Forget the hamburger or hot dog, the slice of pizza or soft pretzel, winged sprint car racing is like a nice kale-based salad.
The sport is straight-up healthy and if there was a commissioner to oversee it, he or she would be beaming. While most things in the world took a hit thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, winged sprint car racing thrived.
Sure, a couple of the marquee events such as the Knoxville Nationals and Kings Royal were dormant last year, but those spectacles will return bigger than ever this year.
Racing promoters across the country are offering full schedules highlighted by well-paying races.
Throw in the boom of live streaming and it feels like almost any race imaginable is only a few clicks away on a computer or a cellphone.
It’s a professional racer’s dream and that is evident as arguably the two most popular winged sprint car series — the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and the All Star Circuit of Champions — are boasting stellar fields of full-time competitors.
Winged sprint car racing has also been siphoning some of the non-winged stars in recent years. Tyler Courtney is making the leap with Clauson Marshall Racing and Hunter Schuerenberg will race full time within a winged sprint car series for the first time in his career thanks to the opportunity from Vermeer Motorsports. Both are planning All Star schedules.
“It was pretty simple for me,” Schuerenberg said. “There are a lot more car owners in winged racing that are willing to hire a driver on a local level, regional level and the higher level like the Outlaws and All Stars. There were more places to go. The non-winged (racing) is more centrally located with Indiana and California. When you have 10 or 15 guys lobbying for rides and only three or four teams willing to hire, it made it harder. Plus, there’s more of an opportunity to race across the country with the winged stuff and purses were higher. It all came down to there were more options.”
The opportunity to race more often and for more money are among the reasons Courtney elected to focus on winged sprint cars.
“I do this for a living, so you look at the purse structure and the amount of races,” he said. “It makes sense for me as a driver and Clauson Marshall Racing as a team. Winged racing gets a little more publicity. For us with our sponsor, NOS Energy Drink, it makes more sense for everybody all around.”
Schuerenberg made the leap to the winged side in 2018 after spending a couple of years with a mixed schedule between the two types of sprint cars.
“It was definitely not seamless for me,” the 31-year-old said. “I had other variables. It wasn’t like I just had to learn to drive the car. At the time I was calling my own shots with the setup and trying to make my motors perform like they were supposed to. It took me a lot longer than it should have.
“Winged sprint car (racing) is very tight as far as competition. Timing in, everybody is very close. It’s a lot of splitting hairs to get the time you need in qualifying. You have to be precise. I was in a really good non-winged car. If I could have jumped into a good winged car with a good wrench and good motors … it wouldn’t have been near as bad. Probably within a year’s time I could have made the transition and felt fine. The biggest hurdle is learning to run the car off the right front instead of the right rear.”
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