DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For sophomore ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards driver Gus Dean (@gusdean), he has a love-hate relationship with Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, site of Saturday afternoon’s Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 driven by General Tire.
The “World Center of Racing” is the place of Dean’s ARCA debut in 2016, plus the origin of priceless memories through the years with his family.
But on the race track, the 2.5-mile speedway has swallowed the former ARCA winner in back-to-back crashes two laps in 2016 and 49 laps into last February’s ARCA season-opener.
The Bluffton, S.C. native though is keeping his head high and returns to Daytona hoping he’s paid his dues and can draft to a strong finish in this weekend’s 80-lap roar.
“I love Daytona, but for some reason, I don’t think the track likes me,” Dean joked. “In all seriousness, the place takes my breath away every time I set foot on the ground. The last two races haven’t gone the way I hoped, but this is a new season and I’m confident we’ll make it to the checkered flag on Saturday.”
Dean is no stranger to finishing first on a superspeedway.
In 2016, the 23-year-old bounced back from his Daytona disaster to win a nail-biting race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway nearly two and a half months later. Dean’s first career ARCA victory opened the door to his relationship with GREE Cooling Products which returns with the rising star for the third consecutive season.
“It sure would be great to rekindle that magic we had at Talladega a couple years ago,” Dean recalled. “Unlike Daytona, everything came together and we ended the race in Victory Lane. It sure would be cool to do that again this weekend.”
The accomplished short track racer says he is feeling more confident about his Win-Tron Racing team’s superspeedway program after his No. 32 GREE Chevrolet whipped up the fourth quickest lap during preseason testing at Daytona in mid-January.
While the team has passed that car onto teammate Daniel Sasnett, newly recruited crew chief Jamie Jones has assured Dean that his primary car is better than the one he wheeled last month.
“I have a new crew chief this season and he believes this car that the team is bringing to the track this week will be pretty stout,” added Dean.
“Of course, there’s a little reluctance about not going back to the track with that same car, but Kevin (Cywinski, team owner) and the guys on this Win-Tron Racing team have assured me that we’re going to be more than fine.
“So, I’m good. That trust works both ways.”
With new associate marketing Baker Distributing joining Dean and GREE for the 2018 season, the South Carolinian says his team has gone through major overhauls during the offseason to prepare them for another championship opportunity.
However, Dean knows that a good finish at Daytona will give them the boost they need to start of the new season on the right foot.
“We lost a lot of points last year with our wreck,” Dean added. “I think that hindered us a little bit as we were having to try and play catchup for most of the year.
“I have a gut feeling that my No. 32 GREE / Baker Distributing Chevrolet will be the best superspeedway car I’ve had at Win-Tron Racing and it should offer the opportunity for us to showcase ourselves to the rest of our competitors that we’re a viable threat this season.
“I’m looking forward to not only Daytona but the entire season.”
Car owner Kevin Cywinski says Dean is approaching his return to Daytona focused as ever and he expects that to continue throughout the year.
“Gus is excited as ever for the new season,” added Cywinski, a former winning car owner at Daytona. “We’ve made a lot of changes to the team during the offseason and I think everyone will see that while we were solid last year – we’re going to be that much better in 2018.
“Jamie and the guys are giving Gus a car that I believe he can win with and what a way that would be to jump start our 11th season of ARCA competition.”
Already committed to proving their focus on Motorsports in 2018, GREE has confirmed an in-car camera for each ARCA Racing Series race televised on either FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2 during the series’ 66th consecutive season beginning with Saturday afternoon’s race.
The Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 driven by General Tire (80 laps / 200 miles) is the first of 20 races on the 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. Practice begins Thurs., Feb. 8 with a two-hour session from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. A final practice session has been etched in on Fri., Feb. 9 from 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Group qualifying is set for later in the day at 3:30 p.m. The season-opener for the 66th consecutive ARCA season is set to take the green flag on Sat., Feb. 10 shortly after 4:30 p.m. The event will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), while ARCARacing.com will stream live timing and scoring throughout the entire weekend festivities.