Gualda at full throttle

Tony Gualda, a freshman at San Benito High, had a solid 2014 season racing in the non-wing sprints car division at Ocean Speedway, earning Rookie of the Year honors with two wins and four second-place finishes.

Only time will tell if Tony Gualda has what it takes to become a professional race car driver.
So far, the San Benito High freshman has shown he’s on the right track to make it happen. The 15-year-old Gualda enters the 2015 season—his first race is on March 8 at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico—coming off a solid 2014 campaign racing predominately at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville.
Gualda was the youngest driver in the non-wing sprint car division, winning two feature races to go along with four second-place finishes and earn Rookie of the Year honors for the Ocean Speedway non-wing division.
This season, Gualda is moving up to the more competitive Joe Hunt Sprint Car Series, which he said was the next step to take in what looks to be a burgeoning career.
“There’s a lot more competition and it’s a different style of racing from where I’ve been,” Gualda said. “I learned a lot in 2014 in terms of getting the team to work together, building up a good team and being confident in the car. It was mostly a season of highs and a couple of lows, and I’m looking forward to doing some more good things in 2015.”
Under the guidance of his father, Tony Sr., Gualda has improved his communication and driving skills every year. For a race car team to win a championship at any level, the driver must provide detailed information to his crew on how the car is handling.
The more detailed the information, the better the chances the crew will have of making the necessary adjustments during a pit stop to make the car fast enough to roll into Victory Lane.
“I’m trying different lines on the race track, and becoming better at communicating with the crew,” Gualda said. “I feel like there’s a lot of room to improve, and I feel I got more mature after learning what to do and what not to do, things like when to keep my mouth open and mouth shut. Racing can be a big learning curve, but I think I’m picking things up well.”
Gualda counts Kyle Larson as his favorite driver. Larson, 22, the 2015 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, was also the 2013 Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. Gualda looks at Larson as the model on how to steadily move up the driving ranks to America’s most popular racing circuit.
He’s also dreamed of racing in the World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series—the nation’s premier dirt sprint car racing series.
“I like Larson because he’ll race anywhere and at any time,” Gualda said. “I remember one time he was racing midgets in Indiana one day and the next day he was racing in a sprint car in California. One year he did over 120-plus races, which is crazy. He’s one of the guys I look up to.”
Like any up-and-coming driver, Gualda knows he has to display patience—on and off the track.
“There’s still a lot of stuff I need to learn,” he said. “I tend to get a bit frustrated sometimes on slick tracks if I can’t make my move and there’s no other place to go. I know every driver has to mature in certain areas, and I’m really focused on getting better in all aspects of racing.”
Each year, as he advances up the racing ranks, Gualda has shown he’s not your average race-car driver. In 2015, Gualda looks to continue that trend.

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