Speedway Digest Staff
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Philanthropist Sherry Pollex is the winner of the 2023 National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award, the NMPA announced Thursday night.
Presented annually since 1958, the award, named in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers, recognizes individuals and/or groups who have provided outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing. Each year, the NMPA Myers Brothers Award winner is selected by a vote of the NMPA membership.
As a mainstay in NASCAR, Pollex launched a foundation with Joe Gibbs Racing driver and former longtime partner Martin Truex Jr. in 2007 to help children and families affected by cancer. Her work led to the annual “Catwalk for a Cause” event in 2010, which has raised more than $4 million.
“Catwalk for a Cause” was an annual event many always looked forward to attending. It allowed children battling cancer to walk the catwalk in a fashion show, often accompanied by drivers and other individuals from within the NASCAR industry who supported the fight against childhood cancer.
Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014 and bravely fought the disease, always exhibiting her #SherryStrong message. She died in September at age 44.
Pollex’s legacy continues throughout NASCAR and beyond. In 2020, her foundation opened the “Sherry Strong Integrative Medicine Oncology Clinic" at Novant Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This is the second time Pollex has been the recipient of the Myers Brother Award. The other nominees were Julie Giese, Kerry Tharp, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Myers Brothers Award Winners:
2022, Justin Marks; 2021, Bob Jenkins; 2020, Jimmie Johnson; 2019, Darrell Waltrip; 2018, Jim France; 2017, Martin Truex Jr., Sherry Pollex; 2016, Betty Jane France; 2015, Darlington Raceway; 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr.; 2013, Tony Stewart; 2012, Jeff Gordon; 2011, Drs. Joseph and Rose Mattioli; 2010, Jim Hunter; 2009, Barney Hall; 2008, T. Taylor Warren;
2007, Bill France Jr.; 2006, Benny Parsons; 2005, Rusty Wallace; 2004, Kyle and Patti Petty; 2003, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 2002, Mike Helton; 2001, Dale Earnhardt; 2000, Kyle Petty; 1999, Junie Donlavey; 1998, T. Wayne Robertson; 1997, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1996, Rick Hendrick; 1995, TNN: The Nashville Network;
1994, Brickyard 400/Indianapolis Motor Speedway; 1993, Goody’s Manufacturing Co.; 1992, Richard and Lynda Petty; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990. Dick Beaty; 1989, Bill France Jr.; 1988 Richmond International Raceway; 1987, ESPN; 1986, Hayride 500; 1985, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1984, Charlotte Motor Speedway;
1983, CBS-TV; 1982, MRN; 1981, Junior Johnson; 1980, STP and Champion Spark Plug Co.; 1979, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1978, Busch Beer; 1977, First National City Travelers Checks; 1976, Junior Johnson; 1975, Bill France Sr.; 1974, H. Clay Earles; 1973, Wood Brothers;
1972, Winston Cigarettes; 1971, Richard Petty; 1970, Richard Howard; 1969, David Pearson; 1968, Wood Brothers; 1967, Richard Petty; 1966, Norris Friel; 1965, Ned Jarrett; 1964, Richard Petty; 1963, Marvin Panch; 1962, Hank Schoolfield; 1961, Ned Jarrett; 1960, Russ Catlin; 1959, Lee Petty; 1958, Bob Colvin.
Although it was a disappointing NASCAR Cup Series season for Chase Elliott, his fan support remains strong with the recognition of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver.
The award, presented by Hooters, was announced Thursday night during the annual NASCAR awards banquet in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the sixth consecutive year Elliott has been voted the winner, and he has won the award in six of his eight seasons as a NASCAR Cup Series driver.
The only major NASCAR award determined solely by the vote of race fans, Elliott earned 104,534 votes. The newly-crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion, Ryan Blaney, was second to Elliott in the voting. Kyle Larson, Elliott’s teammate, was third.
“This award has always, in my eyes, a reflection and extension of my family’s place in the sport and I recognize my spot in line and recognize what they’ve done,” Elliott said. “The reason that it’s special is because of the fans and how supportive they have been to my entire family, myself included, our team, over the years. I’m grateful for that. I don’t take it lightly, ever. I know you said you weren’t stunned, but I still take it very seriously, and I’m grateful for what they do for us. They’ve been phenomenal. So, I appreciate that.”
A driver must have declared for NASCAR Cup Series points to be eligible for the award.
Elliott’s father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, holds the record for the most award wins at 16. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the award 15 times.
The Most Popular Driver award has been presented to either an Elliott or an Earnhardt for 33 consecutive years.
Elliott went winless in 2023 and failed to earn a berth in the playoffs, finishing 17th in the championship standings. It is the worst finish of Elliott’s Cup Series career. A snowboarding incident in the spring sidelined Elliott for six weeks while he recovered from surgery for a fractured left tibia. A one-race suspension from NASCAR for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600 made it a total of seven races Elliott missed during the year.
The NMPA Most Popular Driver Award is one of the longest-running awards presented annually by the National Motorsports Press Association.
Speedway Motorsports Announces 2023 O. Bruton Smith, Promoter of the Year, Speedway of the Year And Acceleration Awards
In recognition of outstanding service and performance on behalf of Speedway Motorsports and its world-class entertainment facilities, company officials recognized the 2023 Speedway Motorsports recipients for the O. Bruton Smith Award, Promoter of the Year, Speedway of the Year and the Acceleration Award. Announcements were made at The Twelve Thirty Club in Nashville, where the NASCAR industry is celebrating Champions’ Week.
“Each year our company strives to exceed expectations for fans, corporate clients and industry stakeholders as we produce world-class sports and entertainment events,” said Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports. “It is an honor to recognize some of our exceptional leaders and the performances of our teams across the country. 2023 was an exceptional year and I am grateful for the hard work and dedication our teammates put forth to achieve our success.”
Bruton Smith Award
Speedway Motorsports Chief Financial Officer Michael Hodge received the 2023 O. Bruton Smith Award.
Created 11 years ago to recognize one employee annually across all of Speedway Motorsports and its subsidiaries, the recipient of this prestigious award is someone who exhibits Speedway Motorsports’ founder O. Bruton Smith’s traits: character, enthusiasm, drive, a heart for helping others, respect/appreciation for team members, vision and determination.
A 16-year veteran with the company, Hodge is responsible for overseeing the company’s financial strategy, reporting and analysis. Hodge joined Speedway Motorsports in 2006 and has served in various financial management positions with the company. Prior to joining Speedway Motorsports, he worked as an Audit and Assurance Manager at Deloitte, where he specialized in serving publicly traded and privately held companies in the motorsports and automotive retail industries. Hodge holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is a Certified Public Accountant.
“The O. Bruton Smith Award is the highest individual honor given to a member of our company,” said Smith. “The fans and sponsors who attend our events may not see the fruit of Michael’s labor, but his dedication and hard work behind the scenes is critical to our success. I’m so thankful for Michael’s insights and counsel. He and his accounting teams across our company are unsung heroes in our operation, and I’m honored to bring this recognition to Michael Hodge for his many contributions.”
Promoter of the Year
Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter was named Promoter of the Year for the second consecutive time. The annual award is chosen by the selection committee and given to one Speedway Motorsports general manager who best displayed the creativity, innovation, leadership and execution that are fundamental to Speedway Motorsports’ way of doing business.
Walter and his CMS team again hosted a sold-out Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend plus fostered year-over-year revenue growth for the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, World of Outlaws World Finals and dramatic growth in non-event week camping. Under Walter’s direction, the Charlotte Motor Speedway team also hosted the first-ever Super Motocross World Championship Playoffs at zMAX Dragway.
