Racing smart, Tucker races to career second IMCA Southern SportMod title

Gabe Tucker earned his career 100th feature victory in the division while on the way to a career second Smiley’s Racing Products Southern SportMod national championship. At left is Speedway Motors President Clay Smith and at right is IMCA President Brett Root. (Photo by Bruce Badgley, Motorsports Photography)

CARBON, Texas – Hard work was the key to Gabe Tucker’s first national championship.

Smarts got him his second.

Tucker, from Carbon, Texas, topped national point standings for the Smiley’s Racing Products Southern SportMods this season, winning 19 features – including his career 100th in the division – and track championships at Abilene Speedway and Heart O’ Texas Speedway.

“We had a pretty good year. We didn’t start out the season running for the national championship. We were shooting to get 100 wins, which is a milestone for any IMCA racer,” he said. “After we did that, we looked at the points and thought we might have a chance at the national championship.”

Tucker had won the national SportMod crown and finished third in the national Stock Car standings during a grueling 112-start campaign in 2013.

He had just 46 starts in earning the bookend Southern SportMod hardware this year, again driving for team owner Steve Hayes.

“In 2013, we worked harder. We followed the Lone Star Series and ran 58 nights in the SportMod and 54 nights in the Stock Car,” Tucker said. “This year, we raced when we could and didn’t chase a series. Having kids and being self-employed helped keep everything in balance. That can be hard to do when you want to be at the track every time the gates are open.”

IMCA’s national Modified rookie of the year in 2009, the multi-division star totaled 45 checkers in 2013.

Tucker owns a trucking business and has since pared his racing schedule due to work responsibilities and following the activities of youngest daughter Karsen, who he describes as being “in everything under the sun.”

Competing for the first time with a crate engine, Tucker enjoyed a shiny start to his season with a runner-up finish on opening night of 281 Speedway’s Big Chill Throwdown in February, then a sweep of Ice Breaker Challenge features at Abilene the following weekend.

“That kind of told me we were on to something. We were making some best educated guesses,” he said. “The first night at Abilene I won from the front row. The next night I drew 12, didn’t get the lead until the last lap and just beat Doug Easterling by inches.”

“Doug is pretty hard to beat at Abilene,” Tucker continued. “The second night of the Ice Breaker was a perfect scenario of not giving up. I didn’t know who would win coming out of (turn) four but I never gave up.”

Tucker also proved pretty hard to beat at Abilene, winning a dozen times in all there this season. He became the second driver in division history to reach triple digit career wins by taking the June 30 checkers there.

Tucker also won six times at Heart O’ Texas and once at 281. He locked up national and track titles by winning his last four, and six of his last seven starts of the year.

Wins                                   Top Five Finishes                       Starts

19                                       36                                             46

HIS CREW: Brad Gaines and Steve Hayes.

HIS SPONSORS: Triple T Transport, Carbon; Braka Operating, Ranger; 89 Motorsports, Corpus Christi; CBR Shocks, Spring; Dirt Defender, Red Oak; Hughes Racing Chassis, Watts, Okla.; and GM Performance.