Madsen home from US for Premier Speedway's time-honoured feature race

KERRY Madsen won the first of his three Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic titles in 2005 driving his own car.

“It was a family operation.   We went and raced because we wanted to,” the former Sydneysider said yesterday.

He is about to start his fourth season driving for the Bob and Peter Gavranich-owned Keneric Racing on the World of Outlaws circuit.

“For me it’s natural, you want to go where the toughest competition is and the biggest tracks are,’’ Madsen said.

‘‘The USA was where you had to go and do that.”

The rise of Madsen from self-funded driver to World of Outlaws regular is one of the great success stories of Australian sprintcar racing.

The “Mad Man”, who grew up in St Marys, New South Wales, has raced on the Outlaws circuit since 2007, when he was rookie of the year.

He has spent the past three years with Keneric Racing, which in 2011 became just the second Australian team to tackle the series.

“We’re based over there, in Knoxville, Iowa,” Madsen said yesterday.

“We’re getting geared up for the 2014 season. We’ve got 95 (race) days over eight months.

“It involves a lot of preparation and equipment. 

‘‘Then we’ve put a corporate sponsorship deal together with American Racing Wheels.

“So we’ve been over there making sure that is going to perfection. 

‘‘It’s led to an abbreviated season here but I couldn’t miss the Classic.”

Madsen is among the 114-strong field for the 42nd Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic, which starts at Allansford’s Premier Speedway tonight.

The three-time champion is part of night one action, just days after landing back in Australia — and he will return to the US on Tuesday.

He broke through for the Classic title in 2005 and made it three in a row by winning in 2007 and 2008, with rain washing out the 2006 edition.

But Outlaws’ preparations meant he missed the event last year for the first time since making his debut in the mid-1990s.

“We weren’t going to be ready in time, so we made a decision not to come, which was a bit of a heartbreaker,” he said.

“This season we almost fell into the same trap. 

‘‘But Pete Gavranich has put together a really nice program for Australia.”

Madsen said the team was coming to Warrnambool to win the Classic but acknowledge the field was the strongest in race history.

He believed the gap between the quality of racing in Australia and America had narrowed, a consequence of the rise of technology and the internet.

“There has been a revolution in the sprintcar industry itself. Parts and pieces and technology and information have become readily available,” he said.

“And we’ve seen so many of the owners put such financial commitments into the teams to make them as big as they are.

“We didn’t have that years ago. In the mid-90s if you had a 20-foot box truck you were bad ass. Now look at the rigs.”

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