Walter expanded his governmental relations efforts with local and state leaders to secure licenses for sports betting at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway. He also tirelessly promotes North Carolina motorsports as chair of the North Carolina Motorsports Association, encouraging government officials to recognize the industry’s value as an economic and tourism driver.
“Greg is an exceptional leader and promoter---not only telling all the fans about the great things both on and off the track that happen at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but also making sure our local and state officials know how our events drive tourism spending at Charlotte and North Wilkesboro,” Smith said. “Greg is also a dedicated team-builder who promotes a culture of growth and improvement at Charlotte Motor Speedway and amongst our executive leadership team every week.”
Speedway of the Year
Las Vegas Motor Speedway received Speedway of the Year recognition among 11 state-of-the-art Speedway Motorsports entertainment complexes. The award was presented to LVMS President and General Manager Chris Powell for the best overall performance during 2023 in such aspects as fan friendliness, attendance, financial performance, sponsor relations and creativity.
In presenting the award, Speedway Motorsports Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Burch pointed to the facility’s outstanding performance in generating revenue, including a record year for the Electric Daisy Carnival multi-day music festival.
“In addition to producing exceptional NASCAR and NHRA races, Las Vegas Motor Speedway excels in recruiting non-traditional events and corporate engagement throughout the year,” Burch said. “Chris and his team are dedicated to growing that very significant part of our business, and LVMS continues to be an inspiration for all of our facilities to drive us forward in that direction.”
Texas Motor Speedway received the second annual Acceleration Award, presented to a subsidiary in recognition of year-over-year improvement across a number of different metrics. Texas Motor Speedway Senior Vice President and General Manager Mark Faber accepted the award on behalf of the TMS team.
In 2023 under Faber’s first full year at the helm of The Great American Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway showed significant revenue growth surrounding the EchoPark Automotive 400 NASCAR Playoff race, hosted the Gordy’s Hwy 30 Music Fest (Texas edition) and engaged fans in ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’ fashion with the 3,000-foot long Belly-Up Bar and a new “Bigger Hoss” giant HDTV spanning 22,692 square-feet. Several members of the Texas Motor Speedway staff also supported Speedway Motorsports production of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
“Texas Motor Speedway rolled up its sleeves, put in the work and re-established itself as an entertainment destination in 2023,” added Smith. “I’m excited to see how Mark and his team accelerate their momentum into 2024.”
ROGER PENSKE, Owner, No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang – WHEN DID YOU SEE THE TURNAROUND IN RYAN? “It’s been a long journey for him. I think as we see all the teams and drivers that come up through the business, remember it was 2012 when his dad came into our motorhome at Richmond and we talked. Here’s this young guy with lots of passion and wanted to be a champion. We bought into his package at that point and he won with Brad in trucks. He won in our Xfinity early on in 2013, so we saw that he knew how to be a winner. I think that’s one of the first things we try to do is can you be a winner? And then you’ve got to jell in with the team and I think as he moved on his career with our technical partner, the Wood Brothers, he became a driver for them. I think when we really saw his capability was in 2017 when he won the race at Pocono. Racing, it’s ironic, racing Harvick who is retiring now and Blaney is the champion, but that really showed us that he had the mettle to be a winner, and then as we moved on he was fast. We had pit stop problems. We had speeding in the pits. All of those things that happen and I think as we started with the support of Joey and everyone else on the team and then Hassler coming on board in 2022 – now think about it, Hassler started with us in 2008 as a performance engineer 15 years ago, so it wasn’t he just showed up on the scene. We’ve used the Wood Brothers as a real farm team for us to work with our people, so Ryan came through that and, of course, he and Jonathan got together. In ‘22 we had speed. He won the All-Star Race that year, so we saw that he had that capability, but coming into ‘23, I know everybody has talked about how we kind of looked at we didn’t really have any speed at the beginning. I think we were learning about the car and it took us some time, but the effort that we always do at the end of the season for the championship is build new cars with all the things that we learned through the season and I think that Hassler, along with Jeremy Bullins, certainly Paul Wolfe and Brian Wilson, the chiefs all got together as we got into that last eight and they really put their shoulder against this car and I think we just knew that he was a champion. His persona, the fans liked him. I think one of the things that I said to him was the biggest thing that you did in winning this championship is your reputation in the garage area with the other teams and the other drivers, and I think that he raced fair. I know there are comments that at one point Kyle Petty made some comments that he was Kasey Kahne or something and wasn’t a champion, but putting together those last races in the last six was amazing and then the proof of the pudding, really, was racing Kyle Larson – forget everything else – racing Kyle Larson those last 20-25 laps and being able to win the championship. Nobody gave it to him. The stops we had, we had good stops. They weren’t quite as quick as the other guys because I told him you can’t win this championship coming from the back on a speeding penalty, so we were a little slower coming in and out, but I think the stops were good enough and he was able to come up through the field, which was amazing. So, I think it was a journey that he was on starting back a decade ago as a young guy. I think everyone has to understand that. It takes time. Again, with our team, I said it before, that team on the 12 car – 11-and-a-half years of experience with our company. When you look at the entire Team Penske, 44 percent of our people have been there over 10 years, so it’s that domain knowledge which makes a difference and I think his connection with the people, the support and I think the partnership that he has with Joey, that took time, and with Brad. It took time for those guys to really say, ‘Hey, we can help each other.’ But it’s amazing how they worked off each other for the last year or so. It’s a long answer to your question, but it’s a journey.”
DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD WIN BACK-TO-BACK TITLES, ESPECIALLY IN A YEAR WHERE IT SEEMED FORD WAS LAGGING BEHIND? “You win one and you hope you can win it because you start all over again. They don’t give you an extra lap ahead of everybody after you win one, so, obviously, Joey did a great job and, by the way, when you think about it – last year at Phoenix if you watched Ryan, he was a good wingman. He had a fast car at Phoenix and we knew that he had the speed, but I would say that it took us a while and with Ford engineering and certainly with Yates and the motor side we came prepared and we got better through the season. I think we understood the car better and certainly it turned out. We were always competitive on the big tracks – Atlanta and the high-speed tracks – but it was the downforce tracks that we weren’t there, but, again, once we got to Phoenix I think we had a package that was very competitive and obviously, for me personally, to think about two in a row. I was looking at some stats from our people. In the last six years, we’ve won 148 races and 12 championships, so when you think about the total Team Penske effort, it’s been amazing. I can’t even look back because I don’t know how we ever did it, but it’s a credit to all of the people who are in our organization, that have been there and put in so much effort and time in.”
ARE THESE ACCOMPLISHMENTS SWEETER AS YOU GET OLDER? “Well, it makes it tougher to do more because you set a standard. The expectations, I mean it’s no different than Hendrick and Gibbs and maybe ourselves in that group at the moment, but the expectations are you’ve got to be a winner. We don’t really want to finish second and we want to win, and I think that the commitment – Mike Nelson, who is our NASCAR program leader, and Travis Geisler, 40 years of experience between the two of them at Team Penske – so we’re all in the same boat. We go out there to win. We try to hire the people and one thing is we fill the funnel from the bottom and not from the top, so all of the people today that are successful and made us successful, just like Blaney came in at the bottom and I think we’ve got to continue to do that and that will keep us very sharp at the top with the best people.”
WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOU GET OUT OF LARSON DOING THE INDY 500 FOR INDYCAR? “It’s a great question. We are so excited to see Larson come to the speedway. I know Rick talked to me about running Larson and we hadn’t had the success for a couple years and I said, ‘Look for us to take on a fourth car, ‘ and then of course McLaren did and we just applauded that all the way along, and I think that his skill and his fan base in the midwest is amazing, and he went out there and did his rookie test – bang, bang bang. Kurt Busch has run there. Think about the other people who have come from Formula One – Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill and other people like Nigel Mansell have been successful. I think that he comes with a tremendous amount of talent and it’s something that he wants to do. It’s interesting. Blaney said to me at some point over the last several weeks that he would like to go to Indy. I was like, ‘Whoa, slow down a little bit.’ We’re good to have everybody come to Indy, but if we can have the double and really play up Memorial Day at both Charlotte and Indianapolis it’ll be great. The interest from the fan base with him coming, we can see it already in our ticket sales. He’ll be a great asset to Indianapolis and the 500.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW MEDIA RIGHTS DEAL ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY? “I think there’s a time period going on where people are moving from linear TV and certainly network television and, believe me, if NBC and FOX and the other partners didn’t believe that there was value in what they put together, NASCAR wouldn’t have gotten $7.7 billion, so I have to go along with the experts on that. To me, it’s a great move. I think putting a package together today in this environment is amazing and getting more people interested will give us even more capability. I think from a sponsor standpoint, we’ve been able to attract sponsors because of the existing television package. It was obviously not all on network, and I think we’re just gonna have to see how that all plays out. I can’t tell you, but the money that was committed behind the streaming and those types of non-linear TV has been amazing, so it’s gonna work and I think we’re seeing people today looking at it – their timeframe when they can look at an event and all of this will play out and how they can take that content and spread it not just on race weekend, but they can spread it across the next week and even go back in the archives with it, so I think it’s gonna be great.”
IS THAT AS MUCH A MODEL AS YOU GO INTO WITH YOUR OWN DEAL WITH INDYCAR? “As you know, we come up in 2025. Today we’re in discussions and we have a great media partner in NBC and we expect to be talking. Other people have come to us. I think NASCAR, it was great to see that with the CW and obviously with ESPN and Formula One, so we hope we can draft in behind them.”
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON MOTORSPORTS AND THE SWITCH TO SUSTAINABLE ENERGY. HOW DO YOU SEE THAT PLAYING OUT IN THE NEXT 2-5 YEARS? “As you know, sustainability is a key word that everybody is using. I think it really started when you looked at the investment world. People didn’t want to invest in companies that didn’t have a sustainability program. We certainly understand that from an IndyCar perspective. We’re using our renewables from our fuel. NASCAR is moving in that direction. I think the hybrid formula seems to be something that will make a lot of sense as we go forward because you’ve even seen electrification kind of slow down here lately, and I think more hybrid is more of a bridging strategy to the future, so I think that we have that responsibility, certainly as we look at the Indianapolis track. We want to be carbon free at some point. I didn’t put a date, 2030 or 2040, but the things that we’re doing there, all of us are looking at that. I know that as NASCAR gets into their facilities and as we go forward we have to think about that. What are we using? What kind of paper? What are the things we’re using at the track? We have a partnership with Waste Management, in fact, to help us to make sure that we’re dealing in that, so it’s top of mind. Do I have the playbook for NASCAR? I could say no, but I know that they’re involved in it. We certainly are. When you think about all the trucks and trailers that go to IndyCar races are using renewable diesel – everyone is – so we’ve put that in this past year. I think that we’re cognizant of our responsibility as individuals and as Americans to make it a better place.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE COMPETITION SIDE OF THINGS AND OTHER FUELS LIKE HYDROGEN? “Well, hydrogen, I guess Toyota has been the leader. They’ve not only talked about it, but we’ve seen some hydrogen cars. There was a hydrogen car at Le Mans, I think, last year that was run by the French. I’m not sure who the organization was, but I think that’s an opportunity. We’ve looked at it in our truck fleets. We’ve run some just to test the units, but it’s gonna be a long time before we see that in competition, at least in where we see it today. I think you’re gonna have some modified different engines and you’ll have some hybrids that will start to lean towards sustainability.”
DO YOU SEE EV’S IN NASCAR COMPETITION AND HOW DO YOU HANDLE TRADITION FANS? “I think you can have a series as you see Formula E is obviously a fully EV series, but I think that there will be, I would say, a hybrid, which we can have some electrical component of the drivetrain along with a nice engine. I think that’s what we’re gonna see and that will be the bridging strategy for, I think, the next several years here. I don’t see it overnight, but you could have maybe a sedan series, where they could run fully electric vehicles, but I think first engine manufacturers or the OEMs are now dealing with their own strategies of trying to develop this EV marketplace, which is slower than they expected. I think the public relations got out ahead of it. We have an issue of the reliability of the charging network. The infrastructure is not there. Range anxiety, so all of these things. Remember at Formula E they had to come in and get in another car. Well, if we had to bring two cars to a NASCAR race, I’m not sure that would be what we want to do right now if we’re trying to look at cost, but I think in the future I would hope that we’d have some part of that, and I think the hybrid version could be very good.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang – HAS THE LAST MONTH MADE UP FOR NOT MEETING MARK HAMILL? “Yeah, maybe a little bit, but I’m still jealous. I’m still working on the firesuit from Bubba, so we’ll see where that goes. I struck out on the helmet. I tried really hard. The helmet was off the table, so the next-best thing I’ll take the firesuit hopefully. Hopefully, I can get something.”
WHAT ABOUT TYLER REDDICK? “I haven’t asked him yet. Maybe. It would be cool to have one of each, but I’ve got to work on one before I the other one first. Its gonna kill my self confidence if I strike out if I go 0-for-2, so I need to try to get one first and then I’ll try for the other one.”
ROGER SAID YOU’VE ASKED ABOUT THE INDY 500 AND HE TOLD YOU TO SLOW DOWN. WAS THAT A SERIOUS REQUEST? “Honestly, it’s something that’s bounced around my mind for a couple years. It’s something I feel like is if you could do the double that’s cool. Larson is doing it next year. That’s gonna be great. I’ve poked around that idea with RP for a couple years now and I might have to bring it back up, so we’ll see where that goes.”
WHAT IS IT THAT LURES YOU TO THAT RACE? YOU DON’T HAVE THAT TRADITION OF THAT KIND OF RACING? “No, I don’t, but I just feel like there’s not many people that can do the double. It’s a pretty short list and it would be neat to just do it. I have respect for all forms of motorsports, so I think you want to go experience something like that. I think at my age it would be kind of perfect to do it, but I just think the nostalgia of it and to be able to say you ran hopefully 1100 miles in one day on the racetrack is a cool feat. It’s cool for Kyle being able to do it and maybe one day I’ll get the privilege too.”
ARE YOU READY FOR THE TEST NEXT WEEK? HAVE YOU BEEN BRIEFED? “We had a pretty good run though of what they’re gonna do procedure-wise when we had our meeting with NASCAR before the season ended, so I have a pretty good idea. I don’t know if it’s changed or not, but I am ready to get back behind the wheel. I think that will be nice. It’ll give me a pretty good break. It will actually let me focus on doing productive things for a little bit, so I am excited. Hopefully we find some good stuff at that test. I know we’ve got a lot of things to try and hopefully we can improved that package a little bit.”
WHAT WILL MAKE THE PHOENIX TEST A SUCCESS? “I think if you just have some good notes from it. If you can take a handful of things that, ‘Hey, I think this helped. Let’s continue down this path.’ I think you’re just looking for what path we can continue to go down to try to help it out, so hopefully we can find some of those things and I think that will make it fairly successful.”
WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE BEING THE CHAMPION? “The week immediately after was pretty fast-paced. The week of Thanksgiving was kind of nice being home and not doing much. I think it kind of sank in and then you’re with your family for Thanksgiving, so it’s kind of nice to relive it, and then you come here and it’s brought back up again. You get to see all of your guys in one setting. The parade yesterday was fun. All of my guys had a blast on Broadway. You get re-reminded of it, so it’s been fun. I’ve been trying to take it all in and trying to slow everything down. That’s what I keep telling people. Even at Phoenix I was like, ‘We need to slow this stuff down and try to enjoy it and remember it and embrace it.’ We’ll keep trying to do that, but it’s been a blast and I’m looking forward to the rest of the off-season and what’s to come.”
HAS IT CHANGED YOUR LIFE? “I don’t know. Internally, personally I think it gives you more confidence. You’re a champion and you succeeded and you did well in your job and your sport, but outside of that it doesn’t change. You’re still who you are and you’re still a person, but I think internally it gives you a good feeling of solidifying that you achieved the ultimate accomplishment goal. It makes you feel good, but other than that your life doesn’t really change that much, at least mine doesn’t. I try not to change anything too much.”
TOMMY BALDWIN TALKED ABOUT THROWING YOU IN THE CAR AS A YOUNG DRIVER. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? “Tommy is great. I’m gonna talk about him tonight a little bit in my speech and it’s good to know he’s doing better. I saw him at Richmond earlier this year and he gave me a great opportunity. In 2012, dad was running Cup cars for them and we had a handful of Xfinity races that year, which opened up a lot of doors for me, so I owe him a lot. He’s a huge part of getting me going and giving me opportunities. I’m excited to talk about Tommy. It was nice to talk to him after Phoenix, but I owe him a lot. He’s done so much for the sport and me and my family, so he’s definitely worthy of a lot of praise and he deserves it.”
SO MANY PEOPLE ARE PROUD OF HAVING BEEN A PART OF YOUR JOURNEY. “There are so many people that are involved in it and I wish I could mention everyone tonight, but you can’t. I would be talking for 20 minutes tonight if that was the case, but there are so many people that are involved and I think that’s where my emotion came from immediately after the race was you think about all those people that gave you a shot as a kid – 20 years of meeting people, giving you chances, working with them, a lot of great men and women I’ve been able to work with through the years and met and gave me chances. All of those people roll through your mind and it’s great. It’s hard to believe and a lot of people deserve a ton of credit for all the chances over the last 20 years and that definitely makes it special. And it’s nice to talk to those people after Phoenix. You kind of reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Bill and Gail Davis reached out, which was great. They did a lot for my dad. Trent (Owens), who was fun. We worked with him a little bit on the K&N side and it was a lot of neat people who have reached out and been really special for me personally.”
ROGER DESCRIBED YOUR TRIP TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP AS A LONG JOURNEY. WHAT DID THE WIN AT POCONO IN 2017 DO FOR YOU? “You get your first win in the series and internally it gives you confidence. ‘Hey, I can win at this level. I can be here.’ I think that was fantastic, whenever you get your first one, but then you still have to prove yourself. You can’t just be one and done, you have to continue to try to do better and continue to grow as a driver and as a person. I think winning for the Wood Brothers there was great and I can’t wait to talk about Eddie and Len tonight, and Leonard and Glen, so that was a really special one and it opened up a lot of doors.”
ROGER HAS A GRAPHIC OF THE TEAM’S SUCCESS THE LAST SIX YEARS COVERING ALL FORMS OF MOTORSPORTS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PART OF SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “That graphic is pretty amazing if you really look at it – the past six years of that and what he’s succeeded in in all different motorsports around the world. From the V8 stuff in Australia to Indy and NASCAR and IMSA, it’s pretty spectacular and to be a small part of all that success is great. I felt the same way winning my race for the Wood Brothers. Those guys had 98 other wins, but it means a lot that you’re a small part of the journey in the success. I was telling people, especially after we won, we did two firsts for Roger this year, which was win Indy and the 600, which is fantastic, and then back-to-back Cup championships. You don’t often get to do something for Roger that he hasn’t done before and to be able to bring that to him is definitely very special and to have him here celebrating this weekend makes it even better.”
HE ASKED YOUR DAD IF YOU HAD WHAT IT TOOK TO BE A CHAMPION. HOW DID YOU CONVINCE HIM? “You’ve got to talk to my dad about that. I don’t know. I remember going in the bus and talking to Roger in 2012 with my dad. I was 19 and looking for an opportunity, and, honestly, I don’t know how many people know this, but I visited a lot of different teams back in 2012. I went to Junior and Gibbs and stuff like that, trying to find somewhere to have a shot at a job. I got lucky at the time from the Penske side, from Brad’s side and Brad was a huge part of it as well, getting me in there. I think Roger had a lot of respect for my dad and he liked what he saw in the short little brief period, and I think Brad put in a lot of good words in his ear, too. It’s just a lot of people, fortunately, speaking fairly good about me – not that I deserved it, especially back then just getting going, but it gave me opportunities, so however they convinced him to give me a shot is pretty spectacular. And not only giving me a shot in 2012, but sticking with me for 10 years says a lot about his character and his trust in people. There’s a reason why there are a ton of people at Penske have been there for over 10 years, over 20 years. He puts his faith in people and just lets them grow. That’s the kind of amazing person he is.”
WHAT DO YOU FEEL THIS CHAMPIONSHIP WILL DO FOR YOUR REPUTATION IN THE GARAGE AREA? “I don’t know. I don’t really expect to be treated any different. I’m still the same person. We just accomplished something. I think that’s how everyone else wants to approach it. I can’t change how everyone else feels, but I think internally for you, you hold your head high and you have a lot of confidence going into Daytona – and in all of our group. My guys deserve to hold their heads high too going into L.A. and Daytona knowing what they’ve done the previous year, but then you’ve got to do it again. It’s a new year. Once it turns to 2024, ‘23 is forgotten about, so you can’t really focus too much on what we did last year because living in the past is no good. You’ve got to turn your focus on ‘24.”
CAN YOU PUT IN PERSPECTIVE WHERE YOU WERE AT THIS POINT A YEAR AGO AS THE GUY. LAST YEAR IT WAS JOEY AS THE CHAMPION? “That makes up for it, I guess. It ate at me pretty good last year of where we ended the year. I knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault besides mine. That stung and it ate at us a lot, me especially and you just try to get better and try to be in this spot the following year. I think what we learned in ‘23, kind of that hunger and how ‘22 ended for us really fueled us for this year. Jonathan and us worked really hard on it, so it’s nice when those things come full circle. It’s nice that we accomplished it the following year after we thought we had a good shot at it the previous year. You give one away and then it’s nice and rewarding when you work your way back and then accomplish it, which I’m proud of the whole effort by everybody. It’s not just me. It’s everybody.”
YOU HAVE A BIG PLATFORM AS A CHAMPION. IN THAT SENSE, HOW DO YOU HOPE TO MAKE AN IMPACT IN WHATEVER WAY YOU CAN? “I think you have to do both. You have to be impactful in the garage, whether it’s being a big voice in the driver’s council with NASCAR on this stuff. I think you have a right to be very vocal in it. I’m not a very vocal person in those meetings anyway. I should probably start being that way, but I think the away track stuff you have a big obligation as well. They just announced that TV deal going forward in the future and I think those are huge opportunities to push their drivers and champions and stuff like that, so I’ve been harping about what do we have? What are we doing? Let’s get ripping here on opportunities we can do to grow this sport and I think what they announced yesterday is a huge opportunity as well to kind of feed into that year in ‘25, so I think there can be some good opportunities and I’m pushing to do everything we can.”
YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN WILLING TO DO IT. “I want the sport to be healthy. I’m part of this sport and I want this sport, it’s reach, it’s product on track, the outlook of it from the fan perspective, internal perspective from the media, I want this sport to do well because I want to be a part of this sport for a long time, and you don’t want to be part of a sport that’s in a rut. I think they’ve done a great job of getting to where we need to be. I think it’s positive for the future, so my mindset on that stuff is, ‘Hey, I’m growing myself. I’m growing the sport.’ This is like a win-win for everybody. Why not do this stuff? If it’s available for you to do it and it’s not taking you away from your duty, your job on the track, do all the stuff you can to grow the sport because you want it to be healthy and you want to leave it better than when you came into it, and that’s all working towards the future. That’s just kind of how I’ve always been.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO AS FAR AS SHOWING YOUR PERSONALITY IN THE ROLE OF A CHAMPION? “I know I’m getting a little bit older than some of the generation that they’re targeting right now, but I still feel like I’m fairly young and hip and I can get the lingo down, but I’ve always been a fairly reserved person. I feel like some of those opportunities open up and, I don’t want to say you’re not yourself, but you’re like almost a little bit more open – at least I’ve been when I do those things and you’re excited to do that stuff and you’re excited to reach new audiences because it’s good for you and it’s good for the sport and it’s neat to reach new people who have no idea what you do. I enjoy meeting people that way, too. I think we have good opportunities. I don’t know how much we can talk about it, but we’ve got some things lined up that are awesome for not only all audience viewers and ages and stuff like that, so hopefully it all comes out well.”
YOU MOONWALKED OUT OF A ROOM ONCE THAT MADE YOUR TEAMMATES CRACK UP. “I don’t remember that. I haven’t moonwalked in a while. I wonder what year that was. I don’t think I can do it. I haven’t done it I guess since I did it there, but it comes out every now and then – it’s just certain moments.”
DID YOU SEE BUBBA’S POST AFTER THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO SLEEP. DID THAT SURPRISE YOU? IT WAS THE BEST SEASON OF HIS CAREER AND ONE OF HIS BEST FRIENDS JUST WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP. “It’s just kind of how Bubba is. He’s very hard on himself. It was fun to celebrate with him. We had a great time. He is just super hard on himself and that’s just how he is. You try to pick him up like, ‘Dude, you did a great job.’ I remember I told him the other night I was like, ‘Man, you did great. Tenth in points. You had a great year and made a good run in the playoffs. You didn’t win, but you had a great year.’ But he just gets down on himself, but I don’t think it’s anything to read much into.”
DENNY SAID IT CAN BE HARD WHEN YOU SEE YOUR FRIENDS HAVING SUCCESS. CAN YOU SEE THAT BEING HARD FOR HIM? “I think it’s partial like seeing a friend do it and it’s other part of seeing another young guy around your age win. Like, when Chase won the championship in 2020 he and I are really great friends. I was super happy for him, but you are kind of jealous. You’re like, ‘Man, I want to be that guy. I want to be in that spot.’ It’s the same like with Larson in ‘21. Larson and I aren’t as good a friends as me and Bubba and Chase, but he’s a younger guy in my age range. You want to be there. You always kind of compare yourself to your age range, I feel like, and I think that’s part of it. You get jealous of the guys in your group that have success and I’m the same way. I think everyone is internally, whether they express it or not.”
WHO WAS THE COOLEST PERSON TO REACH OUT AFTER WINNING? “I think personally, to me, I don’t know if you know who Doug Wolfgang is, but he’s a great sprint car racer. Doug texts me every now and then. Through the year he will always congratulate me, so he called me Monday night after Phoenix and that was super cool to be able to talk to him. My dad is a huge fan of his. My dad respected Doug so much and was always very envious of his success. He was so good. So he called me Monday, which was super cool. I’ll tell you this story. He was like, ‘I have a dilemma. I have this debate internally with myself.’ I was like, ‘What’s that?’ He’s like, ‘Well, i raced with your grandpa and I was jealous of him, so I tried to mirror my driving style off of him. And then your damn dad came along and he was even better, and I tried to mirror myself off of your dad, and now I’m not even racing and I’m watching you and now I’m thinking back that I need to mirror myself off of you, so I have this Blaney curse that I just love watching them.’ That meant a lot to me because I love Doug Wolfgang and my dad respected him so much. That was probably the coolest one personally for me to get a call.”
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO SINK IN? “It took probably over a week because the first week you’re on go super hard and there’s not really any time to relax, but the weekend before Thanksgiving was the one I was at the house and you’re just kind of chilling out and you can have some of your hometown friends over and you can reminisce about it. And then I started watching stuff from that weekend again. I didn’t watch anything from the weekend for like a week, so you’re kind of reliving it and you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s kind of how that unfolded and happened,’ so it took a while.”
Ford Performance PR
15th Annual Michigan International Speedway Cares Charity Track and Toy Drive Event to Benefit Local Communities on December 2
To help bring holiday joy to those in the region, Michigan International Speedway will host their 15th annual Charity Track and Toy Drive event on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 9:00 am - Noon. Fans are encouraged to donate a non-perishable food item or a new unwrapped toy as a donation to have the opportunity to drive around the two-mile track in their personal vehicle.
The event will support many local charitable foundations, including the Brooklyn Food Pantry, St. Mary’s of Good Counsel Parish Food Pantry, Jackson County Toys for Tots, and Lenawee County Toys for Tots.
“There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than with our MIS Cares Charity Track and Toy Drive,” said Michigan International Speedway President Joe Fowler. “On behalf of our entire staff at MIS, we are so grateful to have a hand in helping those in need during the holiday season. We have a very giving and thoughtful community here in the Irish Hills and these donations will help families enjoy the holidays when they need it most.”
Michigan International Speedway Track Laps guidelines include:
- Speed limit of 65 MPH and no passing allowed (Will be enforced).
- Must have a valid driver’s license and be 18 years or older to drive.
- Must be properly insured and be able to show proof of insurance.
- No burnouts anywhere on property.
- You are responsible for ensuring all passengers are properly restrained.
- You must maintain the speed of your group.
- Must stay above the yellow line. Street legal passenger vehicles only. No RV’s, motorcycles, or tractor trailers.
- For safety reasons, Michigan International Speedway officials may refuse track access at their discretion.
- Guests can access the event via the US-12 entrance. If inclement weather prevents driving on the track, a make-up date will be scheduled in the Spring.
Nite Lites, Michigan’s largest Christmas Light display, will be held at the track through January 7. Hours for the five-mile drive-thru display are 5:30 – 9:00 pm, Sunday – Thursday; 5:30 – 10:00 pm, Friday & Saturday. Admission prices are $35 per car/vehicle, limos, motorhomes and minibuses are $50 each, while tour buses are $100. Cash and credit cards are accepted. For more information, go to www.nitelitesshow.com.
Michigan International Speedway’s 2024 NASCAR race weekend will be held August 16-18. It will include the ARCA Menards Series Henry Ford Health 200, NASCAR Xfinity Series Cabo Wabo 250, and NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400.
Fans can purchase tickets for the 2024 NASCAR race weekend at Michigan International Speedway at www.mispeedway.com.
The upcoming 2024 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship will present a new beginning for driver Jake Swanson and 2B Racing.
The two have paired up to chase the full USAC National Sprint Car schedule starting with the February 2024 season openers in Florida aboard the Scott Benic-owned DRC/Claxton ride sponsored by Honest Abe Roofing – America’s Reliable Roofer – and the Newton family.
Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) experienced a breakout year on the USAC National Sprint Car scene in 2023, amassing four feature victories for Team AZ Racing, for whom Swanson had driven throughout the past five seasons.
It’s new scenery for Swanson, who will now take over the wheel of the No. 2B that was occupied by driver Logan Seavey during the 2023 season and saw the pairing capture two USAC National Sprint Car main events.
