His arrival at the mountaintop is almost expected at some point as it’s been conceived by fans to be only a matter of time. He took that next step towards that ultimate goal in 2021 with his move and immediate success with Tod Quiring’s Big Game Motorsports operation.
After four consecutive seasons (2016-19) of third-place finishes to the dynasties at Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing and Kasey Kahne Racing, Gravel is poised to finally break through for his first-ever runner-up result in the championship standings this year. Not only is a career-best finish on tap, but the Watertown, CT native kept his name in the title fight all the way down until the last two weeks of the 80-race grind.
Proof of his prowess is the three 10+ win seasons he has produced with three different teams, winning 18 with the CJB #5 in 2017, another 12 with the JJR #41 in 2019, and at least 10 with another two nights left in the Big Game #2 this year. He’s only the ninth driver in Series history to record three 10+ win campaigns, and he’s on an even shorter list with legends Doug Wolfgang and Joey Saldana as the only to record such a feat without a championship to his name.
He plans to change that, though. And Big Game Motorsports very may well be the recipe he needs to do it.
“The performance this year no doubt gives us a ton of confidence,” Gravel spoke on the first-year effort at Big Game. “This team hasn’t been at the Outlaw level for a while, but I feel like we came out of the gates swinging. If we can keep qualifying the way we do, we just need to work on our Feature runs and we’ll be better.”
All of the praise on the setup goes to crew members led by Cody Jacobs, Trey Bowman, and Scott Vogelsong. It’s a group that Gravel has complete faith in moving forward.”
“Going to these tracks more and more with Cody will be a gamechanger,” the driver added on his crew chief, an ultra-important dynamic for any team. “I’ve been out here for 8-9 years and have seen most of them, but for him, he hasn’t been to certain places in several years or maybe ever. Trey has been on tour for a while, so that’s good. Having a notebook and consistently building that for each track will only make us better. It should shorten that learning curve in the future.”
That’s as if the curve wasn’t already shortened enough. With Gravel at the wheel and Jacobs on the wrenches, Big Game was simply outstanding in the return to the tour.
Gravel’s 10-win campaign was highlighted by a monumental sweep at Bristol Motor Speedway, a pair of wins at the boss’ track at Huset’s Speedway, a thrilling triumph at The Rev, late-race victories at Attica, Granite City, Weedsport, and additional wins at Silver Dollar and Lernerville.
The 29-year-old leads the Series in Slick Woody’s QuickTime Awards (18), Team Drydene Heat Wins (32), DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash appearances (48), NOS Energy Drink Feature pole positions (10), and average start (5.99).
“I’m most proud of the fact that we hit double digits,” Gravel admitted. “To win 10+ races with the World of Outlaws is a really tough task even during an 80-race season. The competition is off the charts. It’s not an easy feat. I’ve been on a team that has won 18 races and came back the next year to only get five, so you don’t ever take it for granted. We started a little slow I think, but that was just growing pains getting accustomed to a new team.”