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Las Vegas-owned GMS race team considering jump to Cup

Updated June 22, 2017 - 3:58 pm

There is a distinct possibility Las Vegas’ presence in the NASCAR Cup Series will be even greater in 2017.

GMS Racing is considering jumping from the Xfinity Series into stock car racing’s marquee division. If it happens, the locally owned team would partner with juggernaut Hendrick Motorsports on engines and chassis.

“There’s a lot of things being said, but moving up to Cup, this has always been our ultimate goal,” said Spencer Gallagher, who drives for the team founded by his father, Allegiant Airlines CEO Maury Gallagher.

A decision could be made by next month.

“It’s a buyer’s market,” Spencer Gallagher said of obtaining charters from other Cup Series teams that would enable GMS to jump to the top rung on the NASCAR ladder. “You don’t want to wait for the big teams to lock them all up. But Xfinity and the truck effort are still our bread and butter right now.”

GMS, which began in 2011 in the second-tier ARCA series, now fields a full-time entry for Gallagher and a part-time effort for Ben Kennedy in the Xfinity Series. Johnny Sauter, who leads the Truck Series points, also drives for GMS, and Kaz Grala and Cup Series star Chase Elliott have won 2017 Truck Series races while flying the GMS colors.

If the deal comes to fruition, it probably would be a two-car effort: One for Gallagher and one for a more experienced driver, he said. While his Xfinity results haven’t exactly lit the scoring pylon on fire — Gallagher is 18th in points and has yet to earn a playoff point — he has shown flashes of speed in the Truck Series with a string of top 10 finishes in 2016.

“This is the deep end of the pool,” Gallagher, 27, said of the learning curve in going from Xfinity to Cup. “This isn’t Christopher Bell in the No. 18 car anymore; this is Kyle Busch in the 18 car.”

Speeding toward a cure

His drivers finished 13th, 22nd and 33rd in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, but it still was a productive May for IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt of Henderson.

Schmidt’s Conquer Paralysis Now gala, held in conjunction with the big race, raised $501,500 — about $300,000 more than his driver Jay Howard earned ($200,05) for finishing last.

White flag

— Noah Gragson is on a roll, having posted four consecutive NASCAR Truck Series top 10 finishes, and hopes his familiarity with Iowa Speedway will lead to his first victory this weekend. “I have experience there in a K&N car, which is a little bit different, but we tested there in April so I kind of know the characteristics of the track,” said the Las Vegas teenager, in his rookie season driving for fellow Las Vegan Kyle Busch. “It will be different racing in the truck, but I have a lot of confidence going into this race. I think we have a good shot at it.”

— Here’s your Brendan Gaughan update heading into the Xfinity Series race in Iowa: He’s been fast much of the year; he has little to show for it; he sits 13th in points. But the 41-year-old still most likely will qualify for the playoffs (top 12) because Bubba Wallace has landed a Cup ride with Richard Petty and soon will fall off the leaderboard. This week also marks the three-year anniversary of Gaughan’s first Xfinity win, on the famous Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

— A belated Father’s Day greeting (as told to NASCAR guru Jeff Gluck) from Kurt Busch to father Tom, also a former Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring champion: “My dad taught Kyle and I everything about the race car. First up was how to work on it, and that taught us how to respect it. And then how to race it. I always looked forward to watching the race with him on Sundays as a kid, because he would point out certain things the veteran drivers were doing, like Dale Sr. was doing this or Bill Elliott did that, and it was really neat to digest that and then apply it to the little go-kart we had.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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