Dane Rudolph - Another Ambitious Aussie While Aussie Marcos Ambrose has been the talk of the NASCAR world over the past week following his win at Watkins Glen in the Nationwide Series and his second in the Sprint Cup Series, another young ...
Dane Rudolph - Another Ambitious Aussie
While Aussie Marcos Ambrose has been the talk of the NASCAR world over the past week following his win at Watkins Glen in the Nationwide Series and his second in the Sprint Cup Series, another young Aussie named Dane Rudolph is turning heads as South Boston Speedway in the Whelen All American Series (LMSC), and so is the kangaroo on the bonnet and doors.
This is Rudolph's second season in LMSC, having spent last year at Ace Speedway in North Carolina where he learnt first hand what oval track racing was all about. Driving the # 18 Chevrolet Monte Carlo prepared by Sellers Racing, Rudolph walked away with the LMSC Rookie of the Year and Most Improved awards, and finished 8th outright in his first full season.
The young Aussie also managed 4 top 5 and 17 top 10 finishes and 9 top 5 and 16 top 10 qualifying sessions. Throughout the season Rudolph experienced a number of on track incidents which forced him from the pointy end of the field to the back markers, but despite this Rudolph managed to lead several races and grabbed a 2nd place.
Finding that bumping and rubbing are part of stock car racing, the 23 year old realised that he had to attack the track more that what he has been used to in his motor racing career, considering his wealth of experience on road courses in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East over the previous 8 years.
Rudolph's first season was designed to learning oval track technique and cornering speeds and when to make the right moves on the track, whether running the high line or the bottom line. Rudolph said, "I must admit, this is vastly different to what I have been used to. Racing at tracks like the Nurburgring, Dubai and Sepang where you have long straights, chicanes and the like don't come near to what I am experiencing at present. Although I'm still learning, I'm getting the hang of how to you have to drive these cars under totally different circumstances".
Like most young Australians set on a career in motor racing, Rudolph started out in karting where he attained a 67% podium finish before moving to Formula Ford open wheelers where he placed 3rd in the State Championships. Then came the natural progression to Formula 4000 before he was offered the opportunity to race production cars for one of Australia's most successful outfits which took him to the 24 hour races in Dubai and the Nurburgring in 2006 where he finished 2nd in both events, and the Sepang 12 hour race in 2007 where he grabbed 3rd. Rudolph is the youngest Australian driver to finish on the podium at those three events.
Prior to heading to the United States, the closest thing Rudolph had driven so far as oval racing is concerned was when he was offered a one off Midget speedway drive in late 2007 where he finished a credible 11th in a field of 19 at Parramatta, the home of speedway racing in Australia.
So why has a young Aussie travelled to the other side of the world to try his hand at America's favourite sport. Rudolph put it simply, "Where I come from (Australia) there is no NASCAR. My ambition is to race in the Sprint Cup Series and to do that I had to come to the USA".
After arriving in the United States in late 2007, Rudolph was referred to H.C. Sellers of Sellers Racing who decided to give the Aussie a chance. Sellers said, "He was referred to us in 2007 and his testing gave us the confidence to take him on. He is able to produce consistent lap times and has demonstrated that he has the potential to go further, and this is highlighted by his four pole positions in the past three weeks. Dane has managed two 4th places, one in the Bailey's 200 a couple of weeks ago and again on the weekend at South Boston".
Year 2009 has seen Rudolph develop as a driver when earlier in the season he was sitting in 6th position only to fall foul with engine problems and a costly incident where he was taken out by another competitor, which totally wrecked his chassis, causing him to miss several races. Although this may have put paid to any chance of winning the championship Rudolph has been pleased with the re-build, which may have been a blessing in disguise as the Aussie has managed to grab four poles since. Rudolph said, "I've got the speed for qualifying, we just need to dial the car in for the races, fine tune it so it comes on faster. I've been up front a few times now but have been turned around which has cost me any race wins, but I'm confident they aren't too far away".
Rudolph knows that the road ahead is not an easy one. The costs to race and live in the US is considerable and family and friends are providing that support while Rudolph himself is contributing with his winnings. The Sellers family have taking him in as one of their own and this partnership continues to evolve and succeed, which also includes the crew of Fulton Jones and Barry Baggerley. Sponsorship is vital, and any suitable individual or corporate entity out there would only capitalise on this Aussie's growing success.
Dane Rudolph has expressed that he is not intent on making up the numbers or spending a couple of seasons running around in the feeder categories and then heading back to Australia if it doesn't work out. That is not his objective. This 23 year old's ambition is to drive in the NASCAR premier Sprint Cup series like his fellow Aussie, Marcos Ambrose.