By his own admission, Billy Venturini didn’t suddenly decide to turn Venturini Motorsports into a developmental team.
The team, once a small family-run organization started by two-time ARCA champion Bill Venturini, has become a multi-car powerhouse in the ARCA Menards Series. Since 2008, Venturini Motorsports, under the direction of Billy Venturini, has won 41 ARCA Menards Series races with a who’s who of star drivers.
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano, 2017 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Christopher Bell and 2015 NASCAR Gander Truck Series champion Erik Jones are three of the dozens of drivers to take a turn behind the wheel of Venturini-prepared race cars during the last 11 years.
So what led to Venturini Motorsports becoming a developmental powerhouse?
“It was forced upon. It was a financial situation. We didn’t go from me driving to being like, ‘We’re going to be a driver development team.’ It went from we’re going to drive to, OK, I need to make a living,” 43-year-old Billy Venturini said.
The transition from family team to driver development team began in 2007 when Venturini inked a deal to put part-time racer Tom Berte in one of the team’s cars for a few races. The deal served as a way to pay the bills during a time when money was scarce.
“It was not a big-money deal at all, but it was enough,” said Venturini, who stressed that he was only a few months away at the time from having to find a job to pay his own bills. “It was enough of a deal … the only thing it did was it bought me time.”
Later in the same year, Venturini inked a deal to put Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver Marc Davis in Venturini equipment at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway. The pairing worked and the result was a fourth-place finish.
That was the start of a beautiful relationship between Venturini Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.
“J.D. Gibbs and I raced Legend Cars together, so we were buddies,” Venturini recalled. “We take Marc and we run him and we run another kid, not through Gibbs, so we run these two kids, younger kids and they’re both decent little race car drivers.
“First chance we get with Marc we run fourth at Toledo in 2007. That right there, it wasn’t a big sample size, but just the couple times we had decent drivers we did really well.”
It wasn’t long before J.D. Gibbs came calling again, but this time the stakes were higher. He wanted Venturini Motorsports to field a car for rising star Joey Logano in the Carolina 500 ARCA Menards Series race at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway.
“J.D. said, ‘What do you gotta do to be better?’ I told him, ‘We just need an opportunity, we can do this,’”
Venturini said. “I don’t know why he believed me, probably shouldn’t have, but he did. He gave me the opportunity to go to Rockingham in 2008.”
One could say May 4, 2008, was the day Venturini Motorsports became a developmental team. That was the day Logano, driving the team’s familiar No. 25 Chevrolet, annihilated the ARCA Menards Series field at Rockingham Speedway.
Logano’s lightning-fast qualifying lap at 146.645 mph was an indication of things to come in the race.
“We sat on the pole for the race, led 257 out of 312 laps and at one point lapped the entire field,” Venturini said. “We didn’t beat them, we kicked their asses. And we kicked the asses of some really good race teams down there. I knew when we went down there, I knew this was my moment. If I was going to make this deal work, I had to capitalize on it. We have to win. In my mind, there was no other choice than to win that race.”
Venturini Motorsports didn’t just capitalize, the team took the opportunity and drove it straight to the bank.
“That one day changed everything. It changed it all. Joey was perfect. We called the perfect race. The pit stops were perfect. Every star aligned,” Venturini said. “In one day, we went from family team trying to do this to … I think the style in which we won validated us immediately. We were on the map.”