T.J.’s Notebook: Goodbye to the McMahan’s, Youth is Served, and Labor Day Has Been Shuffled

Paul McMahan. (T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

Saturday was a landmark day for the McMahan family as brothers Paul and Bobby McMahan took the green flag for the last time in competition during a Northern Auto Racing Club event at Placerville Speedway.

It’s rare to see brothers step away from racing at the same time on their own terms, and even more rare to see a pair as decorated as the McMahan brothers do so.

Paul leaves the sport highly decorated with a decorated career in the late 90’s recognized as one of the rising young stars of the sport before heading on the road with the World of Outlaws in 1997. While Bobby’s career centered around the west coast, he was also a very talented driver who carved out a place in west coast sprint car racing.

I found Paul was one of the most frequently interviewed drivers from my cohorts. The reason is McMahan was extremely accommodating and gave thoughtful answers to questions. Paul was the type of driver where I always came away learning something was given something to mull over with every conversation. I had the pleasure of seeing him do some radio work during the Knoxville Nationals and was very good at it.

Paul was also a leader in the pit area among crews and drivers. I’ve seen him go above and beyond with his fellow competitors on multiple occasions and should be cited as an example for young drivers on how to carry themselves on and off the racetrack.

I have a feeling we will still see the McMahan’s around the racetrack occasionally. It has also been wonderful to see them enjoying some time away from competition, which is some relaxation that is well deserved.

I would be hard pressed to find a couple of better guys to work with over the years, and I’m not sure if thank you is enough to show how much I appreciated everything the McMahan family has done for the sport.


  • Last weekend was a moment where we had a window into the future of sprint car racing.

    Ryan Timms made his World of Outlaws Series debut and lived up to the hype earning hard charger honors Friday at River Cities Speedway before becoming the youngest podium finisher in series history Saturday at Red River Valley Speedway. I likened Timms debut to the Outlaws to when Bryan Clauson debuted with the USAC National Sprint Car Series at Limaland Motorsports Park during the Buckeye Nationals with the same kind of anticipation leading into the event.

    Sunday at Huset’s Speedway the driver that held the honor of youngest podium finisher with the Outlaws, Corey Day, was able to edge Timms over the finish line for the feature victory. Day competing at the Knoxville Raceway finale caught my attention on Saturday instead of coming back to the west coast, which leads to me to believe that Knoxville will see more of Day in 2023.

    Watching both young men will be one of the biggest storylines for the remainder of 2022 and into 2023.

  • When Justin Peck’s name started to pop up winning midget races at Montpelier Motor Speedway and the occasional winged sprint car race onlookers knew he was good, but I don’t think we could imagine at the time him being at the level of winning four All Star Circuit of Champions races during a swing centered around a trip through Central Pennsylvania.

    What Buch Motorsports has put together with Peck, Sean Strausbaugh, and Kurt Williamson have put together is special. Winning teams are often centered around chemistry. Seeing this team over the past two years at work, particularly this year, they have the aura of being so locked in that I don’t see them falling off pace anytime soon.

    Working smarter instead of harder also is a theme with Buch’s team as Peck pointed out Thursday’s winning engine was purchased from Brent Marks in 2018 and they purchased a larger hauler this year from Anthony Macri’s team rather than buying something new.

    If I were a team owner looking to make a change I might try and make the effort to get Peck and the entire team. Synergy means something, and they have it. The entire Buch team has been one of the most consistently fast all season in a year when we have seen comers and goers in the winner’s circle.

    Unfortunately for Peck a flat tire in Sunday’s event at Bedford extended Tyler Courtney’s lead in the point standings to 112 markers with Courtney having six more top five finishes than Peck being the most notable difference. With 10 races to go though crazier things have happened and one Courtney mistake could draw Peck closer to the point lead.

