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Sam Hunt Talks Road to NASCAR Ownership, Full-Time 2023 Effort & Virginia Roots

It was a dream come true for Sam Hunt to see his NASCAR Xfinity Series team score another top-five finish at Richmond Raceway this spring given his Virginia roots.

Hunt grew up racing at Virginia short tracks before graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University (in Richmond, Va.), focusing on business and finance. He then formed a team, Sam Hunt Racing, in 2018 to contend in the ARCA Menards Series East. The following year, Colin Garrett qualified 15th at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the team’s first Xfinity race, finishing 21st, and SHR has expanded each year since. The team has four top 10s to its name in Xfinity, three of them courtesy of John Hunter Nemechek.

The Toyota-backed team embarked on its first full-time, single-driver effort in 2023 with Kaz Grala at the wheel of the No. 26. SHR had also previously fielded a second car, the No. 24, on one occasion each in 2021 and 2022, but that entry filled out to full-time in 2023. Connor Mosack is the primary pilot for the car, driving in 21 of the 33 events.

Frontstretch’s Adam Cheek caught up with Hunt and Mosack amid a rainy morning at Richmond Raceway on April 1, hours before Grala tied the team’s second-best result to date with a fourth-place finish in the ToyotaCare 250. This is an abridged version of the conversation; you can watch the full interview at the bottom of the page.

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Adam Cheek, Frontstretch: What’s it like going after a championship for the first time as a team?

Sam Hunt: It’s been different, for sure. It’s the first time we’ve had a full-time driver in one of our cars. It’s definitely nice to have some repetition with the same guy in the seat.

I think the the cards haven’t fallen the way we’ve needed them to fall so far this year with a lot of bad luck and some accidents outside of our control, but it’s a good next step for our program, and Kaz has worked for an opportunity like he’s got now for a long time. So it’s cool to be able to do it with him, and I’ve got no doubts [that] he’ll just get stronger throughout the year.

Cheek: What was that journey like into becoming an owner? What clicked for you that made you choose that career path?

Hunt: I just think I didn’t have enough success as a driver to do it. I think we had to scratch and claw for the sponsors we had when I was driving, and I just felt like I needed to do something else with my career. I wanted to stay in motorsports and keep competing, and what started as a very small idea when we started the K&N [now ARCA East] team has kind of blossomed into what it is now.

So really never expected it to get to where we are now, but I’m grateful for it and just have surrounded myself with a lot of really good people that have helped this thing keep going and keep growing.

Cheek: Tyler Reddick, fielding him — what does a veteran like him bring to the team and the staff?

Hunt: I think for us, how we view it with Tyler is it’s a great opportunity for him to evaluate our cars, our program. He’s a guy that’s racing at the highest level and really enjoys the change of pace and racing with us. I think for him, it’s something fun he can do just as a pure racer. And again, we’ve had friendship over the years, so it’s always fun to put it all together.

My ask of a guy like Tyler is just to be brutally honest about where we can improve the program, where we can improve the cars, because we’re always wanting to get better. And for us to get the best feedback, guys like Connor, they’re learning these racecars, they’re learning as much as they can as quick as they can. A guy like Tyler, who’s run seasons and seasons of Xfinity, will be able to tell us where we’re at and where we can improve, and that’s kind of the role John Hunter played for us in the past.

Cheek [to Mosack]: What’s that Xfinity Series adjustment been like for you?

Connor Mosack: The Xfinity series is a tough place, and there’s a lot of good guys, just a place for me to learn, and that’s kind of like Sam said. We built a relationship, and I felt like this was the best place for me to go, really just between me coming here with Sam or going to like a [Craftsman] Truck Series team.

I feel like there was more value for me to come here, and you get longer races. You’re running against better guys, and it’s a place where I can learn how to put whole races together, and [I] feel like that’s what we’re doing. [I] just need a little bit of luck to get our way but feel like we had the speed that the car should have, and hopefully we can keep building on that.

Cheek: Do you ever see yourself going after a Cup charter from this point?

Hunt: I’ll never say never. I think my joy is the people I get to work with, whether we’re in the Xfinity garage, the Truck garage — the series isn’t as important to me as [that]. I want to be able to compete at the highest level with a group of people I want to work with, so the people is really where my joy comes from.

I’ll never say never to Cup racing, because life changes. I never thought we’d be here competitively Xfinity racing four years ago, and here we are. But I think the people aspect of it is my favorite, and if we can get to the point to where we’re competing for wins at the Xfinity level and have a great group of people that we’re working with, I don’t know if I’d want much more.

Cheek: Take me through your Virginia roots.

Hunt: I started racing when we moved back from overseas. I started karting here in Virginia as soon as we moved here, living outside of Richmond. Raced late model stock cars at Langley [Speedway] and South Boston [Speedway] and all the Virginia short tracks, and I’d say that’s where my racing career became more serious, and I fell in love with it.

The first NASCAR race I ever saw was [at Richmond] in 2005, and so I’d just say there’s some sentiment that comes with this place and the area. Richmond is definitely one of my favorite places in the world, and it’s fun to be able to come back at least once a year and see friends and family, people that supported me since I was much younger.

Cheek: Myself being a fellow VCU grad, fellow Virginian and everything, what did you learn at VCU that helped you along the way?

Hunt: Definitely. I feel like college, as much as the skills you learn in class, college teaches you how to just get something done, like complete a task and make sure however you go about it, you get through something. So I think there’s a lot of life lessons you learn through school. For me, when I was at VCU, I was kind of removed from the racing bubble a little bit, and that was kind of intentional.

I wanted to get a perspective outside of racing for a couple years, because it’s easy to get tunnel vision inside any sport and industry. I felt like when I graduated there I was confident in myself. I felt like I had a skillset leaving, and yeah, I mean, we talked the other night, it’d be cool to have a full VCU car on track and give all the students and the VCU people a reason to come out here and cheer for a horse in the race.

[…] I loved the diversity and the culture at VCU, and you meet so many different people with different backgrounds. I thought that was one of my favorite parts about it, is you’re outside of the bubble of only being with the same people, whether it’s people of different ethnicities or where they came from. There were a lot of people I met that were international and had come to VCU, and I just think it was cool to get outside of racing for a little while and make friends that we were going to school with.

The Business School is so nice at VCU — I was fortunate to be in the new building and still keep in touch with a couple of the professors that cheer us on, and I always say Richmond has the best food of any city. It’s like a hidden gem when it comes to food and restaurants.

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Cheek: What are some of your chief goals for the rest of this season, whether it’s immediate the next few races or an overarching goal?

Hunt: I think, right now, the goal is to execute where we’re capable of running. I think all year we’ve shown that we can compete inside the top 15 and the top 10. We just need to finish races. We need to close them out; not have loose wheels or not have things fall the wrong way. I think right now, execute is the name of the game, and I think the goal every year is just to move the needle a little bit more as a team with how we are, whether it’s being more efficient or running a little bit better.

We don’t want too much too quick, but if we’re efficient and we hit base hits every week, the cards are eventually going to fall heavier the right way and be in a position to win that first race. We’ve gotten really close, so you get a sniff for that first one and it’s hard not to think about it moving forward.

For more of this conversation, watch the full interview below.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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