“I’m looking forward to a fresh start, but to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m starting over. I feel like I’m just closing a chapter on this aspect of my life and career,” Swanson explained. “The next step for me is going to be Scott and 2B Racing and I’m really excited with that.”
Swanson had driven for Team AZ in USAC CRA and USAC national competition since 2019, and in 2021, both made the mutual move together from the west to the Midwest to further expand their racing exploits.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Swanson admitted. “We’ve had a really good relationship over the years and still do. That aspect of it is hard, but the cool part is that, even though we’re parting ways on the racing side, we’re still able to end things on good terms. It’s an amicable severance and we’re all mature enough to know that we want different things and can go different directions without anybody getting their feelings hurt.”
In addition to being one of the stars of USAC racing, Swanson also owns and operates a thriving racing shock business, Jake Swanson Shock Technology. It is that aspect, plus the time and effort throughout the week put into the race team coupled with an opportunity to not be as much “hands-on” that prompted a change in address for Swanson in the coming year.
“I need to make sure that I’m able to do what needs to be done to ensure the success of those things, which means not having to work on racecars during the week,” Swanson further elaborated. “That transition is really important to me and driving for Benic is really going to help me do that. We’ve done a lot of good things and I feel like I’ve established myself as a racecar driver who can win races on a regular basis in this realm. Being able to jump in with a good team and a good program, and with the things I’m able to bring to the table, I feel like it will help them as well.”
Swanson knew by August that he and Team AZ would not be continuing beyond the 2023 season, but a chance meeting came along in October when Honest Abe Roofing President and car owner/sponsor Kevin Newton reached out to Swanson to drive his winged car during a High Limit Sprint Car Series race at Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway. The car that night was crew chiefed by none other than Scott Benic, which led to additional opportunities in the weeks to come.
Shortly thereafter, Swanson was tabbed by Benic to compete in a pair of non-USAC sanctioned events in Indiana at Tri-State Speedway and Kokomo Speedway, which proved beneficial for the new duo and provided them with a bit of a head start going into 2024.
“It was huge, and it’s amazing what just one or two races does for your confidence, preparedness and understanding of the difference between this car and the other car and the things we need to change from when Seavey drove it to the things that I like,” Swanson documented. “Luckily, I’ve worked on (sprint cars) quite a bit, so I know I can pinpoint stuff pretty quickly on what I feel like we need and can get myself more comfortable and closer to what I’m used to because I’ve been building my stuff for so long.”
“I could tell that the fundamentals of the race car and the race team were good and we all worked really well together,” Swanson continued. “I think that there’s some surefire potential to be really successful. It was really key to run those couple of races to get a good understanding of the program as well as how we both operate and to see how we’re going to build stuff going forward and how we’re going to attack the season in 2024.
Benic’s 2B Racing group owns 33 career USAC National Sprint Car wins, which ranks 11th on the all-time list. In 2005, with Levi Jones as the team’s driver, 2B Racing captured the USAC National Sprint Car championship. The new combo of Swanson and 2B has a great pedigree with the team’s storied past, its current status as a regular frontrunner and its future with Swanson at the helm.
“First of all, we couldn’t do any of this without the support of my wife, Dana, and the help of Jeff Claxton. I also want to thank Logan (Seavey) for everything that he’s done with us this past year,” Benic stated. “In September when Logan informed us he would not be back in 2024, we were really concerned on our direction for the future and then along came Jake.”
In the coming year, Benic foresees the likelihood of big success for his team with Swanson at the wheel.
“With Jake and us, I think this has the potential to be a really good combination. He got in our car at the end of this year and had a couple decent runs, and I think there’s a great potential to do more and more things. He learned how to win this year and that’s an important part. I think it’s all a good fit. His ability speaks for itself, and he can help us with different things chassis-wise and on the development of product lines through Benic Enterprises and the things obviously need to continue to work on.”
The new chapter for Swanson and 2B Racing opens in 2024 with five Winter Dirt Games dates at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park on February 9-10-15-16-17, plus two nights at Barberville, Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park on February 12-13 for the DIRTcar Nationals where Swanson opened 2023 with a victory and now eyes a repeat in the new year.
“It’s been great getting to know Scott over the course of the past few months,” Swanson praised. “He’s been there and done that for a long time. He’s very in tune with it, and I feel like I’m very in tune with these racecars as well.”
Honest Abe Roofing is also the proud sponsor of the fast qualifiers throughout each and every USAC national event throughout the season. Honest Abe has been installing, repairing, and maintaining residential roofs since 2005. It is their goal to bring a customer service focus to the roofing industry. They are aware that they are providing a very important and necessary service to many homes, so they work incredibly hard to provide the best possible roofing at the most competitive pricing. All their customers are very important to them, and they want to give them a perfect roof to protect their home and keep them comfortable.
20th annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding tickets go on sale tomorrow
Three-day tickets to the 2024 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding go on sale to the public tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET. The iconic race event set for March 8-10 along St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront will celebrate its 20th annual running in 2024.
This landmark annual race weekend headlined by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has become a staple in the St. Petersburg community as some of the most talented and accomplished drivers in the world compete on the city’s streets each year. To celebrate the race’s 20th annual running in 2024, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding will utilize a commemorative, limited-use logo which can be found HERE. The breakthrough inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, won by the late Dan Wheldon, was first promoted by Green Savoree Racing Promotions in 2005.
“It has been a tremendous honor to be a part of the St. Petersburg community for nearly two decades. We can’t thank the city’s leadership team, our fans and partners, and the competitors and race teams enough for making this race weekend possible year after year,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. “Fans should act quickly to ensure they get the best possible seats as we celebrate the 20th annual running in spectacular downtown St. Pete again in March!”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding is annually one of the marquee weekends on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar, and the 2024 race will serve as the series’ season-opener for the 14th time. In total, 13 drivers have taken the checkered flag on the streets of St. Petersburg including defending winner Marcus Ericsson and multi-time winners Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007, 2012), Will Power (2010, 2014), Sebastien Bourdais (2017, 2018) and Josef Newgarden (2019, 2020).
Tickets will be available online at gpstpete.com with pricing starting at $135 for reserved 3-Day Grandstand seats and $70 for 3-Day General Admission. Additionally, junior pricing is available for fans ages 12 and under. Pit and Firestone Paddock Passes can also be purchased. Single Day tickets will be released for sale in early 2024.
The 2024 weekend schedule, highlighted by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season-opening race, will have a full complement of racing series on track. Open-wheel development series INDY NXT by Firestone, USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire and USF2000 Presented by Continental Tire will battle on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course. New in 2024, exciting sports car action from IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge joins the weekend schedule. Further weekend activities and entertainment elements will be announced at a later date.
For ticket pricing and event information, visit gpstpete.com or follow Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on social media using #FirestoneGP. Joining the E-Club also provides insider access to the latest news and offers. The complete weekend racing and festival schedule will be released in early 2024.
ST Pete GP PR
Darlington Raceway partners with Blessings in a Backpack to benefit the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club
Darlington Raceway partnered with Blessings in a Backpack to help feed the local children of Hartsville Boys & Girls Club on Monday, Nov. 27.
Over 200 NASCAR drawstring bags were packed with eight individually wrapped food items. These packed food bags help keep the children who face food insecurities fed on the weekends while they are away from school and their after-school programs.
“We are honored to partner with Blessings in a Backpack who continues to do outstanding work helping fight childhood hunger across the country,” said Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp. “Darlington Raceway is grateful to give back to our community by helping provide food for the local children of the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club.”
