INDIANAPOLIS — The black-and-red No. 13 sprint car eased off the track on a sweltering Illinois Saturday evening at Route 66 Speedway, and someone nearby spoke up.
“How about that Paulie?” they asked of nobody in particular. “It’s like he’s been reinvigorated or something.”
Yes, or something. Paul McMahan is having a good season aboard the Apex Structures/DMI sprint car owned by Tom Buch. McMahan recently captured the Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek title. A native of California who now lives in Tennessee, McMahan was the first Golden State driver to win Ohio Sprint Speedweek since Jimmy Sills in 1988.
McMahan has maintained a continued presence on the national scene since his first travel experience in 1996 with Dennis Roth. For many of those years he ran full time with the World of Outlaws, including 2013 and ’14 when he finished third in series points.
This year McMahan and Buch are full time with the Arctic Cat All Star series, where they currently ride sixth in a tight series points chase in the driver standings. McMahan has scored two series wins thus far, including the Speedweek opener at Attica Raceway Park in June.
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“The season is going well,” McMahan said. “We’ve been competitive every night, and Tom (Buch) is currently in the lead for the team owner points, so our goal is to get him that championship.
“I’m having the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Driving for Tom has always been fun and it’s just a good situation. For one thing, I’m home more; being home makes life a lot better.”
McMahan balances racing with his position with QuickCar, a performance parts manufacturer based in Lebanon, Tenn. That’s just up the road from McMahan’s home in Hendersonville.
“I feel like my future is here at QuickCar,” he says. “I love what I do here, and my plan is that when I’m no longer racing this is where I’ll be. It’s been a good situation because racing is a bonus now. It’s something I want to go do and it makes it more fun that way.”
McMahan is a good fit with the All Star series, which has experienced renewed growth in recent years. The contemporary All Star series is an interesting mix of rookies, younger racers looking to grow and veterans who still enjoy the intense competition.
“The All Stars of today is a lot like when I first came into national racing,” said McMahan. “It’s a group of people who hang out together, camp together, and it’s more fun. We’re a regional racing series and it’s more like the weekend guys. When we get to the races if somebody needs help, everybody jumps in.
“That’s part of what has made this season enjoyable. It’s intense competition and we all want to beat each other, but it’s not cutthroat. There’s a different culture here and I’ve enjoyed that a lot.”
McMahan’s long career has placed him in many different roles, including team manager. Today he’s able to race without that added responsibility and he says it has made a big difference.
“When I was managing a race team and also driving, that was a stressful situation,” McMahan explained. “I think it really affects how you drive the race car, because when you’re the guy writing the checks and paying the bills you have a clear idea of the team’s financial situation. When you know things are tight you’re not really able to drive the car like you need to.
“But my situation right now is really good,” he added. “When we show up at the track we’re competitive, and we can win. But we don’t have a lot of pressure in terms of worrying about things and making sure things are OK. It’s a really solid setup and I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”