For an organization that didn’t come together until early December, Petty GMS Motorsports team president Mike Beam believes things are going as well as he’d hoped at this point.
“Oh, without a doubt,” Beam told RACER.
Back East after a challenging Western swing for everyone in the industry, Beam is excited for the company to get back to normal, so to speak. Being back home and with races in much closer proximity to the heart of NASCAR country, Petty GMS will be one of many that can more easily implement changes and adjustments learned in the first month of the season.
“For Daytona and the West Coast swing, preparing for that, honestly, it was all hands on deck. People everywhere doing whatever you could to survive — as everyone else was,” Beam said. “I feel really pleased with where we are right now. Everyone in the shop is working hard, and the team is working hard, but it’s been tough, it really has. The road crew guys, they’ve done a nice job stepping up and the people in the shop, too. The truck teams have helped us get here.
“I’ve done this Cup stuff for many years and it’s a grind. You just prepare yourself to get into the summer months and that grind.”
The organization has earned six top-20 finishes between its drivers, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon, through the first five races. While the end results haven’t reflected it, the No. 43 with Jones has come out of the gates with noticeable speed. Especially noteworthy was Jones’ impressive run at Auto Club Speedway, where he was in contention for the race win and finished third.
Until Atlanta, where he was in a crash, Dillon and his team had completed every lap for a streak of four straight top-20 finishes. Dillon’s best result has been an 11th-place finish at Daytona. Atlanta was Dillon’s first DNF.
“You work hard to get better, of course, and I feel like we have the people in place to do that,” Beam told RACER. “Ty, we talked about this even before the season started. We don’t want to get in a hole here; we just need to try to finish in the top 15 to 20 here for a while to get a good foundation. And he and Jerame are doing a nice job with that.
“This Cup stuff is so hard, because you’re up against people who have done it for a long time. I tell Maury Gallagher, our owner, that we’re racing against companies that have been in business for a long time. What we don’t know, we don’t know. But the thing is, we’ve laid the infrastructure for this for a long time, so it’s not this is a big culture shock for us. And GMS, we had the room where the shop could flow.
“It’s all about effort now and managers doing their job. Everyone doing their part. We’ve just got to keep people motivated and keep everybody on the same page.”
Beam is no stranger to Cup Series racing, first entering the garage in 1981 and winning races as a crew chief for Bill Elliott and Ricky Craven. Having been Gallagher’s right-hand man at GMS Racing since 2014, there is nothing about running a Cup team that surprises Beam. As he said, GMS Racing laid the infrastructure for taking the step after years of running in the Camping World Truck Series and once in the Xfinity Series.
“We just try to keep it fairly simple,” Beam said. “Luckily, we don’t have that many people to complicate things. Yet. We just try to keep it pretty simple because, as I tell them, it’s just a race car. It’s not like we’re inventing medicine. Or like when I worked for Junior Johnson, he always told me, you can’t take yourself too seriously because you’re one dancing bear away from being a circus. I get it. It’s a very humbling sport, and you’re only as good as your last race, so that’s the world we live in. You have a choice when you have a bad day. Either this can make us stronger, or it can tear us apart. I always try to choose to make us stronger.”
Going forward, Beam knows the easy thing to say is what is commonly heard in the garage about how “I’m just here to win.” It sounds good, but it’s about effort and for Beam, his efforts are going toward giving everyone at Petty GMS the tools it needs to push forward toward the summer.
It is a stretch of racing that sees teams return to COTA and the Bristol dirt race while also visiting the short tracks of Martinsville and Richmond. While doing so, Beam will continue to keep things in perspective for a new organization.
“Honestly, if we can just contend some, we’re going to be happy because we can build off that. So I think that’s being very realistic there. As you start to run better, your weaknesses will be exposed, right? When you run in the top 10, you’ll see what you need to do better because on the Cup side, you have plenty of information to show you.
“Realistically, if we could get into July and August and have both cars in the top 15 in points, finishing every lap, not having many failures mechanically, I think we can build off that. You can’t prevent flat tires or wrecks and things like that, but control what you can control and just don’t beat yourself.”