COCKRUM, ANDRETTI AMONG ROOKIES AT OCALA; NEW COMBINATIONS READY FOR 2014
The offseason is always a time of change for drivers and teams alike in the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship. Four of the top-five in 2013 were new combinations in their first year of racing together.
This year, the turnover has been down somewhat, and most of the changes from last season include teams that are already quite familiar with one another. At the same time, a fresh batch of rookies is ready to make a splash in the season opener at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida February 20-21-22.
Silver Crown and Midget competitor Shane Cockrum looks to complete the entire National schedule as a rookie for Amati Racing, which was a winner twice in 2013 with veteran Jon Stanbrough. Cockrum finished in the top-five three times last season in Silver Crown competition and joins a familiar team for his first foray into the Sprint Car schedule.
"My dad (Cliff Cockrum) ran for a lot of years and (car owner) Shane Wade's grandpa is Chuck Amati. So there was a lot of history there and a little bit of a rivalry. We've become good friends in recent years and kicked around the idea of getting together. Without racing a whole lot, we had a pretty good year last year and he is giving me the opportunity to take the next step," said the new driver of the Marion Underground Construction - Shane Wade Enterprises #66 J&J, adding "We get along great and have a great full-time mechanic, Jeff Peterson, so we're gonna race against the best in the business and take on that challenge. I'm confident we can run with them, as long as we get our program fine-tuned and get enough seat time for me."
Jarett Andretti, another recognizable face in the Silver Crown Series last season, tries to build on his five Sprint Car appearances from last year that peaked with a tenth-place finish at Eldora Speedway in September. He heads to Florida with a formidable crew chief in his corner on the Window World - Indy Trading Post #18 Spike.
"We wanted to take another step with our sprint car program and we've known Levi Jones for a couple years now, so we contacted him and he was on board. His credentials speak for themselves and I think his perspective on things can help us improve where we need to. I really like the dirt sprint car and the power it brings. There's no feeling like throwing a 900-horsepower car sideways. We want to perform this year when the eyes are on us; I think we have some experience now and are taking the steps we need to in the off-season to get better," Andretti said.
After winning last year's "Four Crown Nationals" at Eldora Speedway in Ohio, Jeff Walker Racing and Chris Windom continue their re-kindling as the new season begins. The duo won the 2010 Perris (CA) "Oval Nationals" before spending more than two seasons apart prior to their reunion last season.
2012 National Series feature winner Justin Grant also returns to a comfortable seat, that with Mark Hery Racing. The duo separated last season after taking the #40 to a win during "Indiana Sprint Week" at Lawrenceburg (IN) Speedway, which was the first National win for both of them.
Casey Shuman, who began the 2012 season with Rick Pollock before splitting in late May, will again drive the #21x out of Illinois after beginning their season at Peoria, Arizona's Canyon Speedway Park for the "Winter Challenge."
Other rookies expected to compete on a frequent basis include Arizona driver Dalten Gabbard, who is slated to drive for Baldwin Brothers Racing, Midwest-based teenagers Aaron Farney and Carson Short, along with Texas driver Nathan Moore.
Advance tickets for "Winter Dirt Games V" are available at BubbaRacewayPark.com and live pay-per-view will be available through USACracing.tv! Stay tuned to both websites for more details. Practice night on Wednesday the 19th kicks off the action.
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