Checkered Past: Boxing Day

December 26 in Germany, Poland and Sweden is St. Stephen’s Day. December 26 in Australia, New Zealand and Canada is Boxing Day. The post-Christmas tradition of boxing gifts to the needy began in the Middle Ages and became a British proxy around 1830. It has evolved into celebration of discounted merchandise not unlike “Black Friday” that follows Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.

Boxing Day is the busiest date on the Australian sprint car calendar. Pre-pandemic, Boxing Day 2019 boasted major races in Perth, Western Australia; Murray Bridge, South Australia; Brisbane, Queensland; Avalon, Victoria; and Sydney, New South Wales. Prior to restrictions on travel, Boxing Days boasted an airplane full of American-born competitors common to the World of Outlaws. Nine of its 10 champions raced in Australia on the night immediately after Christmas, which meant missing that holiday at home. U.S talent prefers to arrive with the New Year, but because Boxing Day is so important, Aussie requests call for their American guest stars to fly like Santa Claus.

For simplicity “Sydney” was originally Parramatta City Raceway then Tyrepower then Valvoline Raceway then simply Sydney Speedway then gone. Australian tracks change naming rights with dizzying frequency. “Brisbane” is actually Archerfield Speedway. “Adelaide” was called Speedway City. “Perth” refers to the Quit Motorplex and is really in Kwinana Beach, a suburb like Claremont and Bunbury City. “Avalon” is Avalon Raceway somewhere between Geelong, Lara and Euchuca.

Australians are so serious about Sprint Cars that several became American citizens to earn a living behind the wheel. Brooke Tatnell, Peter Murphy, Skip Jackson, Lynton Jeffrey, Jaymie Moyle and the Madsen brothers, Kerry and Ian, leap to mind. But to further simplify, this space will highlight holiday exploits of stars born on U.S soil. Bear in mind that such race results are incomplete because Australian data is difficult for an American archivist to gather in totality.

Iowa’s Bob Trostle selected Shane Carson for the very first World of Outlaws weekend in 1978. Trostle was a pioneer who helped flatten the curve on international technology. Bob was a Boxing Day winner with Jimmy Sills at Claremont in 1980 and Tim Green at Bunbury in 1982. Trostle also brought Mike Brooks from Iowa in 1980, Rick Ungar from Memphis in 1982, and took Rocky Hodges and Kramer Williamson to Claremont on Boxing Day 1983.

Boxing Day winners at Parramatta have included Jack Hewitt, Steve Kinser, Joey Saldana, Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet. Boxing Day winners at the Perth Motorplex have been Jason Johnson and Parker Price Miller. Johnson also won in Adelaide on Boxing Day 2007 as did Danny Smith in 2008. No driver spent more Christmas holidays abroad than Smith. Boxing Day winners at Brisbane have been Daryn Pittman, Michael Carber (2009) and Schatz four times in six years. Donny dominated PCR prior to Queensland refuge. He was the first American imported by Luch Monte in 2001. Monte Motorsports swept first and second in Perth with Johnson and Greg Wilson on Boxing Day 2002. Last week, Monte and James McFadden topped Murray Bridge on Boxing Day 2021.

Boxing Day at Parramatta City Raceway saw Saldana team with Garry Rush to win in 2003 when Washington’s Jayme Barnes and Canada’s Jimmy Carter (first hire of Kevin Rudeen) joined the Feature. Boxing Day 2011 at PCR was postponed to January 1, 2012 when Meyers was triumphant. More rain on Boxing Day 2013 denied Dale Blaney, Justin Henderson, and three Kinsers at PCR.

Boxing Day 2014 found Tim Kaeding first at the Charlton Raceway in Toowoomba, QLD. California’s Kyle Hirst and Pittsburgh’s Danny Holtgraver were second and fifth in the Adelaide World Series on Boxing Day 2014. Oklahoma natives Shane Stewart and Harli White were second and fourth in Perth on Boxing Day 2019. San Jose’s Brad Furr finished third at Adelaide on Boxing Day 2001. Craig Dollansky took third at PCR on Boxing Day 2004 when Sammy Swindell, Kevin Swindell and Jason Statler made the main. Jonathan Allard earned third in Brisbane on Boxing Day 2005. Allard annually spent the holiday on the neighboring island of New Zealand. Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne were third and seventh in Sydney on Boxing Day 2016. Cory Eliason was third when the World Series crested Murray Bridge on Boxing Day 2018.

Pennsylvania folk hero Fred Rahmer finished fourth when the World Series reached Adelaide on Boxing Day 2004. Also, fourth in Speedway City on Boxing Day 2015 was Randy Hannagan, a San Jose racer who relocated to Indianapolis. Hannagan became an Ohio 360 star like Phil Gressman, who finished fifth in Adelaide on Boxing Day 1999. New Jersey’s P.J Chesson was fifth at Brisbane on Boxing Day 2002. Missouri’s Brian Brown reached fifth-place in Adelaide on Boxing Day 2003. Seventh in Sydney on Boxing Day 2012 was Kelly Kinser’s only son, Kody. Eighth in Bunbury on Boxing Day 2016 was Gary Scelzi’s oldest son, Dominic.

Western Pennsylvania’s Bill Bailey was a World Series player at Adelaide on Boxing Day 1992. Wisconsin’s Kurt Winker competed at Avalon on Boxing Day 2002. Iowa’s Brent Antill and New England’s Erin Crocker tried Avalon on Boxing Day 2003. Boxing Day 2006 found California natives Paul McMahan and Shain Matthews in Adelaide and Brisbane. Tony Stewart raced in Sydney on Boxing Day 2009. Rico Abreu appeared in Brisbane on Boxing Day 2010. Nebraska’s Jack Dover did Brisbane on Boxing Day 2012. California’s Geoff Ensign ran Avalon on Boxing Day 2013, and Sheldon Haudenschild competed in Perth on Boxing Day 2014.

As many as 13 Americans began Australian Features on Boxing Day 2003. There were four Yankees in Sydney on Boxing Day 2015: Sweet, Kahne, Kraig Kinser and Scelzi’s neighbor Carson Macedo.

Just as it has wreaked havoc around the globe, Covid-19 severed all transcontinental flights or mandated lengthy quarantines that made Boxing Day unappealing. Last year, the only American invader was Brock Zearfoss, the Pennsylvania driver who placed third in Perth. This year’s top Outlaw rookie was James McFadden from Darwin, Northern Territory. McFadden mastered Murray Bridge on Boxing Day 2021. Boxing Day 2022 has to be better. Doesn’t it?

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