Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Gary Fitch preparing for busy year on the ovals

SEVEN POINTS, Texas — After a successful campaign last year which included an Eco Mod points championship, one hard-working second generation racer in North Texas is gearing up for more action. Not content to sit on his laurels and coast along, he’s preparing for a new challenge in 2024.

For 27-year-old driver Gary Fitch, the highly-competitive Eco Mod division was a place to showcase him immense natural talent. He combined those skills and good equipment last year to earn six wins, 32 top-five and 42 top-10 finishes in 44 starts at a handful of tracks across North Texas.

“We had a pretty good season in 2023,” Fitch said. “It’s just like anything else; you’ll have your ups and downs, but I’d like to think we had more ups than downs last year. That felt pretty rewarding. We focused mostly on the Eco Mod last year, although I had a Factory Stock. I just sold that car recently.

“We raced it a couple of times at the beginning of the season; then we tried one more time at the end of the year. Things just didn’t work out with it, that’s all. So we won the Eco Mod title at KSP, which was no easy task in itself. We finally hit on the consistency thing last year, which was our main goal.”

Now starting his 11th year on the dirt ovals, Fitch literally started with nothing and worked his way up.

“I got started with own driving career back in 2013,” he explained. “That was my first full year, but I did get my feet wet a little with a few races in 2012, with one win to my credit. We were just happy to be there; I wouldn’t say we were very competitive.

“I raced what we called a Cruiser at 85 Speedway (now known as Big O) that first full year. That truly was an entry-level division, then we moved up to the Bombers which was the next class in line. That year (2014) we moved up was when the Factory Stock deal kind of got going, which got our attention.”

Like so many other racers, it lured him into the hornet’s nest. Yet there was work to do first.

“We had to swap everything over from the Bomber to a Factory Stock-legal car. It’s funny, because we were racing the same car in Factory Stock we used in the Cruiser class. We had been running second in points with it in 2014 but wrecked, and just didn’t have the funds to rebuild it at the time.”

As mentioned earlier, the level of competition in that EcoMod division is higher than most realize.

“You have a lot of guys here that used to run in Sport Mod, but have moved over to Eco Mods for the lower cost,” Fitch said. “There are a lot of fast guys with tons of experience in this type of car. So you shave to be almost as aggressive as you would be in a Sport Mod to stay up front. It’s pretty racy now.

“Some guys might call it an entry-level class for open-wheel, but I don’t feel that is accurate any more. Ricky Haney, for example, dropped down to Eco Mod last season. He came out and kicked out butts for about six weeks. So, he kind of forced the rest of us to step up our efforts and get up on the wheel.”

When Fitch puts on his helmet and gets ready to race, he climbs into a machine with a solid history.

“The car I have here is a 2015 VATO chassis; it’s actually Kevin Sustaire’s old Sport Mod,” he explained. “It’s a great car with a lot of life left in it. Last year, it was powered by a motor from Big Dave’s Racing Engines. It ran like a top all year long, and carried us right into Victory Lane.

“I do need to thank Mike Marusak at Allard Racing Engines, who was a big asset to us last year resolving engine issues we had throughout the season. We appreciate Mike and his son Brendon, who is also a fellow competitor and friend.”

This year will bring an exciting new opportunity for Fitch, one that has him pretty excited to seize.

“I actually have the chance to drive an IMCA Stock Car for Gary Parker this year,” he explained. “He has a brand new Destroyer car in his shop, so we’re really looking forward to that. I’ve been looking forward to this a long time, and now it’s coming together. We’re looking for a successful 2024 season.”

Along with his years of experience and top-notch race cars, Fitch has a long list of supporters on board.

“I need to thank all of my great sponsors, including Mike McKnight at Whitehorse Tuning and Dyno; Gary Parker at Glass Services LLC; Valerie Bahm at Bahm.com, the Racer’s Realtor; Nathan Buchanan at Sick Cars and Trucks; Justin Whitehead at Outlaw Race Cars; and Advantage Ready Mix.

“I also want to thank Jeffrey Abbey at CRS Suspension, Jimmy Fitch at PDI Racing; Richard Pickens at Wicked Fast Transmissions; Randy at Buy-Lo Auto Supply; K&S Tire and Wheel; Roger and Teresa Paine; Mike Marusak and Brendon Harrison; Hilltop Lanes of Waxahachie; Scott Dodson, Photos by Mike Frieri; Steve Moore Fabrication, Destroyer Chassis, Day Motor Sports; Wells Racing Engines and Onethree Designs. I appreciate each and every one, and couldn’t do all of this without them.”

With the 2024 racing season now just around the corner, Fitch is gearing up to go all-out on all fronts.

“We just dropped a motor off a while back at Allard Racing Engines,” he said. “We’ve had some  challenges while working on the car this winter; with no shop over our heads we work on the cement slab that one day will be the floor of our new shop. I’m not complaining, we’ll get there in due time.

“I’m just very blessed to have the people, good equipment and opportunities that I have in racing. I try not to ever take them for granted, and to never let my desire to win ruin a chance to actually enjoy this great sport. I’m going to seize the opportunity I have in a Stock car this year, and have a blast with it.”

By Phil Whipple, RaceON.com Staff Writer
Photo by Mike Frieri