This year marks the 25th Anniversary for JTG Daugherty Racing, owned by husband and wife team Tad and Jodi Geschickter, Gordon Smith and five-time NBA All-Star Brad Daugherty. The racing operation began in 1995 when Tad Geschickter and Steve Plattenberger formed a NASCAR Busch Grand National Series (NASCAR Xfinity Series) team that set up shop in a chicken house, which was essentially a garage with dirt floors and only five employees in Waxhaw, North Carolina. Today, the race team is housed in a 130,000-square-foot facility with two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entries in Harrisburg, N.C.
"Calling our first shop a chicken house is probably generous because I would call it more like a chicken coop," said Jodi Geschickter. "Our small office was on the other side of the chickens. Sometimes you could hear them in the ductwork. When we were making phone calls, we just prayed the person on the other line couldn’t hear them. Today, we do not have that problem. We are fortunate to be in a large shop with several offices. We worked so hard to get to this level and maintain our longstanding partnerships with the best brands in the business.”
Their humble beginnings did not stop them from putting their first car on track to race on Saturday, February 18, 1995 with Jeff Fuller behind the wheel of the No. 47 Sunoco Chevrolet. That season they collected one top-five and six top-10 finishes. The very next year their dreams were realized when Fuller pulled into Victory Lane (8/23/96) after starting on the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway close to Jodi’s hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.
“Jeff and Liz Fuller celebrated the birth of their youngest daughter the night before the race,” Tad Geschickter said. “He pulled an all-nighter, then drove over on race morning for practice, qualifying and the race. He won the pole and then won the race on zero sleep. Back then, we were building our own motors and we broke several valve springs during the race. The motor should have blown up, but the net effect was he was able to flatfoot it all the way around the race track thanks to being on six cylinders at the end of the race. My brother got married the next day, so Jodi and I were the ones that pulled the all-nighter after the race to get to their wedding in time.”
Over the years, JTG Daugherty Racing picked off three more NASCAR Xfinity Series victories with Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen International consecutively from 2008-2010. Getting a taste of success in NASCAR, the Geschickter's and Daugherty knew it was time to take a swing at the big leagues. With one car and one motor, Ambrose qualified for the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 27, 2008, and at that moment they knew they were off to the races. Hard work was paying off and the dawn of a full-time Cup Series season was upon them.
“I remember when Tad grabbed me one day and said let’s go Cup racing and I thought he was nuts,” Brad Daugherty said. “We sat on the pit road wall as Marcos Ambrose crossed the bricks for qualifying. I was so very proud of the pure accomplishment of putting the pieces together as a group and watching as it unfolded at Indy.”
During his first full-time year in the NASCAR Cup Series, their Australian driver delivered an impressive four top-five and seven top-10 finishes up against teams that had been competing for decades. Passing the torch over the years from Ambrose to 2000 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Bobby Labonte to AJ Allmendinger, there were so many milestones along the way. A couple of those numerous highlights include their first NASCAR Cup Series Chase birth and first Cup victory at Watkins Glen International in 2014 with Allmendinger.
“I had contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite and was deathly ill all weekend,” Tad Geschickter said. “It was hard to even keep my eyes open and I had to watch most of the race on television because the sunlight was such a problem for me. My college roommate, Mark Kelso, was with me for the race and as the laps were winding down, we were both pacing back and forth like crazy. I didn’t feel sick at all during the Victory Lane celebration though.”
While Tad was pacing, Daugherty was planted in his ESPN broadcast booth chair keeping his composure while the broadcast team gave play-by-play action of the race his driver was fated to win.
“We always aspire to win whenever we go compete, and at Watkins Glen as I sat there with a few laps to go, I wouldn’t allow myself to believe we could win the race,” Daugherty said. “The reason is because we had come close so many times that I expected Lucy to yank the football away. The pure joy in seeing a husband and wife team that started in a barn achieve success that day, has made every tough day well worth it. It’s been an incredible experience working with JTG Daugherty Racing for the past several years.”
Another milestone was the expansion of JTG Daugherty Racing. The one-car operation grew to two with NASCAR Xfinity Champion and Pocono Raceway Cup winner Chris Buescher racing the No. 37 entry.
“NASCAR growth for any team requires scale and innovation,” Tad Geschickter said. “Having two teams allows us to meet both of those requirements and improve our race performance. I’ve learned through the years that no one grows when times are easy. True growth comes from the battles and the tough times and when we are outside of our comfort zones.”
In addition to stepping outside comfort zones, the team’s growth involved hard work, dedication and longstanding partners that have stood by the team through the years.
“We are so fortunate to have a massive partner like Kroger and some of the best brands in the country involved with our program,” Tad Geschickter said. “There is no way that the 30-year-old that started out in 1994 would have even thought about calling, much less partnering with these folks – too intimidated. When you keep pushing, learning, and prayerfully stepping outside of your comfort zone, some really phenomenal things can happen.”
Amazing things have happened for JTG Daugherty Racing through the years. Today, walking through the team’s massive facility, 115 employees have a sense a pride and it was obvious on Wednesday when they loaded the two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entries Chris Buescher and Ryan Preece will pilot in the 61st running of The Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway.
“We’re making our own way now, we’re building our own cars and we’ve really invested in ourselves,” said Ernie Cope, competition director for JTG Daugherty Racing. “These are our cars, our engineers and it’s going to be a turning point moving forward to the next level. Jodi, Tad, Brad and Gordon believe in what we’re doing, and they believe in the group we’ve hired to do it. We’ve fully staffed up and we are building everything. That really gives our team a sense of pride. It’s collective thinking and everyone has ownership. It’s an exciting time for us and it’s our 25th year in racing. We went to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and tested recently and had a lot of speed. That gives us a lot of optimism going into the 2019 season.”
