In the Fast Lane with Tad Geschickter

By all means, Tad Geschickter and his JTG Daugherty Racing teams remain as competitive, staying powers in NASCAR. (Photo: JTG Daugherty Racing)

By all means, Tad Geschickter and his JTG Daugherty Racing teams remain as competitive, staying powers in NASCAR. (Photo: JTG Daugherty Racing)

For the past 26 years, Tad Geschickter and his wife Jodi have been staying powers as competitive team owners in NASCAR. Originally fielding the No. 47 entry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series starting in 1995, Geschickter has fielded entries for the likes of Jeff Fuller, Robert Pressley, Jimmie Johnson, Mike Dillon, Phil Parsons, Stacy Compton, and Marcos Ambrose.

In 2008, Tad Geschickter, along with wife Jodi and NBA icon Brad Daugherty made the leap into the NASCAR Cup Series with Marcos Ambrose with the No. 47 entry. Over the years, Ambrose and Bobby Labonte built the foundation for JTG Daugherty Racing’s Cup efforts before hitting pay dirt with AJ Allmendinger in his breakthrough season in 2014.

Recently, Geschickter’s focus remains on building on consistency and long term stability. Of course, this vision has been progressing with Ryan Preece, a modified standout from New England, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr, a two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion.

By all means, Geschickter cherishes how his Nos. 37 and 47 teams have hit the ground running this year. With Stenhouse ranked 13th and Preece in 20th after eight races, Geschickter is optimistic about his teams’ progress.

Moreover, Tad Geschickter and his hardy organization are quite innovative. Recently catching up with Geschickter, the amiable, thoughtful and conscientious team owner shares his thoughts on how his teams have clicked. Also, Geschickter shares details about unique, digital collectables in this latest edition of “In the Fast Lane!”

Rob Tiongson : Tad, your team is off to a terrific start with Ricky Stenhouse and Ryan Preece both solidly in the top 20 after eight races this year. How proud are you of their efforts and results from your teams?

Without a doubt, Tad Geschickter's drivers are off to a terrific start. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Without a doubt, Tad Geschickter’s drivers are off to a terrific start. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Tad Geschickter : I couldn’t be any prouder. You know, we showed a lot of speed over the last year. I think we’ve got the right engineers and the right people and the right drivers. Last year, really, I think where we suffered with was on execution. We’d speed on pit road. Or we’d have a wiring harness failure or not have a pit stop when we needed it.

We really focused over the winter on what we called “flip the script.” That’s the team mantra. What happened last year, happened last year. We’ve addressed it. We’re moving forward. We’re going to keep hammering and become a great executing team.

And I think that’s the difference through the first eight races with Ryan and Ricky. Their approach (is) making sure they keep the fenders on the cars and finish races. And our teams are focused on execution. So, I’m excited with what I’ve seen so far.

Tiongson : This year, we have a unique schedule especially with the regular season. It’s shaken up what we’ve been used to now with the Daytona road course after the Daytona 500. And of course, we’ve got the Bristol dirt race.

As a team owner, how refreshing has it been to see NASCAR shake up the schedule to bring new challenges with your teams?

Geschickter : Yeah, you know, I think if you asked our simulation engineers, the ones that have to figure out the setups for all these new places like Bristol dirt, they’d say, “It’s creating a lot of sleepless nights for me!” (laughs) But, they’ve done a great job.

I’m all for anything that creates keeps increasing fan engagement and excitement. That’s what our sponsors went on. Ultimately, that’s what we depend on. So, you know, kudos to NASCAR for taking the chance. And I think it’s proven to be a smart move.

Tiongson : I would say. Another thing I’ve noticed was the fact that Chevrolet stepped it up in the past year. And late last year, ECR and Hendrick formed an alliance. So I’m kind of curious to get your thoughts on how Chevrolet teams have been working more closely together.

Geschickter : Yeah, I think, yeah, it makes sense to pull your resources on engine R&D. We’ve been a customer of Richard Childress at some point and Rick Hendrick at some point, which we are now. So, I just know they both create a great product. Just seems like as they put their heads together, we all benefit.

As far as the Chevy teams working together. I’m probably not your best source for that since we’re not part of the big three Chevy alliance. We’re doing all our chassis development, product design and wind tunnel CFD work on our own.

So, it’s even another reason to be proud when you go out and you do the top finishing Chevy team (at Bristol). They’re already those people that use the Hendrick simulation and drive files. That’s what we get from Rick.

