Editor’s Note: With the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing racing around the globe to a sudden stop, SPEED SPORT is reaching out to members of the racing community to find out how the outbreak is impacting them, both as racers and in their daily lives.
This story is part of that ongoing series.
ANNA, Ohio — USAC Speed2 Midwest Thunder Midget Series racer Stratton Briggs is part of the blue-collar, working-class segment of the motorsports industry that has been affected in a big way by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Briggs, who works in machining at a Honda assembly plant, has been out of work for several weeks in the wake of the global pandemic as businesses large and small adapt to the fluid situation.
While the plant shutting down has changed his situation for the time being, Briggs noted that he’s found a bit of a silver lining with the extra time he has been afforded.
“Our cars are as ready as they’ve ever been at this point in the year, that’s for sure,” Briggs told Sprint Car & Midget. “With this whole virus going on right now, it’s been a struggle, though. You’re not really allowed to leave the house, so the only place I go to is my parents to work on the cars and hopefully have everything in tip-top shape for when the season does happen. We’re all hoping we can make some races happen in May, but the way things are looking, I’m not sure I see that happening at this point.
“So when we get to June, we’ll be ready to go and have the cars pretty much ready to go for whenever we can roll,” he added. “We’ll just hope for the best right now and we’ll see where this all goes.”
Briggs admitted that it has been “a bit of a weird feeling” to have so much time off the job — and by contrast — to be able to spend in his family race shop, but he’s taking advantage of every second he can.
“Obviously we’re used to being all hands on deck normally, so it’s definitely different to stay close to home and have this time to spend with family and on projects here,” Briggs noted. “Like I said, this definitely has given me more time than I’ve ever had to get the cars ready to go for this season, which is good because we’re fielding three cars all year — more than we’ve ever done before. But I really think that we’re going to have all of our cars dialed in when it comes to the first race and really am looking forward to this season.
“The amount of time we’ve put toward the cars and getting everything ready makes me optimistic about what we’ll be capable of,” he noted. “With us being a small team and all working normal jobs, it makes it rather difficult to get time to work on the race cars together. But with this going on, we’re all able to get out in the shop together and really focus on what needs (to be) done. And I think that’s really going to help us this year, just this time that we’ve had to be able to work together and get things ready because we’re all on different shifts. So it had been, we make a list and you get this done, I get this done … but now we’re able to all go out there and work together and really focus on everything.
“I think that that’s really going to help for this season.”
Briggs will prepare three cars out of his family’s shop this year: one for himself, one for his brother Zane and a third car for Grit Motorsports Marketing’s Kyle Dager — an Indiana native who has spent time in a micro sprint in the past.
“It’s cool, actually; I ran go-karts with Kyle back in the day,” Briggs noted of Dager. “He linked up with us for a couple starts last year and this year he wanted to do the whole season, so we’re giving him a shot to do that with us.”
Despite the added work of expanding to a three-car team, plus the potential of a shortened calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Briggs said he and his family are treating the situation exactly the same as they would if they were preparing for a normal year during the regular winter offseason.
“I’m going to prepare for (a potentially-condensed season) the same way, because really, I look to go out and try to win every single weekend,” Briggs explained. “It’s not like I just go there to run second. So the intensity is already there to perform, because I want to win every single race that I run. I really just want to get back out on the track and do what I love and try to try to get that win.
“All in all, we’re hoping for the best for the team because we’ve got the rental car this year that’s going to be run full time, and then my brother last year was fifth in points and got rookie of the year,” he continued. “We just look into improve and hope to all get more comfortable in the cars every time out, so it’s really the same mindset, I think.”
However, while the mental approach from race to race may be the same, Briggs admitted he is going to be even more eager than usual just to get to the race track once it’s safe to do so.
“Man, this break definitely does ramp up the anticipation,” he said. “Racing is what I love to do, so getting pushed back farther and farther, it really makes me miss being in the car driving. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, we can get back to the track. But until then, everybody just needs to stay at home and be safe because the more we all do that, the quicker we can get back out there and do what we love to do.”