A decade ago, David Gravel was still looking to make a name for himself in Sprint Car racing.
The Watertown, CT native had picked up a few notable wins and turned some heads, but he was still in search of a breakthrough opportunity. With the allure of Tod Quiring’s Big Game Motorsports team catching his eye, the young driver decided to ask for a chance.
“I learned who Tod was a long time ago with the Big Game cars with Craig Dollansky and Danny Lasoski and Terry McCarl driving their cars,” Gravel said. “They always presented themselves very well and professional. I asked him if I could drive for him way back early in my career, and he said, ‘No.’”
While Quiring wasn’t interested at the time, other opportunities arose that put Gravel on the path to the Big Game machine.
“When I got my first opportunity with Roth Motorsports, that kind of put me on the map,” Gravel recalled. “And CJB Motorsports saw that in me, and I went over to that team. Tod was the primary sponsor on the car at CJB. That’s kind of where the groundwork got laid.”
That groundwork led to Gravel being tabbed as Big Game Motorsports’ driver on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car tour for 2021. Fast forward two years later, and that move led to Gravel banking the biggest payday in Series history in not only Quiring’s car, but also at the track he owns – Huset’s Speedway – and the marquee event he’s crafted – the Billion Auto Huset’s High Bank Nationals presented by Menards.
Gravel took over the lead with 10 laps to go in Saturday’s finale of the monumental four-day event and rolled on to a $250,000 prize. In Victory Lane, Gravel’s team, family, and sponsors erupted in joy. A dream come true for the kid who approached Quiring all of those years ago.
“With Tod and his family and Billion Automotive and my family – my wife (Jillian) and Levi (son) all being there, it’s stuff you dream about,” Gravel said. “It couldn’t be any better to win at that racetrack with our sponsor on the car that sponsors the event. It’s storybook stuff.”
The days that have followed have allowed time for reflection. Gravel continues to cement a spot in the sport’s history. He’s a National Open champion. He’s a Knoxville Nationals champion. He’s a Huset’s High Bank Nationals champion. He’s one of only 12 drivers to surpass 80 World of Outlaws wins. An incredible journey from humble beginnings in Connecticut.
“It’s definitely cool for it to all come full circle,” Gravel said. “Early in your career you’ve got to go out and prove yourself. I felt like I did that and was able to get some opportunities and be able to drive for top level car owners in the sport and be wanted and be able to perform at the highest level and win the biggest races. It’s very rewarding from where we started and being a kid from Connecticut and having to travel to Pennsylvania weekly and all of the sacrifices that my parents made and Ray (Cappella) from JRC Transportation made as well. Without those people, I wouldn’t be here.”
Even though the reality of the victory is still setting in, Gravel and his Big Game crew – Cody Jacobs, Scott Vogelson, and Zach Patterson – have another mission on their minds that they must refocus on – the World of Outlaws championship. The Huset’s win brought $250,000. But a title with The Greatest Show on Dirt offers a $350,000 prize and Sprint Car immortality. They’re currently second in the standings but only 10 points back and riding all of the momentum from their Huset’s glory.
“It stinks that this past weekend wasn’t points, but we’re going to be back to the normal format, and it’s going to be business as usual,” Gravel said. “Man, it’s hard to stay motivated for an entire season… It takes a lot of mental toughness, a lot of mental focus and self-drive to keep at it and keep at that final goal at the end of the season. There’s a lot of money to be had with the championship and the bonus money at the end of the year, so you’ve really got to be focused on performing at the highest level night in and night out.”
With all his better-than-fiction visions coming true – hoping to drive for Quiring and getting that chance, winning the richest race in Series history, and set to battle for a championship – there’s still one lingering question. What’s the first thing someone buys when they become a quarter of a million dollars richer?
“I bought a nice dinner for my family – Jill and Levi – and my PR guy,” Gravel said. “We had a big steak dinner there.”
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