But as far as coming up with the setups, how you want to put the body on the car and how you want the chassis to twist and all that stuff, they figured all that out on their own, inside the walls at JTG. So, I’m proud of that.

Tiongson : I think a really interesting factoid that you’ve mentioned there about how your team’s not quite with the big three of Chevrolet. But like you said, you’ve got a lot to be proud about.

Before this started the year, it was reported that the No. 37 team may scale back to a part time schedule. Given the organization’s overall strong start and Ryan having a great start to the year, have things changed to the point where it’s going to be a full schedule? Or is it more of a fluid situation?

All things considered, Geschickter shares some good news about Ryan Preece's No. 37 team. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

All things considered, Geschickter shares some good news about Ryan Preece’s No. 37 team. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Geschickter : We were selling every day to make sure it’s a full schedule. Bristol originally wasn’t a sponsored race. But based on Ryan’s strong start, we were able to come up with a partnership with Bush’s Beans and Kroger to make sure we ran that race.

We take it a day at a time. Certainly, our goal is to run every race with that 37. The fact that it doesn’t have a charter doesn’t put the pressure on you to make sure you’re running every race and be prudent.

But, I think we’re better off running the races we’re well-funded for and I think Ryan agreed with that. We didn’t have full sponsorship going into the year. But, certainly, our expectation is we’re going to keep selling until we’re running every one of them.

Tiongson : Hopefully, things keep trending in the right direction as your teams have been one of the pleasant stories to watch and cover this year. It’s good to have Ryan Preece around in NASCAR.

Geschickter : Yeah, there’s no doubt in our mind that Ryan Preece is one of the future stars in NASCAR. He’s tremendously talented and he’s a great person. He’s our kind of person. So, we’ve invested a lot in his career to date. We certainly don’t want to see it go to waste. And I want to keep finding opportunities for him.

Leaders of the Digital Age

Tiongson : The pandemic has greatly limited interactions between the drivers and teams with their fans at the track. But you guys come up with a really cool way to modernize what fans enjoy with collecting cards.

You’ve got this really cool partnership with Fanaply which offers digital collectible cards (of Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Ryan Preece). What was the genesis behind this unique, neat collectible? And was it something that you had you and your team had worked up before or during the pandemic?

To say the least, Geschickter and JTG Daugherty team lead the way with a unique collectible! (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

To say the least, Geschickter and JTG Daugherty team lead the way with a unique collectible! (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Geschickter : I think things that were coming down the pipe maybe in 10 or 20 years, the pandemic just accelerated a lot of industries. So, we work in the consumer packaged goods industry with a retailer like Kroger. I think there are a number of people that are shopping online. They’re getting the products shipped to home or picking up the curbside at the percentage that they thought it would be 10 years from now.

And it happened in a matter of six months. I think the statistic is Disney+ got the same number of subscribers for their streaming service as it took Netflix seven years to get. So, I think things that were on the way that we all saw on the horizon suddenly became front and center during the pandemic. And how we interact with our fans is certainly part of that.

We had to change and innovate quickly. And we were introduced to Grant Dexter from Fanaply through a mutual friend. He started talking to me about non-fundable tokens and virtual collectibles.

It took me about three Zoom calls with him for over three hours to even understand what the heck he was talking about. But as I started to understand the proposition more and more, there’s so many neat opportunities to promote with fans with it, but also engage the fans together with your sponsors that I thought it was something we ought to get on the front end of and take a try. And, so far it’s been well received and it looks like it’s starting to take off.

Tiongson : I gave it a spin a couple of weeks ago and I was really impressed. It was something I was thinking, well, how come this hasn’t been done before? Fanaply has a lot of musicians and pop bands that younger folks know about. I’m sure you may have had some folks who may not be NASCAR fans finding out about your teams because of Fanaply.

What’s the reaction been with that? And has that been kind of an impetus to have this partnership to reach out to a newer audience?

Geschickter : Yeah, I think that’s part of it. I think the bigger part of it is people collect a hero card in the garage and they may read up about your sponsor. They may respond to a Facebook post for a special offer, but probably more than likely, they don’t. With a virtual collectible, you can literally power up the value of it on the marketplace by doing different activities with your sponsors.

If you download the Kroger app and you power up your collectible and its value … I think a lot of people, including myself, when you talk about Bitcoin and Ethereum and the way people trade with digital currency, it’s kind of scary. It’s volatile. You don’t really know what you’re paying for something or what it’s going to be worth when you traded again.

What Fanaply did for us is their trading market is all based on dollars. If you’re not comfortable trading in Bitcoin for trading one card for another, you can just do it with a Visa card. So, it’s a dollar. And you know it’s a dollar. If you sell it for two dollars, you’ve doubled your money.

