Not even the depths of the Pacific Ocean can deter Australian’s from pursuing their passion of Sprint Car Racing.
For decades, mates and blokes alike have been shipping containers or catching flights to depart The Land Down Under during their winter months and bask in the glory of non-stop action during the peak of season in the United States of America.
Nowadays, James McFadden of Alice Springs, Northern Territory is the latest to give chase to those boyhood dreams. At 31-years-old, J-Mac has signed to drive for the revered championship-winning Kasey Kahne Racing as pilot of the iconic #9 machine.
An 83-race slate with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series puts him in an elite category amongst his fellow countrymen. He joins Brooke Tatnell, Ian Madsen, and Kerry Madsen as the only four Australian’s to compete full-time with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
The five-time World Series Sprintcars champion is already off to a hot start in 2021. His season was delayed six races due to the birth of his first son, Maverick McFadden, but he’s been on fire since making the trip overseas in March. In seven races, McFadden has six top-ten finishes, three podium appearances, and a victory at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway last weekend.
He carries the Australian flag once again this weekend in his final appearances in Oklahoma and Texas with races at Lawton Speedway on Friday, April 16 and Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Saturday, April 17.
“When you start out as a little boy, the World of Outlaws are the greatest thing ever to you,” McFadden reminisced. ” Being in Australia, it’s hard to come and compete, let alone make it to the tour full-time. It’s pretty surreal. You have to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming. It’s pretty cool to realize how large the support has been from my country.”
Before McFadden, the list of Australian’s to pave the path to America is far and wide.
When it comes to the World of Outlaws, the most prominent natives of ‘Straya to hit the American market are New South Wales racers Brooke Tatnell and brothers Kerry Madsen and Ian Madsen.
Both Brooke and Kerry ventured overseas in 1991, following similar career paths. Kerry, who married Tina from Iowa, owns 25 career World of Outlaws wins, the most of the four Australian’s to win with the Series. Brooke, who married Amy from Minnesota, has 13 Series victories to go along with his astounding Australia resume. Ian, the younger brother to Kerry, is one win ahead of McFadden with four total victories to his tally.
If you look back further, you’ll find the legends of Oz which first chartered the journey to America.
- Garry Rush, 10-time Australian Sprint Car Champion & seven-time Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic winner
- Steve & Garry Brazier, one of only two father-son duos (Tatnell’s) to both win the Australian Championship.
- Max Dumesny, a champion of World Series Sprintcars (7), Sprint Car Classic (3) & Australian Championship (3).
- Skip Jackson, the first Knoxville Raceway champion from AU & three-time World Series champion.
- Brett Lacey, the 1986 Australian Champion who ran 7th with Outlaws at Sioux Falls in 1983.
Much like the American scene, Australia’s landscape of Sprint Car Racing is blossoming and beautiful.
With inspiration from Ted Johnson’s World of Outlaws, John Hughes conceived the World Series Sprintcars in 1986. Annually held from December to February, the WSS pits Australia’s finest against any band of travelers from America or New Zealand willing to make the trip. Akin to the Outlaws’ 10 titleholders in 43 years, the World Series has only seen six multi-time champions through 26 seasons. Hughes’ invention became a springboard for those who ruled the roost like Brooke Tatnell (9 titles), Max Dumesny (7 titles), and James McFadden (5 titles).
Comparable to Iowa’s Knoxville Nationals, Australia has the Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic which runs in January at Warrnambool, Victoria’s Premier Speedway. Another crown jewel down under is the Australian Sprint Car Championship, held exclusively for native drivers with no outsiders allowed.
New South Wales icon Garry Rush holds the record for both events with 10 Australian Titles and another seven scores at The Classic.
Beyond drivers, the list of Australian personalities enamored in the American Sprint Car scene is through the roof. Most notably, Dylan Buswell of Victoria serves as crew chief on Aaron Reutzel’s Roth Motorsports #83 and picked up his first World of Outlaws win in March at East Bay. Michaela Dumesny, daughter of legend Max Dumesny, is dating Kraig Kinser and helps run his merchandise operation.
For McFadden, the pressure of major events like The Classic and Australian Championship, tenacity required to win with the World Series, and the challenge of facing American studs on his home turf, has all helped prepare him for a run against the World of Outlaws.
“I’ve done all of the different types of series back at home, so I understand the whole points concept, but I’ve never done 83 races,” McFadden joked. “It’s definitely a different mindset. Obviously this year our focus is more the car owner side since I missed those first few races. The main focus is really jus treating every night like a new opportunity.”
The benefit of landing at KKR? McFadden has Grass Valley, CA’s Brad Sweet, the two-time and defending World of Outlaws champion, as his teammate in the NAPA Auto Parts #9. It’s a relationship he’ll rely on as he adapts to the grinding campaign.
“I’ve been lucky enough for the past few years to be alongside Brad and see how he goes about things and how that team does it,” McFadden said on learning from Sweet. “I really can’t ask for anything better as far as jumping into the World of Outlaws as a fresh face. I’ve still been with these guys for a few years, so I’ve learned here and there. The support is just overwhelming.”
McFadden will continue his Australian onslaught aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing #9 this weekend at Lawton Speedway on Friday and Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Saturday.
Fans who can’t make it to the track can catch all of the action on DIRTVision with the annual Platinum FAST PASS subscription for $299/year or the monthly FAST PASS subscription for $39/month.