‘I want them to worry about me’

In the back of Gavin Paull’s trailer, tucked beneath an array of tools used to prepare his race car, is the secret to his success.
It’s a binder.
On its side is inscribed Harris Auto Racing’s Chassis Set-up Tech Seminar. On its cover is a caricature of a race car driver with a trophy snuggled like a newborn baby in one arm while his other hand is held above his head indicating he’s # 1, with “Making you a champion” written beneath him.
Inside, it’s filled with pages upon pages of diagrams and tips on how to get the most out of your car.
And that’s exactly what Paull has done.
“It talks about set-up, and moving bars, and everything,” the 24-year-old said while flipping through the pages. “It tells you about suspensions, and scales, and you’ve got to do it every week.”
So if somebody wanted to play a mean trick, all they would have to do is take this binder?
“Nah, it’s all up here now,” Paull replied while pointing to his head, which was focused on setting up his Modified race car for 25 hours last week—and that was even after he had won the feature race the previous Saturday night.
“I’m not dissing anyone else, but maintenance and set-up is what makes you win,” stressed Paull, who usually spends four hours a night on his car. “You’ve got to have the car perfect.
“It’s like going to school,” he added. “You’ve got to study or you won’t get good grades—same thing with racing.”
One can argue that, pound-for-pound, Paull is the best racer in the Modified division at the Emo Speedway. Actually, there wouldn’t be much of an argument if you just look at the numbers.
He’s only raced in five races this season yet he’s won the feature twice (a mark of 40 percent).
Greg Ferris, who won the “big race” this past Saturday night (Paull finished a surprising seventh in the 12-car field), also has two feature wins under his belt, but he’s raced in seven races (29 percent).
Not bad, but not as good as Paull’s chances.
Not even the Modified points leader—Jamie Davis—can boast such a percentage. And though he leads Paull by 193 points and has five top-five finishes in nine races this summer, Davis hasn’t won a feature yet.
When asked what his Emo Speedway highlight is, Paull disclosed it was his feature victory from two weeks ago.
“At the start it wasn’t too bad,” he recalled. “I thought I was going to run away with it for a little bit, but my line just kept getting slower and slower and then [Jason] Anderson got by me, and I was a little worried because I couldn’t chase him down.
“But then the caution [flag] came out and I went up top to see if there was any sticky stuff and it seemed to be pretty good, and that’s why I decided to stick to the high side.
“It was a huge difference.”
But when Paull is asked what his overall racing highlight is, it’s not a win but rather a crash.
When he was 17 years old, he had qualified for a feature in the Modified division at the Hibbing Raceway, which is an accomplishment in itself. But he learned a valuable lesson during that race—don’t get stuffed into the wall and get T-boned.
It’s not like Paull wanted to get into the crash that “busted up” four of his ribs and knocked him unconscious, which required a trip to the emergency room at the hospital, and then caused him to suffer from internal bleeding for two months afterwards.
But at least he’s got a cool story to tell his newborn son.
Garrett Paull was brought into this world on July 5 and dad figures by the time the little guy is three or four years old that he’ll be strapped into a go-kart.
And maybe by the time he’s 16 years old, Paull will buy the little guy a Modified car of his, which is what his dad did for him when he was that age.
“I didn’t even know how to drive. I didn’t know how to drive a standard or nothing,” Paull remarked. “I had never even driven a normal car on the street or nothing, and he put me in and I learned from there.”
Paull also is appreciative of the support he receives from his partner, Joelle Blanc.
“She supports me 100 percent,” he said. “Most women would’ve cut me right off and said, ‘Get in the house and start changing diapers’ on Saturday nights.
“But I spend my time with them during the week and she lets me do my thing on Saturday night,” he added.
Most drivers usually get introduced to the sport through the Street Stock division, but not Paull. His dad, Garnett, bought a car from Ricky Brandick of Devlin and Paull was expectedly fervent about the purchase.
“I was 16 and I was right pumped about it, and we got it the next week.”
Paull started racing the next year and did so until two years ago, when he got to the point where he had to take a break. But now he’s back and the former Emo track champion and fan favourite is making waves whenever he’s out on the track.
“I’m kind of an outlaw,” said Paull, who has the dimensions of a UFC fighter, so when he speaks, people listen.
But Paull never got a chance to speak a few years ago when he was black-flagged for not stopping when the flagman asked him to.
“A couple of years ago at the [Emo] fair, there was an accident and I got a $500 fine and a 30-day suspension, so I haven’t really come back after that,” said Paull.
“They wanted the cars to stop, but my transmission was broke so we stuck it into high gear and then started the car with the push truck, so you can’t stop once it’s jammed into high gear,” he recalled.
“We started in the back and I made it to third in six laps and the caution came out and then they gave me the black flag, and then the flagman wouldn’t come down to explain to me why he did that,” he added.
But that was then and this is now. He’s got a good crew with him in Valley Calder, Steve Fry, and his nephew, Joel Baker. He’s also got an array of sponsors, though he’s “always looking” for more support.
Paull and his crew now have their sights on the two nights of racing held in conjunction with the Emo Fair (Aug. 19-20), which is always well-attended and features an influx of cars vying for the points title.
That points title is something he’s won before—and will be looking to do so again.
“We’re ready to win the fair, that’s what we’re going for,” enthused Paull while Baker and Fry nodded in agreement nearby.
Paull followed that remark with an intriguing answer to a straightforward question—“Are you worried about the other drivers when you’re out there?”
“I want them to worry about me,” Paull said with a grin.
And judging from his results, they should be.