For all the good work Gus Dean showed in his first venture onto the ARCA racing circuit, it often came with the question of when he’d get to do it again.
That’s not unusual in the business of racing. Sponsorship gets expensive, even on the developmental circuit, and backers often want to test the waters before taking a full plunge. Sometimes they engage, sometimes they don’t.
For Dean, the uncertainty is now removed — not just for 2017, but beyond.
The Bluffton driver has locked up GREE Cooling Products in a multiyear sponsorship deal, set to run a full ARCA schedule next year with an eye on moving into the NASCAR pipeline perhaps as soon as 2018.
“We can’t thank GREE enough for everything they’ve done, the massive amount of faith they’ve put into me,” Dean said Tuesday. “I’m watching my dreams unfold before my eyes.”
The 22-year-old driver can set his calendar for the entire 20-race ARCA schedule, beginning with a return trip in February to Daytona International Speedway. He’ll also go back in May to defend the crown he won at Talladega Superspeedway, followed by a full summer schedule that runs through Kansas in October.
“We know Gus has the ability to continue his winning ways in his first full season of ARCA competition and contend for a championship, while also looking ahead on the horizon to a path in NASCAR,” said Dave Pearson, president of Tradewinds Climate Systems. “We can’t wait for Daytona to get here.”
Tradewinds is the master U.S. distributor for GREE’s line of specialized cooling and heating products. Their relationship began at the Talladega race, which wound up with GREE’s logo in Victory Lane after the race finished under caution and Dean was declared the winner via video review.
GREE backed Dean for five additional races as the summer went on, resulting in two more top-10 finishes.
“I think (the victory) lit a fire under everybody,” Dean said. “It helped seal (Pearson’s) love for the sport and love for the team. It was the right mixture for everything to work out.”
After the season finale in Kansas, the parties got together over lunch and worked out details for a full-fledged commitment.
“We could not be more proud to support Gus Dean for 2017 and beyond,” Pearson said. “He exemplifies everything we’re looking for as a company spokesperson and more.”
And Dean now has assurance to know he’ll get the chance to run the ARCA season from beginning to end. If his limited results in 2016 were extrapolated over a full season, he would have placed among the top eight in points.
Getting a full season, Dean said, is “massive.”
“I’ve been in similar (uncertainty) multiple times in my career,” he said. “We’d have a sponsor that wanted to go further with us, they’re all gung-ho, then something happens and the deal falls apart. It’s something you kind of get used to. For it to actually work out the way it’s supposed to, that’s incredible.”
The ARCA series will take Dean across the South and Midwest, with Kansas and Chicago serving as the westernmost stops. Daytona and Talladega are among seven tracks that also serve as NASCAR venues; two other races are run on dirt tracks.
“Now most of the races mean getting on a plane,” Dean said. “It’s a whole other element that’ll be a little bit of a challenge. But it makes me feel like I’m on that next level.”
Beyond next year, he said, the next stop would be to get into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, one step below the big names in Sprint Cup. Whether that happens in 2018 likely depends on what happens in ARCA next year.
“The ideal steppingstone would be Xfinity,” Dean said. “It depends on what GREE is willing to do. But as of now, they want to travel with me through the rest of my career. That’s the hope.”