Blessings in a Backpack mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for school-aged children across America who might otherwise go hungry. That way, every school-aged child in America has the nourishment needed to learn and grow. As a leader in the movement to end childhood hunger, Blessings in a Backpack strives to ensure children do not go hungry on the weekends by empowering individuals and communities to take action.
“We are thankful to partner with Darlington Raceway on an initiative to prevent weekend hunger and create healthy futures for the Boys & Girls Club of Hartsville, SC,” said Beth Bush, Director of Athletic & Strategic Partnerships for Blessings in a Backpack. “Kids can’t be kids when they are hungry.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area focus on promoting the social, educational, health, leadership and character development of boys and girls during a critical period of their growth. They provide a safe place to learn and grow through ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals, hope, opportunity, and life-enhancing programs.
"Gratitude is the heart's memory. We extend our deepest thanks for the generous food donation to our Boys & Girls Club,” said Hartsville Boys & Girls Club Director Dianne Montgomery. “Your kindness nourishes not just our members' bodies but also their spirit of community, reminding us of all that together, we can make a difference. Thank you for being a beacon of generosity and support."
This is the second year Darlington Raceway has partnered with Blessings in a Backpack to benefit the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club. Darlington Raceway will continue to provide food for the local children as the partnership with Blessings in a Backpack will extend on to 2024.
Darlington Raceway PR
For the first time in his young career, 19-year-old Grant Sexton qualified for the main event in the sprint car portion of the prestigious Turkey Night Grand Prix at the Ventura Raceway last Saturday night. The race closed the season for the young driver who captured the 2023 USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year award.
Last week’s race marked Sexton’s second-ever attempt at Turkey Night. He made his debut in the long-running event in 2022. On that occasion, the then 18-year-old was fighting for one of the transfer spots in the B main when he became entangled in a couple of other driver's mess. That catastrophe knocked him out of the race. It was a bitter ending for the highly competitive teen.
Last week, Sexton, who calls Lakeside, California home, was one of 52 entries in the sprint car division at the 82nd running of the historic motorsports event. Bent on making the main this year, he kicked off the two-night racing program in style when he scored a convincing run-away win in the first heat race of the weekend. At the checkers, he was nearly a full straightaway ahead of his closest challenger.
After his heat race triumph, Sexton had a good chance of locking in one of the 10 spots for Saturday’s A main event in his qualifier. Starting on the outside of row two in the 12-lap, 11-car race, he was forced wide in turn one on the opening lap. Subsequently, he slipped as far back as eighth. Never to be deterred, he got his elbows up and clawed his way forward all the way to fifth before the checkered flag halted the proceedings. Unfortunately, that was not enough to get him into the dash and he would have to run a B main on Saturday night.
Sexton, who was the 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion, started on the pole in one of the 12-lap, 17-car B mains on Saturday. With a complete sellout crowd looking on, he steered his pretty #22 car into the lead at the drop of the green flag. The precocious racer led the first seven laps before relinquishing the top spot. From that point on, he stayed in second place and earned his ticket to his first Turkey Night Grand Prix main event.
Starting 14th in the 30-lap finale, Sexton wisely bided his time early on. The youthful driver went outside and quickly became one of the best shows in the race. He picked off car after car and had worked his way up to fifth on the track with narrow straightaways. However, going into turn one late in the affair, he thought the bottom was taking rubber and he dove low in his immaculate #22. Unfortunately, it was still slick and he dropped back three positions. One lap later he stayed low and slipped backwards a few more spots. He was unable to regain those positions in the limited time remaining and took his final checkered flag of the 2023 season in 13th place.
Sexton Gatlin Racing would like to thank the following companies for making the 2023 season possible. Keys Brothers, East County Electric Works, Maxima Oil, Automated Interiors, Sexton Fire Protection, BK Wings, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, and Swift Powdercoat.
Rocketing past the 1,000-entry mark for the tenth year in a row on November 18, the number of entries into the 39th annual Tulsa Shootout has not slowed down, with the count sitting at 1,311 between the six featured divisions.
Creeping up on the previous event record of 1,397, set in 2020, the current entry record stands at 1,739, with 1,661 drawing in, and was set during the 2022 edition of the ‘Mecca of Micros’. The 2023 show was only six entries under the record, with total entries drawing in setting a new record at 1,655.
An idea of how far ahead entries currently stand and why this year's event could be a record-setting affair, pre-entries for the 2023 event closed with 1,536 on file.
The 1,311 entries received so far for the 2024 showdown include 540 drivers from 330 cities across 40 states and three countries (USA, Can, NZ). Of the drivers, 242 plan to compete in at least three divisions. Needing to fit within a specific age range to do so, seven drivers fall into that category and are able to race in five classes.
Both stock divisions have cleared 300 entries each, with Joe’s Racing Products Stock Non-Wing sitting at 314, and EVO Fuel Injection A-Class at 302. Hyper Racing Non-Wing Outlaw follows with 285, with the RS12 Winged Outlaws with 195. K&B Racing Restricted sits at 119, with the Flying A Motorsports Junior Sprints on track to have their largest field ever, with the count currently at 95. The 2023 event saw 96 drivers draw in out of the 98 entries received.
The lead-up to the Chili Bowl Nationals in January, several drivers will again take the opportunity to utilize the Tulsa Shootout for added-on-track experience. Tyler Courtney in a Christopher Bell owned entry was revealed recently, but a quick glance through the classes finds 22 drivers doing so.
Tim Buckwalter, Michael Faccinto, Noah Gass, Blake Hahn, Colton Hardy, and even defending Chili Bowl Champion, Logan Seavey, are just some drivers looking for extra seat time. For Chili Bowl Rookies like Cale Coons, Elijah Gile, and Joey Amantea, that added time on track is invaluable.
Teams can enter online 24/7 at https://www.myracepass.com/
The 39th annual Tulsa Shootout dates are December 27-31, 2023. Teams will move in, draw, and purchase Pit Passes on Tuesday, December 26, 2023. Practice will occur on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, with the first rounds of Heats taking the green around 7:00 P.M. (CT). Racing will continue each day, starting at 9:00 A.M., with the race for the Golden Driller wrapping up on New Year’s Eve.
Happening about every ten years, the final day of racing will be on a Sunday.
A quick reminder to teams regarding car numbers.
We do not allow reflective numbers. If your numbers are borderline or not readable, you will need to fix them. You will be given one warning during practice to fix your numbers. Numbers not fixed by race time will result in disqualification, and you will not be allowed to enter the racetrack.
Non-Wing Classes must have a number on the nose of your car. The letter must be above the number and legible. Winged Classes must have numbers on both sideboards. All cars must have legible numbers on the tail tank. Car numbers are a max of three digits. That includes the use of a letter.
For example, a car can be No. 100, or No. 10x. Not No. 100x.
Remember, we have three people hand scoring because sometimes the transponder system does go down, they fall off the car, or just stop working. We need to be able to read all car numbers so you are not scored incorrectly and also to speed up time under caution. It also helps our infield crew to move cars around when a RACEceiver malfunctions. Contrast is important. Black on black with a hint of grey is not readable when a car is in motion, especially from a distance.
Featured classes at the 39th running of the Tulsa Shootout include RS-12 Motorsports Winged Outlaw, Hyper Racing Non-Wing Outlaw, EVO Fuel Injection A-Class Winged, Joe’s Racing Products Stock Non-Wing, K&B Racing Restricted A-Class, and Flying A Motorsports Junior Sprints. Information regarding specific daily running orders will be established after entries open. Online entry will be available as well as entry by phone at (918) 838-3777.
Rules questions can be directed to Matt Ward, who is the director of competition for the Tulsa Shootout. Contact for Matt Ward includes Cell Phone at (918) 995-1650 or the office at (918) 838-3777.
