NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Jeff Champagne will compete in a full slate of winter TQ midget, micro sprint and midget racing, highlighted by an attempt at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January.
Champagne will drive for veteran owner Brad Noffsinger’s Factor 1 East team at the Tulsa Shootout, as well as an appearance for Chris Deritis’ TQ team indoors in Pennsylvania before returning to Oklahoma to drive for Sam Johnson Racing at the Chili Bowl.
Over the past two seasons, the Westfield, Mass., native has driven to victory or finished on the podium in nearly every class he’s competed in. From caged karts to micro sprints, sports cars, midgets, and TQs, Champagne’s responsibilities as a driver have grown.
“Though this season gave us plenty of confusion, it also provided the advantage of added time,” Champagne explained. “That added time allowed me to focus not just on my karting program, but also on my career.”
Beside his personal driving, Champagne runs a karting program that sees strong competition at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway and Pomfret Raceway.
His platform allows young drivers the opportunity to test, race and measure themselves in a cost-effective environment. It is a recipe that Champagne understands well.
“I was able to spend more time working in the shop and talking on the phone,” he noted, “and we were able to improve our maintenance program which immediately tweaked our ability to win. Those results helped me to better understand the importance of time management.
“During that period Brad (Noffsinger) phoned me about Tulsa, asking if I had (Tulsa) Shootout interest. It took me less than two minutes to agree and I even said something like, ‘what a great birthday present.’
Champagne will depart New England as soon as the Christmas holiday wraps up in order to be ready to race at the Tulsa Shootout, known as the Mecca of Micro Sprint Racing.
“I’ll start driving towards Tulsa right after Christmas, with plans to arrive on my birthday, Dec. 28’, said Champagne. “Brad Noffsinger’s shop is one of the best at maintenance and preparation. I believe they’re at the frontline of micro-sprints, midgets, and sprint cars; right alongside Keith Kunz and Kasey Kahne Racing.
“Even though I’ve always felt more adept on dirt tracks, I’ve never even seen the River Spirit Expo building or the dirt that makes-up the racing surface. That’s definitely an area where I’ll be looking to Brad and his team for guidance.”
After the Tulsa Shootout, Champagne will have little time to rest before driving back to Pennsylvania to compete with the Chris Deritis-owned TQ midget team in the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa., Jan. 8-9.
Then he’ll head back to the Tulsa Expo Center for the 35th Chili Bowl, Jan. 11-16.
Champagne is looking forward to helping Johnson build his midget program, both for the Chili Bowl and beyond, as he hopes to help SJR grow its notebook for future endeavors.
“Sam is a young driver too, so we will be working together on setups and the overall maintenance of his program,” Champagne said. “Since this will be my second time in Tulsa, and not long after my first, I’m hoping I will better understand the dirt and the changes it goes through.
“Each of these events are going to challenge me differently,” explained Champagne. “It’s going to be difficult for me to curb my enthusiasm. January alone is going to test and teach me more than any of my past full seasons.
“I’m really looking forward to the start of the 2021 campaign.”
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