It’s a far cry from five employees in a chicken coop and JTG Daugherty Racing have a lot of folks to thank.
“One thing that stands out the most over the years is the people who have helped us get here,” Tad Geschickter said. “I think of Ray Stonkus, who is retired now, but still a part of the family – he really helped us get our equipment right during our start-up when we didn’t have the resources. We wouldn’t be in business without Ray’s smarts and ingenuity. All of the other folks who have worked with us through most, or all of this 25-year journey, those relationships are the things I cherish the most.”
“First of all, I’m so surprised to hear it has been 25 years,” said Jimmie Johnson, seven-time champion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. “They (Tad and Jodi) are two amazing people that have given so many young drivers, crew members an opportunity in the sport; helped us evolve. Watched them grow from the Busch Series (NASCAR Xfinity Series) ranks into Cup and got to see their victory in Cup. I just smile every time I think of them. I’m so proud to say that the first NASCAR vehicle I drove was one of theirs, the No. 59 Kingsford Match Light car.”
“On behalf of everyone at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, I want to congratulate Jodi, Tad, Brad and everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing on their 25th year anniversary in 2019,” said Winston Kelley, Executive Director, NASCAR Hall of Fame. “The NASCAR industry is fortunate to have so many wonderful people, personalities and teams and it’s hard to believe the JTG team has been a significant part of this industry for a quarter of a century! We’ve had the pleasure of being the host location for events with some of JTG’s many engaged partners and car unveilings; and we have been honored to have their participation in our annual Classroom Central School Tools kickoff program. Personally, I’ve also had the pleasure of traveling with the JTG team many weekends in partnership with the Motor Racing Network team and have enjoyed high energy victory lane celebrations with the team as well. Jodi, Tad and Brad, along with everyone at JTG Daugherty, have always been incredibly supportive of our efforts and are true industry team players. I’m thankful for all they have done and congratulate them for their success these past 25 years and wish them continued success in the future. More than anything, I’m honored to call them friends.”
“Tad, Jodi, and Brad serve as a prime example of what NASCAR ownership should be,” said Dave Moody, announcer for Motor Racing Network and host of SiriusXM Speedway. “They are fiercely loyal to their employees, work harder than just about anyone in the garage and provide remarkable return on investment for their marketing partners. Best of all, they have fun at the race track; an attitude that transfers almost immediately to everyone around them.”
“To know that roughly 25 years ago, this race team actually started in a garage in the backyard of Tad and Jodi's, makes such an amazing story and now to be where they are at today,” Larry McReynolds said. “It is a testament to what dedication, commitment and a never give up attitude will let people achieve. They all are truly hands on owners and treat their employees like family. If you didn't know that Tad, Jodi and Brad were actually the team owners, you would never know it because they are right there fighting the battles everyday with their race teams. To see that #47 team pull into Victory Lane at Watkins Glen in 2014 is what the sport of NASCAR is all about. Classic case of good things happening to good people. Our sport is a better sport because of these 3 individuals and their contributions. Congratulations on your 25th Anniversary.”
“Congrats to JTG Daugherty Racing on their 25th Anniversary,” said Doug Rice, President and General Manager of Performance Racing Network. “This organization wins on and off the track and are great folks to work with in the NASCAR world.”
“I’m so fortunate to have found a home at JTG Daugherty Racing two years ago,” said Chris Buescher, who is sporting Kleenex Wet Wipes on the hood of his No. 37 Chevrolet ZL1 in the Daytona 500. “Not only did I join the team at a time in my career where I was looking for continuity with one team, but when I joined the organization, Tad and Jodi really made me feel like I had a new home. I’m not just a race car driver here, I’m a part of the family. That’s probably the most special part of being a part of a team like JTG Daugherty Racing. We all love this sport, and it makes it easier to show up and work hard all weekend when you know you have 115 family members at home counting on you. This is an amazing accomplishment for Brad, Tad and Jodi and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
“Just a couple of months into our new team, and Tad and Jodi really have made me feel special here at JTG Daugherty Racing,” said Ryan Preece, driver of the No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. “I couldn’t imagine a better fit for me to start my Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career with. There’s so much history with this team, and we all have the same mentality of working from the ground up to achieve our dreams. I can’t wait to add to the JTG Daugherty Racing story this season in my rookie year and beyond.”
“Signing our first sponsorship agreement with Sunoco 260 in December of 1994 is a memorable moment,” Tad Geschickter said. “We were required to run the full season, we had no time to prepare, and it wasn’t quite enough money to run the full season. It also required us to provide a souvenir trailer at the track for them every weekend. Jodi and I drove the souvenir trailer to every race. We had a rookie driver and if we crashed too much, we weren’t going to make it to the end of the season. Seems like we spun out every week during the 1995 season and miraculously still found a way to run the most laps by any competitor that year, win rookie of the year, and finish 10th in points. The results impressed Sunoco enough to give us a large sponsorship contract for the next year which kept us in business.”
“Meeting Grant LaMontagne and Rich Conti at the Sonoma cup race in 1997 is another memorable moment,” Tad Geschickter said. “They were both senior executives for Kingsford Charcoal but were headquartered in the Bay Area of California and, after two years of calling them, didn’t see why they should consider NASCAR as a promotion program. We got them to come to their local race, showed them around the campgrounds and made a brief pitch. Once they saw all of the fans camping out and grilling, they decided to join us, and the company remains a loyal Sponsor partner to this day (and are great personal friends)”
JTG Racing PR