FOUNDER SERIES, PETE WALTON IS BRINGING THE O'REILLY USCS INTO THE FOREFRONT OF 360 SPRINT CAR RACING FAYETTEVILLE, GA - The year was 1986 and sprint car driver Pete Walton of Fayetteville, GA was traveling thousands of miles...
FOUNDER SERIES, PETE WALTON IS BRINGING THE O'REILLY USCS INTO THE FOREFRONT OF 360 SPRINT CAR RACING
FAYETTEVILLE, GA - The year was 1986 and sprint car driver Pete Walton of Fayetteville, GA was traveling thousands of miles each week looking for a place to race. He would load up his race car, and travel outside the Southeast looking for a sprint car race to compete at.
Many times, Walton would drive past tracks in the Southeast and end up in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas or Memphis, TN. Walton continued his quest thru mid season 1988.
In 1988 Walton competed part time with the now defunct American Winged Outlaws who went dormant after the 1989 season. Walton then put his efforts toward bringing economy sprint car racing close to home when three tracks tried to create an IMCA claimer motor sprint car series in the Southeast. Walton had a lot of fun on that short-lived venture winning 14 of the 16 races held over two seasons.
It wasn't long after until he coached the AWOL owners back off the bench in 1992 and invested money as a silent partner just to try to keep sprint car racing going in the Southeast. After looking at the impending second time demise of the AWOL series during the 1996 season, he made phone calls to some Southeastern tracks to see if the interest was still there, and found out there was. He then founded the United Sprint Car Series.
The 1997 season saw 11 races at dirt tracks in Georgia Alabama, and Tennessee from an original schedule of 13,. Red Stauffer of Winter Park, FL was the first USCS Champion. Over the next seven seasons, the series grew with more races at more tracks.
Walton added asphalt tracks to the schedule in 1999, and USCS became the first winged outlaw sprint car series in the country to compete on both dirt and pavement. This is a distinction USCS still enjoys today.
Well-known 360 sprint car drivers like Stauffer, Eddie Gallagher of Memphis, TN, Marshall Skinner of West Memphis, AR, Kenny Adams of Malabar, FL, and Terry Gray of Bartlett, TN became USCS National Champions. Sprint Car racing, which is the oldest form of oval track racing in the country, was beginning to take hold in the heart of stock car country.
The sprint cars offered fans an opportunity to see the fastest speeds ever recorded at their local tracks in the Southeast. Weighing 1,300 pounds, and powered by 700 horsepower fuel-injected alcohol burning V-8 engines, sprint cars are pound-for-pound the most powerful short track racing cars in the world.
After retiring as a competitive driver in 2000, Walton began to turn his energy into running USCS, working even closer to the track promoters, and even promoting a few of his own races. By 2004, Walton's USCS was gaining momentum.
For the 40+ race 2004 season, Walton added a full-time staff member in veteran short track racing publicist Roby Helm, who worked for many years with the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Late Model Series. Helm helped Walton prepare for the next phase in the growth of USCS. Walton had already assembled a professional race-day staff, and Helm would assist with the day-to-day operation of the series.
As the 2004 season began, Walton had established stars in Gray, Adams, and Stauffer, but the future for USCS took shape with an influx of "Young Guns."
Teenagers Danny Martin Jr. of Sarasota, FL, R.J. Johnson of Decatur, TN, Tom Winegardner Jr. of Pierson, FL, Bryn Gohn of Malabar, FL, Josh Harris of Denton, NC, Tighe Schloss of Jacksonville, FL, and Stephen Darvalics of Venice, FL came on the scene and created a youthful new enthusiasm to USCS.
Last season also saw growth geographically for USCS. Walton bought the North Carolina-based American Outlaw Action Series in early 2004, and series expanded its area of operation into eight Southeastern states. Competitors were coming from as far north as Ohio and New York to compete with USCS.
Once the 2004 season got underway, Walton had built USCS to the point that people were beginning to take notice. O'Reilly Auto Parts of Springfield, MO agreed to become the title sponsor of the series by late 2004. With a new title sponsor, more Southeastern promoters wanting USCS events, and a growing Southeastern competitor base, Walton had to re-invent the O'Reilly USCS for 2005.
The series that began with 11 races in 1997 now had grown to a National schedule boasting 65 races for 2005. Every track except one that held an O'Reilly USCS event in 2004 resigned for a 2005 event, and many even added events. More than a dozen new tracks also signed on the 2005 O'Reilly USCS schedule.
Walton and his staff decided to divide the National Schedule into three different regions, the Mid-South Region covering West Tennessee, West Alabama, and Mississippi, the Southern Region covering East Tennessee, East Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and the Carolina Region covering Virginia, North and South Carolina.
In addition to competing for a National point fund, drivers can now also compete for a separate point fund in each region. There is also a separate point fund for the Asphalt Tour.
Another large growth for the O'Reilly USCS is in contingency sponsors. In 1997, there were just a few contingency sponsors with Huggins Cams being the original. For 2005, there are 20 different contingency sponsors signed up with the O'Reilly USCS offering cash and product awards to series competitors.
Walton has also been an innovator in 360 Sprint Car racing. Along with combining dirt and asphalt races in the championship tour, in 1998, Walton brought in Air Flow Research cylinder heads to give competitors a less-expensive alternative in competing with spec-cylinder heads. In 2004, Walton added live webcasts, as USCS became the first 360 sprint car series to offer this service.
For 2005, Walton was the first to announce the use of RACEceiver one-way communication to winged outlaw sprint car drivers on the track. With winged outlaw sprint cars being a direct-drive race car with no clutch or transmission, they cannot stop on the track to be re-aligned for a restart.
Instead of the drivers having to look at a chalkboard at one point on the track, RACEceivers will use radio communication to give the drivers information on where to line up while they are rolling on the track. The RACEceivers will also be a safety feature that will quickly alert drivers to danger on the track when the caution light comes on.
The 65-race 2005 O'Reilly USCS National schedule attributes the success of the series in the Southeast as a sought after special event for short tracks in that part of the country. The fan base of the O'Reilly USCS is growing in part to another program Walton instituted in 2004 in that the drivers are able to interact with the fans during autograph sessions before each feature event.
Walton is already planning for the future of the O'Reilly USCS. With a three-region format in place in the Southeast, Walton is now looking north of the Mason-Dixon line to put more regions in place for the O'Reilly USCS.