ROCHESTER, IN (July 15) - When you make a living racing, you've got to have your best results when the most money is on the line. Sprint car racing's richest month will begin with this weekend's 20th annual King's Royal at Eldora Speedway, and ...
ROCHESTER, IN (July 15) - When you make a living racing, you've got to have your best results when the most money is on the line. Sprint car racing's richest month will begin with this weekend's 20th annual King's Royal at Eldora Speedway, and standout sprint car drive Daryn Pittman couldn't be more excited.
"This is a great time of the year," said Pittman, who currently ranks fourth in the World of Outlaws standings. "We've spent five and half months racing and now it's like final exam time. The King's Royal, Don Martin Silver Cup, Historical Big One and the Knoxville Nationals are recognized as the big four and winning any of them would be a career defining victory."
Pittman and the Sherdon Motorsports team have had a good season to date, but not a great one according to the 24 year-old driver who hails from Owasso, OK. After having the best World of Outlaws season of his career in 2002, which included six "A" feature wins, Pittman traveled to Australia and became the first American to claim the coveted World Series Sprintcar championship. So coming into the 2003, expectations were high.
After a consistent early season and a tough stretch from late May to mid-June, the team found their form in late June scoring their first WoO "A" feature by dominating the race at Lakeside Speedway in the #21 Hop & Sack / Gaerte Engines/ Mopar J&J. Since the victory, Pittman has only finished outside the top ten twice.
The team will get an early start to the "Month of Money" by competing in Wednesday night's 15th annual Brad Doty Classic at Attica Raceway Park. Pittman has never raced at the high-banked track located in North Central Ohio, but he's anxious about finally getting a chance to compete in this special event.
"Wednesday is going to be a unique opportunity for me," continued Pittman, who will be vying for the $15,000 first place prize. "With scheduling in the past, we've never had the chance to race in it. I never saw Brad race in person, but I was on the track at the 1998 King's Royal when he paced the field. It was awesome to be on the same track with him. I'd sure like to join the list of guys that can say they won the Brad Doty Classic."
Following Wednesday's race, the focus will be on the weekend at Eldora Speedway. Saturday's $50,000-to-win King's Royal is the first crown jewel of the sprint car season, and this will be Pittman's sixth royal rumble. In five previous events, he's already had some memorable moments.
In 1999, the 20 year-old raised a lot of eyebrows at the high-banks of Eldora by earning the pole position for the 40-lap race. Pittman took advantage of the format by winning his heat race after qualifying 33rd. That placed him on the pole for the trophy dash, which set the starting lineup for the first eight positions. After dominating the dash, Pittman steered the #47 Casey's General Store sprinter in the lead for the first 12 laps before eventually finishing eighth.
"My second King's Royal (1999) was a huge thrill," continued Pittman. "There probably weren't too many people that gave us any chance, but we definitely had a good enough car to win that race if the driver could have stayed in the seat long enough. He didn't and we finished eighth, but leading the King's Royal was a big deal. Last year, we finished sixth (his best in five starts), but we were just okay and it wasn't nearly as exciting as 1999."
Along with previously leading the King's Royal, Pittman has a World of Outlaws feature victory at Eldora under his belt. He conquered the high-speed half-mile last August in the annual Night before the Big One race.
"Winning a race at Eldora is very difficult, and I think it will always be difficult, but at least we know we can win there," said Pittman. "Knowing that you can helps, but really it's all about putting yourself in a position to do it. You have to qualify well and make it through your heat race. The King's Royal is longer than most of our races, but you simply can't give the guys up front that much track position and expect to catch them. To win this race, you have to start somewhere close to the front and have a car that is at its best during the final ten laps."
With a momentum racetrack like Eldora, a big key is having enough horsepower. This season the Sherdon Motorsports team has been using a new Mopar motor package developed by Gaerte Engines. The process started last fall when Pittman used a Gaerte-built Mopar to win the Charlotte Outlaw Championship at the Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway and it has been building since. Some recent developments have Pittman and the team optimistic about their chances of becoming the third driver to win the King's Royal using a Mopar Engine following Dale Blaney (2000) and Mark Kinser (2001).
"Everybody at Gaerte has been working hard on this program, and I think we've found something," commented Pittman, who posted his first fast qualifier award on Friday at Route 66 Raceway and finished second at I-55 Raceway on Saturday. "The motor has been hitting really hard and helping us qualify strong. They've also been performing great in the feature races. It's no secret that these Mopars like the bigger faster tracks, so we're just going to try and do the best we can."
With the "Month of Money" consisting of races that pay $50,000, $35,000, $100,000 and $125,000, Pittman and the Sherdon Motorsports team have plenty of incentive to do well in these "final exams". Friday night's Eldora Clash and Saturday's King's Royal races from Eldora Speedway can be heard live on SCN (the Sprint Car Network) at www.sprintcarnet.com.