Young NASCAR team owner Sam Hunt knew that starting his own racing team would raise some eyebrows, but he didn’t care. Hunt, 28, knew in his heart that one day his vision of running a competitive NASCAR team would come to fruition. Now, ahead of his return to Richmond, the city that sparked the racer’s love for the sport, Hunt is basking in the thrill of real career momentum.
“I think a lot of people thought it was impossible and that I was wasting my time,” Hunt told NASCAR.com. “When I stuck to what I believed was right and kept surrounding myself with the people I felt were going to lead me to success, that validated everything.”
Friends of Hunt know he is a racer at heart; not a businessman in the sport for fun or an investor looking for a payoff. The journey is paying off for the young man who once lived in a van outside of an old engine shop: Sam Hunt Racing is a legitimate team racing full-time on the Xfinity Series circuit.
After moving to Europe as a toddler and growing up around Formula 1, Hunt moved back to Richmond as a young teen. The local NASCAR track was the first he ever visited.
“[Richmond] was the first place I ever saw a stock car or saw NASCAR and found out what NASCAR was,” Hunt said, “because overseas, all we knew was Formula 1.”
The young team already has an exciting history at Richmond
Virginia Commonwealth University – located in downtown Richmond – made sense to Hunt for college, too. There, he would earn a finance degree while racing out of his small race shop as a hobby, learning the trade. Fast forward to 2021 at Richmond, where Hunt got to watch his driver John Hunter Nemechek pilot the No. 26 to the company’s first Top 5 finish.
In that race, the only Xfinity race in Richmond last season, Nemechek began the race from 27th. But in the final stage, when multiple caution flags came late, Nemechek found himself on old tires, suddenly racing near the top with a legitimate shot. The Sam Hunt Racing No. 26 finished third that day, solidifying a dream that was slowly becoming a reality.
“I knew our time would eventually come,” Hunt said. “We just worked too hard, and we’ve got too many great people here for it to never come to fruition. I’ve always had confidence that was going to happen. After seeing how John Hunter performed in our car at Dover, minus the last 30 laps, was really when I realized the caliber of car that we could provide and put on the race track.
“It was mostly emotional for me because the last couple years of my life have been completely wrapped up in trying to make something of myself and this startup company, dating back to when we started with one or two ARCA East cars. It’s just one of those moments that I prayed for years before it ever happened, and to see it come to fruition is reassuring that I was doing things right and I had the right people involved.”
The Sam Hunt Racing team welcomes a new driver for their return to Richmond on Saturday
Now the team heads back to Richmond this Saturday for another shot at that first team win. Derek Griffith will drive the No. 26 this weekend for his boss Sam Hunt, who is cautiously optimistic about getting a win soon.
“[We] just want to move the needle a little bit from last year and be realistic about it, too,” Hunt said. “I think winning a race this year would be an incredible accomplishment. It might be a tall order, but we’re not going to rule it out.”