Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Outside of his wedding day and the births of his children, Sunday, February 20, 2022 will probably be the best day in Willy Auchmoody’s life.
That is the day he’ll see something he’s dreamed about for a very long time come to fruition…a car he co-owns, with a world famous boxer, will take the green flag in the Great American Race.
That’s right. A guy from Highland, NY, who started out racing Street Stocks and Late Models at tracks like Lebanon Valley, Orange County and Kauneonga Speedways, will see the fruits of his labor when Kaz Grala takes The Money Team (TMT) Racing’s #50 to the Daytona International Speedway’s high banks on Sunday afternoon.
All those years ago, when he strapped into his Street Stock for the first time, did Auchmoody ever imagine he could be at this moment in his life? Did he ever believe he’d be a car owner in the NASCAR Cup Series getting ready for his first Daytona 500?
“Never,” Auchmoody said with a grin. “I always had the dream to race in the 500 myself. That’s what most of us short track guys do. However, as I got older, I directed my efforts into the marketing side of the sport. The rest, as they say, is history.”
That would be an understatement. This team has been several years in the making, although it was only formally announced on the first of February. Auchmoody has been working hard to make this deal a reality for almost two years.
Initially, that’s when he first made the deal with Floyd Mayweather, who is co-owner of the team. Mayweather agreed to join forces with the Auchmoody’s as long as Willy guaranteed sponsorship. There had to be money had to be brought into the team for this to happen
That’s when Willy got to work.
Through several months of a worldwide pandemic, things just weren’t materializing as everyone had hoped. That was, however, until just before this past New Years. That’s when their prayers were answered.
The sunglasses manufacturer Pit Vipers signed on to be the team’s primary partner. Then, things were set on warp speed.
TMT had just shy of 40 days to put everything in place that they would need to get a car to Daytona. That included building it.
That was the responsibility of crew chief Tony Eury Jr., once he accepted the team’s offer to join. Some 31 days from picking up a new NASCAR Next Gen chassis to loading it into the team’s transporter, The Money Team Racing was at Daytona, set to attempt making the biggest race of the Cup Series season.
This past Thursday night, they made it.
That’s when Auchmoody became the happiest man on Daytona’s pit road. Nobody was removing the smile off his face. Hell, I doubt they’d be able to if they tried.
There have been some trying times through this process, most recently on Thursday night during the Duels. That’s where a pit road miscue by Grala nearly cost the team their shot at the 500.
However, team spotter Joe White kept everyone calm, knowing they were still in the hunt for a qualifying spot.
Auchmoody, however, wasn’t as optimistic at that moment.
“I thought we were done,” he said. “I just did. I mean, you know, we had a mistake. It happens. I mean, everybody, the best of the best, they speed on pit road. I just thought we were done. But like the spotter kept saying: Stick with it, stick with it, stick with it.”
They did, and now they’re qualified and ready to start the 500 on Sunday.
What type of emotions will Auchmoody have when he sees his car fire its engine and then take the green flag?
“They’ll run the gamut,” he said. “I’ve cried more this week than I have in the last 20 years. However, it’s all going to be worth it. You only make your first 500 once.”
One of the best parts to this entire situation for Auchmoody is that he gets to share it with his family, including his children and his wife, Becky. Becky’s been right by his side through it all. From cleaning racecars to changing tires to now helping make this NASCAR Cup team a success. She’s been right there.
How amazing is it to have them involved?
“It’s truly unbelievable,” he said. “They are what keep me going. There have been days I wondered if this was going to happen. Becky and the kids kept pushing me, telling me we could do it. Now, we’re here.”
Once the green flag drops, it’s just another race…right? Does the team have a goal for the race?
“We want to be around at the end,” he said. “If we can do that, and have a decent finish, it’ll be a big boost going forward for us.”
Speaking of that, Daytona Speedweeks has been the only event announced for the team so far this season. When does Auchmoody think the team will hit the track next?
“We really want to run the Circuit of the Americas in Austin,” he said. “Right now, that’s circled on our calendar.”
For now, though, a dream has come true for Willy Auchmoody. While he’s not the one in the driver’s seat, he’s certainly at the controls. The Money Team Racing’s #50 Chevrolet, sporting probably the wildest paint scheme in recent memory, emblazoned with the Pit Viper logo, will roll from 35th in the 64th running of the Great American Race.
With the road Auchmoody’s taken, don’t put it past this team from being in contention all day Sunday. I mean, isn’t the saying “You have to be in it to win it?” Well, TMT’s in it, Kaz Grala’s in it and Willy Auchmoody is too.
Why not this team? Better yet, why not Willy?