Emerson Axsom Chris Williams Photo

By Richie Murray

Speedway, Indiana (December 13, 2022)………Starting red hot and finishing strong. That’s the playbook Emerson Axsom followed on the road to earning USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship Rookie of the Year honors in 2022.

The Franklin, Ind. native got off on the right foot back in February with wins in two of his first three starts to open the year at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park. He’d have to wait eight more months to garner win number three when the series ventured west to Arizona’s Cocopah Speedway.

But in the meantime, Axsom and his Clauson Marshall Newman Racing team persevered over the peaks and valleys accustomed to the Rookie experience – a first season that was among the best in the history of the series when all things were said and done.

Axsom’s three wins in 2022 are the second most ever by a USAC National Sprint Car Rookie and his fifth place finish in the standings made him just the second driver to finish inside the top five of the points in the past 18 years as he wheeled the Driven2SaveLives – ZMax Race Products/Spike/Kistler Chevy.

With 15 top-fives and 31 top-tens in 39 starts as well as three fast qualifying awards to his credit, Axsom, who turned 18 in September, became the eighth teenager to win the award. He joined a teenage RoY lineage that also includes Boston Reid (2002), Darren Hagen (2005), Chad Boat (2008), Coleman Gulick (2011), C.J. Leary (2012), Tyler Courtney (2013) and Jadon Rogers (2020).

Axsom got his feet wet the year before with seven series starts coming late in the 2021 season, setting up a Rookie run for 2022. He nearly picked off a win at Lawrenceburg Speedway’s Fall Nationals in 2021, and after his torrid start to 2022, the expectations rose, but Axsom soon hit the expected learning curve where one has to endure the common bumps in the road and figure out a way how to bounce back.

“Going out and winning those two early races lifted the expectations,” Axsom admitted. “But I knew stuff was coming because I did it two years before in a midget. In my second ever midget race, I ran second and that kind of gave me a false sense of security. After going through that, I knew it was going to be tough. These guys are here for a reason and we’re not just going to kick their teeth in every week. But still, it was difficult, and it does give you a bit of a false sense because you want to believe that it’s that easy, but we all know it’s not.”

Ups and downs are part of the game, Rookie or otherwise. Some nights, you might have a fast car, and everything falls into place. Other nights, the same might not be said. It’s true for every team and every driver who’s ever strapped into a racecar.

Axsom acknowledged the difficulty of a team putting several nights of success together, and that the process of “figuring it out” and rebounding from those “not-so-great” nights is paramount. For how you respond will ultimately set up your path to future success, especially among those new experiences that Axsom partook in along the way.

“A lot of it was the size of the tracks we’re running on, the size of the car and the level of competition compared to what I had previously been racing against,” Axsom explained. “I ran a little bit of sprint car stuff last year, but it was only in Indiana. Plus, the level of competition steps up a notch because now I’m racing against people who are doing this for a living.”

Now, Axsom is among this group as well, and much of his growth coincided under the tutelage of crew chief Adam Wallis and team owner Tim Clauson who were on hand to lend their mechanical knowledge and racing know-how in order to help guide Axsom on his way to a successful campaign.

“My crew chief and I worked really well together last year, but we didn’t really run long enough for something bad to happen,” Axsom said. “Everyone knew I was really a Rookie last year, but I was a Rookie this year too. Last year, I was running my first ever sprint car races. Everyone I’ve talked to said we had a pretty good season this year and we ended up really solid. There were a lot of ups and downs, but I feel like when we had the downs, we figured out what was wrong and rebounded well.”



1971: Darl Harrison

1972: Billy Cassella

1973: Rich Leavell

1974: Lee Osborne

1975: Marvin Carman

1976: Roger Rager

1977: Eddie Leavitt

1978: Tim Richmond

1979: Jerry Carman

1980: Frank Riddle

1981: Johnny Coogan & Steve Long

1982: Danny Milburn

1983: Dean Shirley

1984: Jerry Russell

1985: Terry Shepherd

1986: Kenny Jacobs

1987: Rick Ungar

1988: Dean Jacobs

1989: Eric Gordon

1990: Rick Howerton

1991: Tony Stewart

1992: Gary Cameron II

1993: Kenny Irwin, Jr.

1994: Bobby Smith

1995: Mark Cassella

1996: Gus Wasson

1997: J.J. Yeley

1998: Tracy Hines

1999: Ryan Newman

2000: Bud Kaeding

2001: Ed Carpenter

2002: Boston Reid

2003: Michael Lewis & Mat Neely

2004: Josh Ford & Josh Wise

2005: Darren Hagen

2006: Scotty Weir

2007: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2008: Chad Boat

2009: Henry Clarke

2010: Justin Grant

2011: Coleman Gulick

2012: C.J. Leary

2013: Tyler Courtney

2014: Jarett Andretti

2015: Aaron Farney

2016: Isaac Chapple

2017: Stevie Sussex

2018: Timmy Buckwalter & Logan Seavey

2019: Dustin Clark

2020: Jadon Rogers

2021: Tanner Thorson

2022: Emerson Axsom