with a team. Every time we try to make a run at it, something comes up and things change.
What Gravel alludes to is running for three teams – CJB Motorsports, Jason Johnson Racing and Big Game – the past four years whereas Sweet and Schatz have stayed with one team since 2008. As far as statisitics, Gravel simply wants to finish more in the top five and fall out of races less.
“Those are the things I know needs to be done,” Gravel said. “As a team, and as a driver, even if you know what to do, it‘s tough, you know? It‘s not easy to accomplish what they do, [Brad Sweet and the No. 49 team]. Over time, the more you do it, the smarter you get.”
Gravel is still young. Schatz didn‘t win his first title until he was 29.
For Sweet, title No. 1 didn‘t happen until he was 34, and it took lost hopes in NASCAR for him to reach his sprint car prime.
Gravel approaches similar terrain.
“It‘s pretty much dead,” Gravel said if there‘s any NASCAR hopes beyond last year‘s two Camping World Truck Series starts. “It requires funding to make it all work. Nobody has called. My phone hasn‘t rang with any offers to do anything.
“For me, I‘m focused on the task at hand and try to be a successful sprint car driver, to win as many races as I can,” Gravel continued. “At the end of the day I have to put food on the table, that‘s what I’m doing.
“I‘m in a good place,” he added. “I‘m with a car owner who wants me here, who believes in me 100 percent and I know I have some security.
“We‘re learning, we‘re trying to build our stock up, build our inventory up, and know what we need for years to come,” Gravel said. “This is just the beginning.”