CONCORD, N.C. — The relationship between Young’s Motorsports owner Tyler Young and driver Gus Dean is much stronger than the typical owner and driver arrangement.
Young and Dean have known each other for years, long before Dean joined Young’s Motorsports this year for his rookie season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In fact, they were once rivals on the race track.
In 2012 and ’13, Young and Dean were regulars in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. Dean was a rookie in 2012, while Young was in his third season competing in the series.
“Obviously we raced hard in the Pro Cup deal together,” the 27-year-old Young recalled. “Gus, he is a hard racer. As an owner that’s what you want to look for. We’ve been buddies a long time.”
Twenty-four-year-old Dean made 33 starts during his Pro Cup career, earning one win at Memphis (Tenn.) Int’l Raceway in 2014. Young made 60 Pro Cup starts, also earning a single victory at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway in 2012.
When asked about their favorite memory from their days in Pro Cup, Dean and Young thought for a moment before simultaneously saying, “Orange County.”
The race they referenced took place on Sept. 1, 2012 at Orange County Speedway in Rougement, N.C. In that race, Dean and Young spent much of the event battling one another for the lead or second place.
At the checkered flag, Dean and Young came together exiting turn four as they were fighting for second, sending sparks flying as they crossed the finish line.
The two exited their cars laughing.
“I don’t think it was out of (turn) four, I think it was the whole lap,” Dean said. “We were side by side, he’d have a nose or I’d have a nose for, oh God, 100 laps or 150 laps.”
“That was the best one,” Young added. “His guys were all good buddies we all wanted to beat them for sure. They were the toughest ones to best.”
“Neither one of us had numbers left on the side (of the car),” Dean noted with a laugh. “We were just laughing and having a good time.”
Fast-forward to the end of the 2018 season after Dean finished second in the ARCA Menards Series standings, while Young had become established team owner in the Truck Series.
Young wanted to expand his program and Dean wanted to move up the racing ladder. The stars aligned so to speak, bringing Dean and Young together again.
“We knew we wanted to move up. We were in ARCA and LG (Dean’s sponsor) was interested and wanted a spot in the big three (NASCAR divisions),” Dean explained. “Obviously knowing Tyler for so long … we went over (to his shop) and checked it out. He’s got an amazing facility and it’s very well staffed. Young’s Motorsports is a beautiful race team.
“There’s a lot of people you can do business with in racing, but there’s not a whole lot of people you can trust in racing,” Dean added. “Tyler and his dad have always been 100 percent straight up.”
Dean admits there have been some growing pains for him in the Truck Series. He had no top-10 finishes in eight races this year, with a best effort of 14th.
That said, he’s confident things will turn around as the season moves forward.
“These trucks are just an entirely different animal,” Dean said. “The air acts the same but it’s so much more dependent. Learning that has been my biggest curve. That’s something I’ve been able to fall back on Tyler for. He has been in these trucks, he’s already gone through that learning curve.
“I know when I ask him for some advice he can put it in my terms because we can have the same conversations we use to back in the Pro Cup days when we were both running up front there.”
Young, who has 80 Truck Series starts but none since last November, wouldn’t admit to being retired. He said this year it made more sense for him to move to an ownership role, but you can bet he’ll be back on the track when an opportunity arises.
And if Dean happens to be on the track at the same time as Young, you can bet they’ll race each like they did at Orange County back in 2012.
“I’d race him harder,” Young said laughing. “There is no doubt about it.”
“He can’t let the kid beat him on his own team,” Dean chimed in.