Gaunt Brothers Racing, which fields the No. 96 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Cup Series full-time for driver Daniel Suarez, has announced the hiring of motorsports vetrean Nick Ollila (pronounced [oh-li-lah]) as the team’s technical director.
Ollila joins Gaunt Brothers Racing after a three-year tenure as the technical director for Kelly Racing in the Virigin Australia Supercars Championship. The Michigan-native returned to the US late last week in time for the resumption of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, May 17th at Darlington Raceway.
“Nick brings considerable insight into what we’re doing with our current inventory of racecars and what we’ll be doing with our NextGen car in 2022,” said Marty Gaunt, president and CEO, Gaunt Brothers Racing. “He has deep experience in all forms of motorsports, specifically in embracing technology and managing people. Nick also has a strong rapport with our partner Toyota, as many of the people he worked with when he was at Red Bull are the same people there today. He’ll be able to hit the ground running, which is good, because with two to three races a week, we’re all going to be running.”
This is not the first time Ollila & Gaunt’s paths have crossed in the motorsports world, as over twenty years ago in 1997, Gaunt and Ollila were both working at Kranefuss-Haas Racing, Gaunt as GM, and Ollila working as chief engineer. Their paths would cross once again nearly ten years later, at the now defunct Red Bull Racing, with Gaunt serving as GM, with Ollila serving as the chief aerodynamicist.
“It’s the people who make the cars go, and Nick has been making cars go since the early ‘70s,” Gaunt said. “We’re lucky to have a lot of long-term employees who have been with us for 10 years, but scaling up from running a part-time schedule to a full schedule meant bringing in more people. Coming up with the recipe of having all the right people in all the right places isn’t easy, but Nick is a good chef.”
Despite Ollila’s recent Australian Supercar experience, NASCAR is where the Michigan-native has spent the bulk of his motorsports career, a highlight of which includes being the drivetrain specialist at Rod Osterlund Racing in when Dale Earnhardt earned his first of seven championships in 1980.
“Motorsports is my passion, and I’m proud to have turned it into a career,” Ollila said. “I’ve spent time in a variety of racing series, but NASCAR is the one that intrigues me the most. The level of competition is unmatched, so success is very satisfying. I’ve known and worked with Marty Gaunt and many of the people at Gaunt Brothers Racing for years. They’ve got a great foundation and they’re building for the future, and I’m very happy to be a part of shaping that future.”
Ollila’s racing career began at Team Penske in 1972 as a mechanic, preparing cars for the numerous series that the team participated in at the time, including INDYCAR, NASCAR and Formula One. Ollila chose to shift his focus to NASCAR in late 1976, joining DiGard Racing as a drivetrain specialist on Darrell Waltrip’s entry until the end of 1978, where he went on to work for Rod Osterlund Racing.
INDYCAR and Team Penske enticed in 1982, with Ollila returning as the team’s engine builder, boasting four series championships (’82, ’83, ’85 & ’88) and four Indianapolis 500 victories (’84, ’85, ’87 & ’88). The strong connection with Team Penske directed him back to NASCAR in 1990, becoming the lead engineer for Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace, a move that began a 20-year stint in NASCAR for Ollila.
Ollila worked at Kranefuss-Haas Racing from 1995 – 1997, establishing and leading the engineering and aerodynamic departments for the team. Ollila would then join Roush Fenway Racing for a eight-year sting as the teams chief engineer and director of aerodynamics.
In 2005, Ollila moved to Richard Childress Racing as its director of aerodynamics, where he implemented Indoor GPS, a laser-based measuring system for large-scale metrology that was a first for the industry.
In September 2007, Ollila joined Red Bull Racing as chief aerodynamicist, where his efforts greatly furthered the team’s development, made evident by the teams first career victory in August 2009 at Michigan International Raceway (Ollila’s home-track) by driver Brian Vickers
Ollila then served as a consultant specializing in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and computer-aided design (CAD) from 2010-2016 before heading overseas to Australia, where his first stint was at Arise Racing. There, he was the operations manager and technical director, which segued to his role with Kelly Racing in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship in late 2017.