Tad Geschickter, the co-owner of Chevrolet-based, Daytona 500-winning JTG Daugherty Racing, was a light-hitting catcher for William & Mary, the country’s second-oldest college.
W&M’s 1983 championship in the East Coast Athletic Conference-South baseball tournament helped Geschickter appreciate his 2023 Daytona 500 victory even more.
Geschickter, who prides himself on having been a solid defensive catcher willing to do whatever it took to win, still relishes those days.
Growing up in the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia, Tad Geschickter spent his youth playing and watching stick-and-ball sports.
Geschickter's only exposure to racing was when he and his father might catch snippets of the Daytona 500 on Wide World of Sports. It wasn’t until he joined Proctor & Gamble’s sales team that the former William & Mary baseball player became involved with NASCAR.
Whoa! Back up there a moment. Did you say, former William & Mary baseball player? You’re kidding, right? A NASCAR team owner actually played baseball at William and Mary in Williamsburg, one of America’s most prestigious public colleges?
As unusual as it may sound, the co-owner of Chevrolet-based, Daytona 500-winning JTG Daugherty Racing—along with co-owners Gordon Smith, Jodi Geschickter and Brad Daugherty—was a light-hitting catcher for W&M, the country’s second-oldest college, behind only Harvard. He describes himself as “a guy who understood what role he needed to play in order to help the team win.”
Geschickter grew up drawn to stick-and-ball sports. Academically strong, he spent the 1982 through 1985 seasons playing at W&M, then spent 1986 as an assistant coach while finishing his degree. He then went into sales for P&G, which was just getting into NASCAR as a means of promoting its familiar line of household products. In 1994, weary of traveling and well-versed in the business aspect of NASCAR, he and his new wife, Jodi, began their own race team in what is now the Xfinity Series.
“I became a fan of racing’s business model,” Geschickter said. “I had experience in marketing and finding sponsors, so we started our own team. I was a realist, who thought we’d stay in (Xfinity) for five or six years, then go into Cup. But in 1995 that series was a whole different deal. We stayed there 14 years before finally getting to Cup.”
Jeff Fuller was top-10 in points in 1995, their first year in Xfinity. He won at Bristol in August of 1996, in just their 44th start. But JTG Racing didn’t win again until Marcos Ambrose prevailed in the Xfinity race at Watkins Glen in August of 2008. All told, JTG Racing used 23 drivers in 633 Xfinity races between 1995 and its final season of 2008, when former UNC and NBA star Daugherty—a long-time NASCAR fan who wore No. 43 on the court— joined the ownership team after meeting the Geschickters through mutual friend and former NASCAR Cup driver Robert Pressley.
JTG Daugherty Racing went full-time Cup with Ambrose for the 2009-2010 seasons. It also put past champion Bobby Labonte, road racing specialist AJ Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, and Ryan Preece in its cars in various combinations. After several years as a two-car team featuring Allmendinger, Buescher, Preece, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., it downsized to one car in 2022.
The payoff—after all, more teams expand than contract—came when Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty won this year's season-opening Daytona 500 in a race that went 12 overtime laps. (It was the first D-500 victory for a single-car team since Trevor Bayne won for the Wood Brothers in 2011). The organization’s first Cup victory had come more than nine years earlier, when Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen in August of 2014 in its 202nd start.
“The downside (to contracting) is that you can’t afford as many engineers or people,” Geschickter recently told a W&M alumni magazine. “You get limited track time, so you’re gathering half as much data. But at the end of the day, you still have those resources to operate and focus on one car. We have a staff of 65 and race against teams with 400 employees. It’s pretty special for a small group of people who work hard to pull off the biggest win in the sport.”
W&M’s 1983 championship in the East Coast Athletic Conference-South baseball tournament helped Geschickter appreciate his Daytona 500 victory even more. The school’s first winning season in 12 years and the conference title gave the Tribe its first NCAA tournament bid. Geschickter, who prides himself on having been a solid defensive catcher willing to do whatever it took to win, still relishes those days.
“Having done that, where it’s a magical and unpredicted run, I know my fondest memories were the people I did it with,” he said. “To this day, the people on that team are some of my best friends. (His roommate and best friend is former NFL defensive back Mark Kelso of the Buffalo Bills).
“That was a unique perspective because I took the time to step back, look at the people I work with and the sponsors who have stuck with us through thick and thin, and enjoy it. Having done that at W&M gave me a perspective to want to soak in this (500 victory). We run 36 races, and they’re all important and pay the same number of points. But in our sport, there’s no bigger win than the Daytona 500. For the rest of your life, you’re announced as a Daytona 500 champion.”
And in case anyone wonders: “No, there hasn’t been any part of this 29-year journey that’s been easy.”