A new team littered with the who's who of Australian sport is aiming to win the 50th South West Conveyancing Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic on Sunday night.
Hodges Motorsport - a passion project for Warrnambool-raised Tim Hodges - is hoping James McFadden can drive into victory lane.
The Standard will introduce the team to speedway fans in each edition this week. Fourth to answer the tough questions is Tim Hodges himself.
You grew up in Warrnambool and love sport, what was your first taste of speedway?
It all started in primary school.
I was best mates with Tim Morse in primary school - he was little Tim, I was big Tim - I remember when his dad John raced and we'd go out in their fancy truck with their super rod on the back and I was hooked.
Dad and I travelled to Brisbane for the Aussie titles one year - we towed Chook Hetherington's car behind the Cole's Coach we went in - can you imagine how cool that was for a kid?
There was a year in the 1990s when Premier hosted the classic and Aussie titles in consecutive weeks, they based a bunch of cars in an old workshop where The Standard office was in Raglan Parade - I spent half the week there helping teams clean up.
I'm a motorsport nuffy - I love the look of a sprintcar, I love the sound of them, I love the racing, it's a hell of a show. I'll talk it up to anyone who will listen.
When you were a kid, you used to beg your parents Bill and Rhonda and anyone else, to drive you around Warrnambool on classic weekend to check out the teams working on cars.
Did you ever think you would be part of the classic?
I feel like I've lived the full experience at the classic - as a wide-eyed fan on the fence getting hammered with clay, we had our grandstand seats where we were sunburnt to a crisp, had a few years where we've been lucky enough to land a few corporate passes in the marquee.
Maybe this is just the next step!
It's something my two great mates from home, Ryan O'Keefe and Dylan Willsher and I have talked about doing for years and years.
It was a pipe dream that has now got very big on us.
One thing led to another, which led to another and then NAPA jumped onboard and then James said yes and then here we are.
But it's a cool thing to do - this is one of the biggest sprintcar races in the world, it's one of the biggest motorsport events in Australia and I love that it's here in Warrnambool.
It's something the town should be bloody proud of.
So yeah it's a crazy thing we're trying to do - but we're having a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
It's your first foray into owning a team, is it what you expected?
It's unpredictable, nerve-racking, costly, a hell of a lot of fun, and also extremely addictive.
I remember James said to us one night that he's never done drugs - but he thinks speedway gives you the same buzz any drug could! That's good enough for me.
But at the end of the day I said to James if he joined us that we'd give him a great shot at a third classic title and the biggest one of them all being the 50th but we'd also help build his brand and help the sport's exposure.
I hope at the end of this we've done that, and I love that within five minutes of winning at Avalon before New Year's, Scott McLaughlin, Jack Riewoldt and Gerard Whateley had all been on social media trumpeting the win - the sport has never had that sort of reach.
And it's nice to do with so many friends who are involved - my sister (Anna) is running the finance, Ryan's VW business is on the front wing, Dylan's brother is in, I used to work for Cork Walsh at Macey's who is onboard, my great mate Woodsy is on the top wing - it's just a bunch of great people who are helping make it happen.
What's your favourite classic memory?
I know this is a bit juvenile but my favourite memory is 2014.
American Tim Kaeding won the race and then put on such a show with his freakish series of donuts that a new tradition was born.
For him then to roll the car during the donuts brought the wildest cheer I can remember.
At the time I was producing a show on Fox Sports called Summer 360 - we led the show with it the next Wednesday night.
You travelled around Australia watching motorsport - from F1, IndyCars, Supercars and sprintcars. Who is the best driver you have seen? Do you have a favourite?
I've been fortunate that I have a bunch of favourites - and all are linked to this deal.
I adored Marcos Ambrose and was able to travel to watch him in the States in NASCAR on a number of occasions.
For him to come to Premier Speedway on January 1 to see our team and spend time in the truck with James and the boys was a huge thrill.
My favourite is Scott McLaughlin for a number of reasons - we wrote his best-selling book together, we've had the podcast together, and we've become great friends - to watch him dominate Supercars and then travel abroad to try IndyCars has been awesome to follow.
I'm happy to joke that I'm completely riding on his coattails - and will do so until he wins the Indy 500!
And regardless of this weekend's results, I hope James and our entire team have a bond that will last for a hell of a long time.
He's been a joy to work with - and I love the fact that he "gets it" - he sells himself better than any sprintcar driver in Australian history. Which I love.
You've produced more than 1000 shows on Fox Footy's AFL 360 - what's more stressful: the show or watching your car in action?
Live TV is a brutal existence... but without a shadow of a doubt it's watching the car.
With 360 I like to think I have control of most things that are happening - it's my rundown after all!
With the race car - you get the budget together, you sort the driver, you put the people in control - and then all you do is sit back and get enormously nervous and have no control over any of it.
Anxiety levels are very high right now just thinking about it!
You are good mates with the part-owners of Hodges Motorsport - Richmond premiership veteran Jack Riewoldt, IndyCar star Scott McLaughlin and broadcaster Gerard Whateley - how long had you been kicking around the idea of them backing the project and was it easy to convince them?
With Jack and Scott - we had a podcast together called Balls and Bumpers and through a series of small sponsors we had a bunch of money that wasn't small, but wasn't large either.
Let's just say they're both going OK financially - so I put a proposal to them to invest in a race car.
Thankfully they were both 100 per cent onboard.
And car number five became a reality.
With Gerard, it was more a case of him being a sticky beak which cost him.
One night after 360 he looked over my shoulder and asked what I was working on.
I printed off the proposal there and then and he was in immediately as an investor.
Not sure there's anyone that's not surprised, especially his wife Claire, that he is now the proud part-owner of a race car!
James runs car number 83 in the USA. Scott's IndyCar is number three. Jack wears number eight on his back.
Why car number five?
I love the history of the event and I think when anyone speaks about the legends of the Classic they speak of Garry Rush and Danny Smith, which is fair enough considering how much they won.
But I feel Max Dumesny sometimes gets glossed over which I think is really unfair because when we were growing up he was the man who was the face of the event for so long.
So it's more a tip of the cap to Max with our number five.
And I'll be honest - my favourite player wore five - so (Collingwood legend) Nathan Buckley is riding with us as well!
If James McFadden takes the chequered flag on Sunday night, it's now customary the winner does a wing dance.
Would you attempt one?
I have to be careful because anytime I touch the car I have to first run it past Dylan who built it.
I think he'd be worried I'd damage it or bust something but hopefully if we win he's up there with me as well.
What would it mean to you to win the classic?
It'd be validation for a wild dream coming to fruition.
And it'd also be the craziest most awesome goddamn thing I've been a part of.
At the end of the day James took a punt on us by saying yes to joining this team, so hopefully we can do something really cool and be in contention on Sunday and give him the best shot at success.
The 50th Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic runs from Friday, January 27 to Sunday, January 29.
Premier Speedway gates open at 3pm each day with racing from 5pm.
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