However, they won’t just be competing against each other when the season kicks off at Volusia Speedway Park during Sunshine Nationals Jan 17-20. They’ll also be teammates.
After three seasons on tour driving for Tri-Star Promotions, Gustin will join forces with Cooney in 2024 in a second Todd Cooney Racing Late Model. Having Gustin in one of his cars was an easy decision for the Cooney, whose time as a driver is nearing its end.
“I know that 2024 will probably be my last year racing,” Cooney said. “I want to try and get one more year in but understand I’ve been saying this for the last 10 years. That being said, I still want to be in the sport and be relevant in the sport.
“Ryan lives right up the street from us. We’ve known him since he was a baby. So, we have a good relationship as far as that goes, and Ryan’s a super nice kid. He’s up on the wheel and drives it for everything it’s got. We just feel it’s a perfect fit.”
Gustin echoed Cooney’s words and said he’s ready for what’s to come racing for a long-time family friend.
“I’ve known Todd for basically my whole life,” Gustin said. “Our families go way back. The deal kind of came about where he’s probably going to do one more year and then hang his driving shoes up. So, we’ll be the one to take over the Cooney Racing ride and hopefully have some big things to come in the future.”
A team change won’t be the only difference for Gustin in 2024. The Marshalltown, IA driver will also make a chassis change.
After three years in a Rocket Chassis, he’ll step into a Longhorn for the first time in 2024. Gustin said he isn’t sure what to expect once he reaches the Sunshine State.
“I honestly have no idea,” Gustin said. “Hopefully, we’re fast out of the gate, and there isn’t much of a learning curve.”
What won’t be a learning curve for either driver is the knowledge the two will share throughout the season. Sharing information isn’t anything new, as Gustin frequently gave Cooney pointers at the track.
“Ryan gives me advice all the time,” Cooney said. “Even before we made this deal, he came over and gave me some advice here and there. I think it’ll help me tremendously. He’ll be a little more in touch with me during the week, and it’ll make it to where I understand this a little better.”
Those notes are something Cooney hopes will make him better in 2024, as one of his struggles was racing at new tracks. It’ll be a challenge Cooney will need to overcome next season, with 16 new venues on the 2024 schedule.
However, with Gustin as his teammate, he’s looking forward to continue racing with the best drivers dirt Late Model racing has to offer.
“It wasn’t as bad as it probably looked or as I felt we were,” Cooney said. “It’s just a learning curve. And the reason I want to do this so bad is because I feel these are the best racecar drivers in the country, and that’s who I like to compete against.”
As Cooney aims to improve off his 2023 season, Gustin still has the same mindset after his best World of Outlaws season statistically. He earned three victories, 12 top fives, and 22 top 10s—putting him in a heated battle for fourth in the standings entering the season’s final weekend.
“Anytime you can beat these guys you’ve accomplished something,” Gustin said. “Anytime that you can outrun any of these guys, it definitely makes you feel good.”
“Everyone’s goal is to win a championship. I thought that maybe we had a shot at it early in , but whatever Bobby (Pierce) found, I don’t know. He’s been kicking our butts. To win a championship is my ultimate goal.”
Gustin and Cooney will battle as teammates for the first time when the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models open the 2024 season Sunshine Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park Jan. 17-20 as part of the Late Model Palooza.
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