  • It did not take long for Anthony Macri to look comfortable in the Sam McGhee Motorsports entry. Macri had speed all weekend and dominated the remainder of the feature once Peck suffered the flat tire Sunday at Bedford. Fans at Sharon Speedway will get to see Macri filling in for the injured Parker-Price Miller this weekend at the Sharon Nationals.
  • Kyle Cummins made a statement on Thursday during the Kokomo Sprint Car Smack Down at Kokomo Speedway driving from the back of the field after suffering a cut tire on the pace laps to drive up to second position. That served as a preview of the wire-to-wire dominating performance leading all 40 laps and picking up the biggest win of his career worth $35,000 in prize and lap leader money.

    While Cummins is known for his prowess at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana, Cummins has won at six different race tracks this season in sprint and midget car competition.

  • Cummins dominated on the racetrack, but a lot of the attention at the Smack Down was focused on the rivalry between Brady Bacon and Robert Ballou that started after an incident during the opening night of Indiana Sprint Week where Bacon and Ballou got together with Ballou being dubbed the “Balloudozer”. Creative t-shirts, some money raised for charity, and Ballou driving an actual Bulldozer with the nickname and number on it we have ourselves a captivating rivalry. If the rivalry stays to just being jabs in the media, creative t-shirts, driving construction equipment, and clean hard racing on the track it should be healthy for the non-wing sprint car division.

    There was some chatter about more sprint cars showing up for the weekly program at Lincoln Park Speedway rather than one of the larger non-wing sprint car races of the year at Kokomo Speedway.

  • One of the most enjoyable viewing experiences over the past weeks took place in the morning checking out the Chariots of Thunder Sprint Car Series from Northline Speedway in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Four days of good racing over two weekends combined with the community rallying around the event was enjoyable to watch.

Here are some of the items I’ll be keeping an eye on this weekend.

  • The World of Outlaws will be at Skagit Speedway Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I’ll be curious how many cars venture north from California and local teams show up at Skagit as they try to bring the winged 410 sprint car class back to prominence in the Pacific Northwest.
  • The revival of the Sharon Nationals takes place this weekend Friday and Saturday at Sharon Speedway featuring the All Star Circuit of Champions. Friday’s program paying $6,000 to win before Saturday’s finale paying $12,000 to the victor. Premier Pallet and Recycling has put up $1,000 bonus for the top finishing non-All Star team and an extra $100 for positions 10-24. That bonus was joined shortly after by NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney putting up an extra $1,2000 for the top finishing non-All Star team.
  • For the past 20 years the All Stars had spent Labor Day centered around Attica Raceway Park. This year Attica will still contest a two-day program featuring the Attica Fremont Challenge Series sprint cars paying $4,000 to win Friday and $7,000 to win on Saturday. 305 Sprint Cars will join the 410’s both nights with Saturday being an all-Sprint Car affair with the GLSS and NRA 360 Sprint Car Series joining forces for a combined season finale.
  • The IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Car Nationals kicks off Thursday night at Eagle Raceway in Eagle, Nebraska. Last year over 100 sprint cars checked in for the four-night event. Earlier this week I interviewed Justin Clark who is the defending point champion of the IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Car Series and is currently leading their national points again this season.
  • DuQuioin’s State Fairgrounds magic mile will have the USAC Silver Crown Series under the lights in the division’s only nighttime affair on a dirt mile this season. Last year Brian Tyler came out of nowhere to become the oldest feature inner in USAC Silver Crown Series history. Based on some of the legendary drivers that have spent their later years in that division, Tyler’s accomplishment was very impressive.
  • The Oswego Classic takes place this weekend with the 200-lap international classic taking place on Sunday. 30 cars are entered for the biggest race of the season for the supermodified division.
  • Lake Ozark Speedway features two nights of racing with four different sprint car divisions. The POWRi Winged 410 Sprint Cars, ASCS National Tour, POWRi WAR Sprint Cars, and winged 305 sprint cars are on the card for two nights Friday and Saturday.