The Rookie of the Year contender, from St. Charles, MO, started the year struggling to find his way into the top-15. But the second half of the season has been a different story.
He’s had one finish outside the top-15 and in total has collected three top fives and six top 10s – including his 10th-place finish in the star-studded Prairie Dirt Classic, building momentum for the crown jewel USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway, Aug. 4-6.
“I feel like at the beginning of the year we really struggled,” Gundaker said. “A lot of the stuff, just new racetracks, new race car, all that stuff. Then, I feel like the last month and a half we really kind of hit a stride with winning Heat Races and qualifying up front. That makes your life a lot easier when you get in the Feature and start up front, the first three-rows. I think we’re going to have a really good second half of the year here. Got some racetracks coming up that I really like.”
Before joining the World of Outlaws tour full time this season, Gundaker was a veteran on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model tour, picking up four victories. It was nicknamed “The Hell Tour” for its grueling week-long stretch of racing for two months, but mainly stayed in the Midwest. So, joining the more than 60-race World of Outlaws schedule across the country meant visiting several new tracks with varying kinds of surfaces.
That created a challenge in finding the comfortability he needed in his car at each track. But Gundaker stated he believes his team has hit on something. Now, they can roll into each race needing small adjustments, rather than big swings.
“Everybody has their own sweet spot,” he said. “We’ve been working really, really hard and we finally got it to where I like it, make it maneuverable. Now, like I said, just making small adjustments.”
Once Gundaker found the comfort he was looking for in his Longhorn Chassis #11 Late Model, confidence poured in with it.
“If you show up to the racetrack not confident, you’re already defeated before you get there,” Gundaker said. “When we roll in now, I feel confident. You qualify up front, like I said, that just sets you up for the whole night. When you do that, you have confidence in your race team and in yourself. It’s really easy to get down on yourself. Running up front in these races is hard as it is. It’s easy to kick yourself when things aren’t going good. We’ve been doing better lately so that makes my confidence go up. The guys are pumped when we get to the racetrack, so it makes it a lot easier.”
He’s found that confidence in time for the back-to-back weekends of World of Outlaws CASE Late Model crown jewel events. He ended the Prairie Dirt Classic on a positive note, racing toward the front of the pack and besting Series champions like Shane Clanton and Josh Richards. Now, his focus is on the $50,000-to-win USA Nationals at Cedar Lake.
The 3/8-mile Wisconsin track is one of his favorites, despite not having the results he’d like there. However, he made the field for the USA Nationals last year and said he believes this year he’ll have a car capable of competing for the win.
“I really, really love going up there,” Gundaker said. “The atmosphere kind of drives you at that place too, because you’re just trying to put on a show, but you feed off the energy of those people. I’m really confident going into next week. I feel like we can get up front and battle for a win there and make some money.”
Gundaker currently sits seventh in World of Outlaws CASE Late Model points, more than 400 points back from the points lead and about 300 points out of competing with Tanner English and Max Blair for the Rookie of the Year title. Despite that, he’s happy with his progress this year and hopes his upward trend will lead to his first World of Outlaws victory.
“Obviously, I knew it was going to be tough coming into this year,” he said. “But at the same time, I expect a lot out of myself. And that is something I’ve always strived for. I think the only way to be good or to be great, really, is you have to expect a lot out of yourself. I wish we would have more top threes, top fives, and stuff like that but it’s also our first year running this tour. And we’ve done a lot better lately. Now, we just have to find a way to get up there and we’re eventually going to knock one or two of these down.”
You can watch all three nights of the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway live on DIRTVision – either online or by downloading the DIRTVision App.