Series spotlight - March 30, 2011
CAREER BUILDER: McMahan Seeks Success in State that Launched his Career
Calistoga Speedway helped shape the California native’s path to World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series
CONCORD, N.C. - March 30, 2011 - Many drivers on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series tour can trace their passion for the sport back to a single track as they were growing up. Some dreamed of tackling the high banks of Eldora Speedway or holding the throttle wide open in front of a sold out crowd at Knoxville Raceway. For Paul McMahan , his path to The Greatest Show on Dirt can be tracked to Calistoga Speedway, a roomy half-mile oval in the picturesque wine country of Northern California.
McMahan and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series returns to Northern California this weekend for their first visit in series history to Merced Speedway on Friday and their first event since 2007 at Calistoga Speedway on Saturday.
"I remember going to Calistoga to watch my uncle race non-wing cars about 12 times a year," said McMahan, 40, who pilots the #83 HR Cattle machine owned in a unique partnership by Californian Dennis Roth and Kasey Kahne. "We used to camp there all the time and I have a ton of great memories growing up there in the '70s and '80s."
McMahan was raised in Elk Grove, Calif., but he has lived in Nashville, Tenn., for several years. He rejuvenated his career in 2010 after being chosen by Kahne to replace Cody Darrah, who was injured just hours before the first race of the season. McMahan's performance in the #91 car was one of the most impressive accomplishments of the season, and it earned him another shot with Kasey Kahne Racing this season. McMahan, who has eight World of Outlaws main event victories in his career, would like nothing more than to take the checkered flag either Friday night at Merced or Saturday at Calistoga, where he'll no doubt have many friends and family in attendance at the place where so many of his childhood memories were shaped by not only the racing but also the culture that surrounds the fairgrounds.
"The Speedway is located in a great part of the state," said McMahan, who as an 11-year-old in 1981 was the national quarter midget champion and is the only driver to compete on the World of Outlaws circuit in cars owned by Kasey Kahne Racing and Tony Stewart Racing. "I remember the ladies used to get all dressed up and would go to wine tastings since all of the vineyards were near the track. Once everyone was done there, it was usually time to race so everyone just walked over to the speedway."
Memories like that make McMahan, now a married father of two, eager to return to Calistoga. Plus, despite growing up in the Golden State, McMahan has never been to Merced Speedway and is looking forward to the series' first visit to the quarter-mile bullring.
"Merced will be a fun event," said McMahan, who has topped the field in qualifying three times already this season and set a historic record in February at Volusia Speedway Park when he turned a lap around the half-mile oval in 12.569 seconds. "Sprint car racing is always exciting and competitive anywhere you go in the state of California."