With a new racing season looming, be prepared to hear a lot of the name Armstrong. Articulate, photogenic and young, the Armstrong boys represent everything desired in today’s sponsor-driven racing world.
But well beyond the importance of their commercial appeal, it’s the extraordinary talent of two brothers and a cousin that will make the name difficult to ignore in 2011.
For those paying attention that’s not a surprise. The name Armstrong has already been attracting attention and garnering headlines.
Dakoda Armstrong is mostly responsible for that. Emphasizing their youth, Dakoda is the oldest of the trio, and he just graduated from Shenandoah High School, in their hometown of New Castle, Ind. Yet his ability is such that in late 2009, powerhouse Penske Racing chose him as a development driver.
“Dakoda has shown he has the potential to succeed both off and on the track,” remarked Penske Racing President Tim Cindric, explaining Penske’s reasoning for choosing the then 17 year old.
Dakoda’s performance in 2010 authenticated that the reasoning was sound. It was a breakout season. Driving the Cunningham Motorsports Dodge with Penske providing technical support in the ARCA Racing Series, Dakoda was named rookie of the year. He won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Salem (Ind.) Speedway and collected nine other top-10 finishes.
The win at Talladega was a particularly spectacular, attention-generating one. Running in sixth with three laps remaining, he darted past four cars and made a daring last-lap pass to take the victory.
Even though Dakoda’s focus has shifted to stock cars from the open-wheel cars that are his racing roots, he still runs an occasional USAC National Midget Series event. In 2010, he finished sixth in the classic Turkey Night Grand Prix at Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale and ran at last month’s Chili Bowl.
Dalton, Dakoda’s 16-year-old brother, has followed closely in his sibling’s racing footsteps. He, too, started in karts at age 5, advanced to quarter midgets, micro sprints, Kenyon midgets, and then full-blown midgets in 2009. He’s old enough now to run the USAC National Midget series full time.
Dalton raced hard and well in 2010. Running USAC regional midget races and the USSA midgets, he copped seven wins and delivered an incredible 20 top-three finishes in 24 events.
In his first USAC National Midget race at Columbus (Ohio) Speedway, Dalton led 37 laps before finishing second to Tracy Hines. “It was a bummer after having led so many laps not to finish it with a win,” lamented Dalton, his disappointment at not closing out the opportunity still evident.
“Experience got me that day,” he continued, his demeanor demonstrating another shared Armstrong trait — determination. “He got me on a restart. But I learned, and that’ll help me later. I’m planning on not letting it happen again.”
Dalton also ran the 2010 Turkey Night Grand Prix, finishing third and becoming the youngest rookie of the race in that heralded event’s long history.