Fans not able to attend the 39th annual Tulsa Shootout can see every lap of action on http://www.floracing.com.
The Tulsa Shootout takes place at the Tulsa Expo Raceway, located inside the SageNet Center in Tulsa, Okla. More information on the event will be released as the event draws closer. All official rules, event information, and dates are online at http://www.tulsashootout.
Event: 39th annual Tulsa Shootout
Where: SageNet Center – 4145 E 21st St, Tulsa, OK 74114
Parking: December 26, 2023 starting at 7:00 A.M.
Practice: December 27, 2023 starting at 8:00 A.M. Racing to follow
Event Dates: December 27, 2023 – December 31, 2023
Late Entry ($125/class entered): November 30, 2023 – December 13, 2023
At Race Entry ($125/class entered): December 26, 2023
Entries can be paid by Cash, Master Card, or Visa. No personal checks are accepted without prior approval. Entry includes Sunday Pit Pass.
Mail Entries To: Tulsa Shootout 1140 S. 83rd East Ave. Tulsa, OK 74112
Fax Entries To: (918) 836-5517
Call Entries To: (918) 838-3777
Enter Online At: http://www.tulsashootout.
Entries will NOT be accepted via social media.
**Rules for the represented classes can be found at https://www.tulsashootout.
Tentative Daily Times
Event: 39th annual Tulsa Shootout
Where: SageNet Center – 4145 E 21st St, Tulsa, OK 74114
Event Dates: December 26, 2023 – December 31, 2023
All times and order of events are tentative and subject to change based on the number of entries. The number of races will be determined after check-in has closed.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2023
12:00PM - 8:00 PM........................
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2023
All TIMES MAY VARY DUE TO VEHICLE COUNT!
Pit Pass $30
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2023
Pit Passes sold at the North and South entrances only.
All TIMES MAY VARY DUE TO VEHICLE COUNT!
General Admission $15
Pit Pass $30
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2023
Pit Passes sold at the North and South entrances only.
All TIMES MAY VARY DUE TO VEHICLE COUNT!
General Admission $15
Pit Pass $30
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2023
Pit Passes sold at the North and South entrances only.
All TIMES MAY VARY DUE TO VEHICLE COUNT!
General Admission $15
Pit Pass $30
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2023
All LCQ's & A Features Following Opening Ceremonies
Pit Passes sold at the North and South entrances only.
All TIMES MAY VARY DUE TO VEHICLE COUNT!
General Admission $20
Pit Pass $40
Follow Us Online:
2024 Class Lineup
RS-12 Motorsports Winged Outlaw
Hyper Racing Non-Wing Outlaw
EVO Fuel Injection A-Class Winged
Joe’s Racing Products Stock Non-Wing
K&B Racing Restricted A-Class
Flying A Motorsports Junior Sprints
Live Online PPV: http://www.floracing.com
Tulsa Shootout Past Champions (Current Classes)
RS12 MOTORSPORTS WINGED OUTLAW Keith Crawford (1990), Pete Frazier (1993), Pete Frazier (1994), Steve Frisell (1995), Chad Davenport (1996), Rick King (1997), Pete Frazier (1998), Lee Waldroop (1999), Paul Carbone (2000), Robert Richardson (2001), Dino Tomassi & Scotty Smith (2002), Bryan Clauson & Jacob Mosley (2003), Rodney Stealy (2004), Stan Yockey & Scotty Smith (2005) , Rodney Stealy (2006), Jerrod Wilson (2007), Brady Bacon (2008), Kevin Bayer (2009), Ryan Reeves (2010), Blake Hahn (2011), Heath Duinkerken (2012), Heath Duinkerken (2013), Frank Flud (2014), Michael Faccinto (2015), Brady Bacon (2016), Joe B. Miller (2017), Christopher Bell (2018), Ben Worth (2019), Emerson Axsom (2020), Mitchell Moles (2021), Craig Ronk (2022), Emerson Axsom (2023)
HYPER RACING OUTLAW NON-WING: Blake Hahn (2011), Brock Lemley (2012), Chris Andrews (2013), Steven Shebester (2014), Trey Marcham (2015), Chris Andrews (2016), Tristan Guardino (2017). Jason McDougal (2018), Zeb Wise (2019), Brady Bacon (2020), Kris Carroll (2021), Jeffrey Newell (2022). TJ Smith (2023)
EVO FUEL INJECTION A-CLASS: Willie Bewley (1988), Gary Edwards (1989), David Person (1991), Bubba Hunt (1992), Ryan McDonald (1993), Chris Crawford (1994), Kevin Bayer (1995), Jay Foote (1996), Darren Stewart (1997), Jerrod Wilson (1998), Shawn Wright (1999), Shawn Wright (2000), Brad Best (2002), Dex Eaton (2003), Brady Bacon (2004), Kevin Bayer (2005), Scott Sawyer & Jerrod Wilson (2006), Donnie Ray Crawford (2007), Jerrod Wilson (2008), Gary Taylor (2009), Donnie Ray Crawford (2010), Andrew Deal (2011), Kevin Bayer (2012), Chris Cochran (2013), Tucker Worth (2014), Giovanni Scelzi (2015), Miles Paulus (2016), Ayrton Gennetten (2017), Jason McDougal (2018), Jake Hagopian (2019), Kyle Spence (2020), Brian Carber (2021), Jake Hagopian (2022), Jake Hagopian (2023)
JOE'S RACING PRODUCTS STOCK NON-WING: Wendy Shear (1990), Jeff Dodd (1994), Paul Herdon (1996), Brady Courtney (1997), Rick Mercer (1998), Chebon Bruner (1999), Matt Walton (2002), Donnie Crawford (2003), Ronnie James (2004), Donnie Crawford (2005), Andrew Peters & Donnie Crawford (2006), Donnie Ray Crawford (2007), Rodney Stealy (2008), Riley Adair (2009), Chris Andrews (2010), Koen Shaw (2011), Chris Cochran (2012), Michael Faccinto (2013), Frank Flud (2014), Trey Marcham (2015), Jonathan Beason (2016), Frank Flud (2017). Jason McDougal (2018), Kyle Spence (2019), Alex Bright (2020), Brian Carber (2021), Emerson Axsom (2022), Gavan Boschele (2023)
K&B RACING RESTRICTED A-CLASS: Jonathan Beason (2001), Josh Pickle (2002), Jay Hunt (2003), Jack Dover (2004), Dalton Cole (2005), Tyler Edwards (2006), Tanner Mullens (2007), Sean Thompson (2008), Trent Carter (2009), Darien Roberts (2010), Dalton Seigler (2011), Dahne Lynn McKay (2012), Dahne Lynn McKay (2013), Alex Panella (2014), Kaylee Bryson (2015), Noah Gass (2016), Grady Mercer (2017), Corey Day (2018), Shawn Mahaffey (2019), Jade Avedisian (2020), Jaxton Wiggs (2021), Jett Nunley (2022). Jack Thomas (2023)
FLYING A MOTORSPORTS JUNIOR SPRINTS: Jordan Burnett (2001), Dustin Rhodes (2004), Mitch Faccinto (2005), Blake Hahn (2006), Drew Marshall (2007), Chance Morton (2008), Grady Chandler (2009), Josiah Ribeiro (2010), Josiah Ribeiro (2011), Kameron Beard (2012), Jadon Rogers (2013), Cannon McIntosh (2014), Nikko Panella (2015), Ryder Laplante (2016), Caeden Steele (2017), Ryan Timms (2018) , Austin Wood (2019), Jett Barnes (2020), Lucas Mauldin (2021), Lucas Mauldin (2022), Mattix McBride (2023)