I think that takes a lot of the mystery out of it and makes it more mainstream and more comfortable for race fans to understand the value of their collection and swap and trade back and forth. So, we want to do fun things.

If you collect every Ryan Preece card, we’re going to have a special fan club meeting where you all get to come in and eat dinner with Ryan if you’re a Ryan Preece super fan and collected them all. So, there’s lots of fun things you can do with it because you know each and every person that’s collecting.

Tiongson : That’s really cool. I’m surprised other teams have been jumped at something like this. I’m really thrilled to hear that you guys are taking this on. And it seems like a very successful initiative to say the least.

Geschickter : Yeah, and other teams were on board. We’ve explained it to the other teams’ marketing folks there. I think there’s a future for it in the sport broadly throughout the garage.

Tiongson : I really love this idea that you guys have realized and are executing at the moment. And I’m curious to see how this goes as the year progresses.

Geschickter : You know, it’s so strange without being able to interact with the fans the way we’re used to. We don’t have a job without the fans. So, any way you can keep them engaged and feeling a part of things and feeling special, I think it’s something we all need to be focused on right now and in the future.

Tiongson : I feel the same way. I’ve told a friend in racing, “I would rather be at a racetrack during a rain delay versus covering a race at home.” I’m hoping that changes soon.

Recently, Geschickter's teams gave fans something to cheer about at Bristol. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Recently, Geschickter’s teams gave fans something to cheer about at Bristol. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Geschickter : It was fun to hear people cheering their driver introductions again at Bristol. It was surreal early when we started back up where there were no fans there. They had an owners’ suite, but most of the owners weren’t coming because they were in the higher risk age category. And you know, Jodi and I were sitting there by ourselves in the suite and nobody is watching our cars race. It was real strange.

Tiongson : It’s quite the change since those times! We are looking forward to a return to normal and we’re getting there for sure. What are other ways and opportunities that your team is looking into bridging that gap even more?

Geschickter : I think you’re just going to see more of the innovations we’ve done during the pandemic. Just because fans are coming back in the stands, why shouldn’t we still want to provide a behind the scenes look at what the teams are doing this week? (Or sharing) all the different ideas we’ve been working on bringing to life?

Is there a network that we can stream where all the teams kind of consolidate their social and digital assets so that everyone can follow their favorite team more closely? I think it’s an idea whose time has come and something we’re all working towards providing for everybody. So, the fans will be in the stands and then they’ll be able to tune in on Tuesday night to see what happened at JTG Racing.

Tiongson : Absolutely, it sounds like a neat way to have what F1 has done with the Drive to Survive series that has made a huge impact and connected with fans internationally. You’ve been a team owner for the past 26 years starting with the No. 47 Sunoco Chevy in the late 1990s with Jeff Fuller.

Given those experiences and being paired up with Brad Daugherty, how satisfying has it been for you to be a team owner that’s been through these ups and downs and still stand tall with your two car Cup efforts?

From the dirt floor to dirt track, Geschickter can be proud of his journey as a team owner. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

From the dirt floor to dirt track, Geschickter can be proud of his journey as a team owner. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Geschickter : Yeah, it’s very gratifying. I mean, it’s such a blessing. If you look at the odds of someone like Jodi and I to start with no money in the barn with a dirt floor and bootstrapping our way, I think it’s a testament to what hard work and faith and trying to be a spirit driven is.

But, I also think it shows how tight the garage is. There were times early on where someone donated a motor to us where we weren’t going to make the next race. When we had a hauler fire (with the No. 47) and lost everything getting ready to run Kansas in 2019, teams called and said, “We have an extra hauler and an extra toolbox. Come get it.”

It just shows what a community and what a family we really are when the chips are down. We fight hard to compete hard on the weekends. But, you know, it’s a small group of us that do this for a living. We’re kind of all for one and one for all when the chips are down. And that’s a big part of why we made it this far as well.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Tad Geschickter for sharing his stories as a competitive NASCAR team owner here on The Podium Finish! Also, thanks to Jennifer Chapple for her kindness and assistance with making this interview possible!

Be sure to “Like” the Facebook page and “Follow” JTG Daugherty’s Twitter account. Also, check out the latest Fanaply digital cards of Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Ryan Preece! Stay tuned for more stories about JTG Daugherty here on TPF!

Last but not least, I’d like to dedicate this article to my godson and nephew Francisco as he celebrates his fifth birthday. Happy Birthday, Francisco!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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