KNOXVILLE, Iowa – When last season ended, veteran Australian sprint car racer Kerry Madsen was unsure about his future.
With David Gravel taking over his ride in the Big Game Motorsports No. 2, the 49-year-old driver was in search of a new opportunity.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Madsen said as he peered through the turn-two catch fence at The Dirt Track at Charlotte last November.
Fast-forward three months and Madsen is in a much different place than what’s accustomed. Madsen will race in central Pennsylvania aboard Michael Barshinger’s familiar No. 24. He’ll race with a new sense of gratitude, too.
After questioning if he could continue full-time racing, Madsen slides into an established race car in fervent Pennsylvania Posse country. Not being able to return to Australia this winter to race and see family, also drives this new sense of gratitude.
“You don’t realize how much you miss it until you’re not doing it,” Madsen said. “I’m really excited to get started.”
Madsen takes over for Lucas Wolfe, who occupied Barshinger’s No. 24 from 2017 through ‘20 and will now race with Mark Coldren on the All Star Circuit of Champions tour.
Wolfe amassed 21 victories and two Pennsylvania Speedweek titles (2017 and ‘19) during his four-year tenure with Barshinger. All of those wins came in the first three years, though, as last year was a winless struggle for Barshinger’s No. 24 team.
Madsen also went without a 410 sprint car victory last season, but is optimistic that 2021 will bring better results. After all, he phoned Barshinger and was practically hired on the spot in mid-December for a reason.
First, Madsen has proven he’s one of the best qualifiers in the country. Last year, he timed in the top-five in 24 of his 65 races. Barshinger has also changed the mechanical makeup of the car, switching to RPM Chassis this season.
“I have good equipment,” Madsen said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how it pans out.”
As intriguing as the Madsen-Barshinger duo is, the two sides — driver and crew — will need time to get acclimated. While races like the Kings Royal at Eldora and Knoxville Nationals are on the team’s radar, on top of the busycentral Pennsylvania schedule, goals at this stage are compartmentalized.
“You only have short-term goals right now,” Madsen said. “Hopefully, we get together and everyone gets along, we click, and we can be fast and contend for wins. If that happens, you go from there.”
Madsen joins a Pennsylvania racing scene that’s had a recent shift in identity. Area standouts Lance Dewease, Danny Dietrich, Anthony Macri and Freddie Rahmer return, but drivers such as Wolfe, Brent Marks, Brian Montieth and Brock Zearfoss have moved on. As well, Tim Shaffer returns to central Pennsylvania aboard Mike Heffner’s No. 72.
“I know I’m going to have to be on my A-game to do well,” Madsen said. “Traditionally, it’s been the toughest area. It still is.”
“[Posse fans] have always been super nice, super accommodating,” he added. “That part is going to be a lot of fun.”
Madsen lives in Knoxville, Iowa, and hasn’t yet relocated to Pennsylvania. The driver doesn’t mind the 15-hour commute, claiming “it’s not like I’m moving to the other side of the world.”
Like his living situation, Madsen is taking everything one step at a time. There is no set schedule, other than to race a lot in central Pennsylvania.
“Unfortunately, I’ve learned you can’t plan that far down the track,” Madsen said. “It’s all about getting with a bunch of guys who want to go racing. If it all clicks, then who knows. Who knows where it goes, you know what I mean?”