By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
For this week’s edition of Climbing the Ladder, Seth Eggert sat down with NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Gus Dean. He drives the No. 12 LG Air Conditioning Technologies / Overkill Motorsports / Basin Pump Down Services / 4P Energy Services Chevrolet Silverado for Young’s Motorsports.
The Bluffton, SC native is a 12-year veteran in motorsports. Dean has competed in the Allison Legacy Series, ARCA Menards Series, and CARS Tour. In addition to his full season campaign in trucks, he is also making select starts in ARCA this year.
Dean is currently 16th in the championship standings, 245-points behind points leader Grant Enfinger, and 159-points behind the cutoff for the playoffs, held by Harrison Burton. He is also competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
Seth Eggert: How did you become interested in motorsports?
Gus Dean: “I come from a family of gearheads. My grandpa always had the fastest car, fastest boat in town. He actually ended up sponsoring a local dirt car driven by AJ Frank. My dad going to the dirt track to help AJ got into it and decided to go get a go-kart.
“A couple of years later I came along. I was better at go-karts than he was. We won a couple of championships and then tried our luck at racecars. That same driver, Frank, came back to crew chief for us and we’ve been going in circles ever since.
SE: Why did you decide to follow in your father’s footsteps?
GD: “I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie since a young age. Honestly, I don’t really remember because I was five-years-old when I first got in a go-kart. That was 20-years ago now.”
SE: How did you convince your parents to let you race? Was it difficult?
GD: “Oh that was easy. My dad was trying to get me in a kart and racing. That was not hard at all. My grandma was a little bit of a different story.”
SE: Where and when was your first race? What was the result?
GD: “It was a Pineora Kartway in Macon, GA. I got turned around, hit the dirt bank, and rolled over. I had said that I was never going to get back into one. Obviously, I didn’t stick to that.”
SE: Who would you consider your mentor?
GD: “I’ve had quite a few over the years. When I was in go-karts and moving up, I had Ron Moon who was one of the best short track racers there was in go-karts. Dirt Late Models I had AJ Frank helping me.
“When I moved into Legacy cars, I had Donnie Allison take me under his wing. I’ve just had a lot of people over the years that have helped me out. Now I’ve got Jeff Stankiewicz (crew chief) and I’m learning so much from him.”
SE: What inspires you to compete?
GD: “Just my love for racing. I love to do what I do. I’m not good at much else. I love it, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting out there, to go that fast, racing close to other people. It definitely has a lot more lows than it does highs, but those highs are higher than anybody else in the world gets to feel throughout their life.”
SE: Is there a specific track that you would want to win at?
GD: “Probably Salem Speedway in the ARCA at least just because I’ve come in second a couple of times there. I always had a really strong run and ran out of laps or something like that would happen.
“In the trucks I really look forward to Pocono Raceway. I like Pocono a lot. Michigan International Speedway is one of my favorite tracks to drive other than superspeedways.”
SE: Do you have any superstitions or special rituals when at the track? What are they?
GD: “I’ve got some superstitions for sure. Peanuts and the color green are bad luck at the track.”
SE: Being in Allison Legacy Cars, did your ARCA win at Talladega Superspeedway mean more to you because of the mentorship from Donnie Allison?
GD: “It did. That race just meant a lot to me. It’s Talladega, in my mind the only race that’s bigger than that would be Daytona. That added a lot to it. Being able to talk to Donnie afterward was pretty cool. Knowing that he was in the same places that I was at, running the same lines, that was special.”
SE: It took you about two years to return to victory lane in ARCA. Can you describe the frustration between the two victories?
GD: “It was pretty frustrating. Especially because we had so many second and third place finishes. Unfortunately, those two years we didn’t have any wins and 15-top threes during that time. Being very close and not being able to get there for the finish was aggravating.
“But it was exciting to it out at Elko with Kevin Cywinski my team owner at the time. That was his hometrack. I’m trying to put some stuff together to go back there this year.”
SE: Can you describe the transition from ARCA to the Truck Series?
GD: “A lot of the general concepts are the same. The trucks are just so much more aero dependent. In an ARCA car you can get down on someone’s right rear and make them loose. In trucks when you get down on somebody’s right rear and take them out. The trucks are just a lot more aero sensitive and aero dependent than the ARCA cars were, but the general concepts are the same.”
SE: With your dirt background, would you like to see a second dirt race in the Truck Series?
GD: “I would, but I’ve never driven a truck on dirt. The ARCA cars are fun to race on dirt. It got very single-laned and there wasn’t a lot of side-by-side racing. Once you’ve run a dirt car and then run an asphalt car that was built to be run on dirt, they’re sluggish and don’t go over the dirt the way a purpose-built car does. But it’s still very fun.”
SE: Being the oldest driver at Young’s Motorsports, have you taken a leadership role on the team?
GD: “No, not necessarily. Tyler Dippel has had a lot of racing experience through his career. Spencer Boyd, he’s been up in the Xfinity Series, so he’s been at a lot of these tracks a few more times than I have. We all have our strengths and differences.”
SE: Since you are all rookies, who do you turn to at the track for advice?
GD: “Whichever of my teammates is faster. And if I’m not the fastest, then I’m pretty mad at that.”
SE: As you’ve climbed up the racing ladder, you have continued to compete in Legend Cars and Super Late Models. Why is it important to you to compete at those levels?
GD: “I’ll race a wheelbarrow if they let me. Any time I can go to the track and run something, Legends Car, ARCA car, Late Model, Super Late Model which we have some planned for this year. It doesn’t matter what kind of car it is, I’m ready to jump at the opportunity.”
SE: What does the future hold for you, where will you be one year from now?
GD: “Unfortunately with this sport it’s completely money driven. Hopefully I’d love to be back here in the trucks again and continuing to learn sponsorship provided.”