From engine builder to driver to car owner to crew chief, Joe Gaerte has done it all when it comes to sprint car racing during the last 30 years.
At age 21, Gaerte became the youngest driver to win an All Star Circuit of Champions title in 1987. He backed that up in 1988 with his second championship. In 1989, he earned rookie-of-the-year honors with the World of Outlaws.
His latest endeavor has him back on the road with the Outlaws as crew chief for the Kyle Larson Racing No. 2 sprint car driven by 23-year-old California native Carson Macedo.
Macedo drove Gaerte’s No. 3g sprint car the past two seasons, winning numerous races along the way.
Larson hired both late last season.
“I think we’re good,” Gaerte said. “There have been race tracks that I’ve never been to and definitely Carson’s never been to. We were a little disappointed at Knoxville and we still ran ninth on the final night. We want to go better than we are, but on the other hand, Kyle’s understanding that we’re new at this; it’s the first year. I think we’re on track. When we come back to some of these places for a second or third time, we certainly hope to get better.”
Running the grueling 90-race World of Outlaws schedule is an adjustment for both men.
“It’s definitely more involved,” Gaerte said. “The biggest adjustment is you’re away from home a lot. You’re not getting back home as much. We got to go back to my shop last week before we went to Beaver Dam (Wis.) and that helps.
“You’ve definitely got to change your whole life situation,” he said. “I committed to this for a couple of years. I sold my house. I’m going to use North Carolina as an address. I have a motorhome and I’m going to travel.
“I think you have to understand you’re going to be gone a lot,” Gaerte continued. “It’s affecting Carson maybe a little more. I’m not speaking for him. It’s been an adjustment. With the All Stars, we went over the weekend and came back to my shop. He’s OK with going away from home. It’s the fact you’re on the road every single day. We’ll race two weeks here before we get back to my shop. Then after Knoxville, it gets really old. I’m OK with it. I’ve done it before. It’s just been 20 some years ago.”
The first half of the season has been good despite the challenges.
“We’re making adjustments,” Gaerte noted “We’re learning different race tracks. Being from California, and he’ll tell you the same, it’s hard to get a guy to run the bottom or the middle. We were getting there on Ohio race tracks with the All Stars. Then you come out here and it’s a different level. It’s a learning curve, but we’re trying to work through it.”
Gaerte’s last year on the road full time was nearly 20 years ago.
“It was around 2000 when I helped Daryn Pittman and we did the whole tour when he drove the 21 car,” he explained. “It’s been OK. I feel like that’s the best way to do it for being able to take my wife and go without leaving her behind. “
It was a great final season for Gaerte’s team as Macedo finished second in the All Star standings.
“I think it was a little better than what we might have expected at the beginning with the budget that we set,” he said. “We didn’t set a high budget. We did a lot with what we had I think. We gave (Aaron) Reutzel a good run for it. I was excited about it. We got almost to the end before we had a mishap at Eldora. As it turned out, there was no more racing after that anyway, so we wouldn’t have had a chance. I think we did a really good job.”
Gaerte and Macedo picked up their first victory for the Larson team at California’s Silver Dollar Speedway in March. It’s a track where Gaerte also won as a driver.
“That was pretty cool with Carson being from California and he knows those race tracks,” Gaerte said. “I won a Gold Cup in 1991 and I really like Chico. It was really cool and we worked off some momentum for a while from that. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”