By T.J. Buffenbarger
(January 23, 2024) — Maybe it’s a product of getting older, but one of my favorite things to do during the winter is to get up on weekend mornings and watch sprint car racing from Australia.
This past weekend more people than normal joined me in the endeavor with Floracing carrying the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic, the Australian equivalent of the Knoxville Nationals. Since 2017 having sprint car racing along with breakfast has become a tradition in my household.
Most of the time that viewing has centered around Perth Motorplex in Kwinana Beach, Western Australia. Due to the time zone those races are easier to catch on a decent night sleep with the ability to wake up around 7:00 a.m. on the eastern time zone and still catch all the feature events.
Sometimes for bigger races I find myself setting a 5:00 or 4:00 a.m. alarm to catch the end of a program from Victoria or New South Wales.
Most American readers and viewers are drawn in by drivers from the United States coming over to Australia over Christmas time, but if you are not at least paying attention to the highlights from some of these races before and after the Christmas season leading into the Classic, you are missing out on some great racing and some very talented drivers.
Gone are the days of Americans coming over to poach victories in the land down under. The talent and equipment level in Australia is very good right now with a lot of up-and-coming stars such as Jock Goodyer and Callum Williamson mixed with now veteran drivers like 2023 Classic winner Brock Hallet and Jamie Veal.
That’s not the only reason you should be tuning in though. The racing is legitimately good. I thought Perth, especially during USA vs WA Speedweek, had a couple of excellent events and the preliminary nights during the Classic were compelling as well.
One thing I have learned to admire from viewing these broadcasts is the out of the box thinking done to promote the sport down under. If you start following some of the larger teams in Australia elaborate, off track photo shoots for teams and other off-track promotions are some attention-grabbing things we don’t see as much in America. The community day held Saturday morning and early afternoon at the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic is one of the best concepts I have seen for a big race in quite some time.
Reading about the Australian sprint car scene and covering it on the site is where I first saw the potential in James McFadden before he came over to the United States, now we can witness it on our one screens firsthand in real time.
It was fun this past weekend to share that same energy of the Classic with a lot of other American viewers like me tuned in on Floracing. Now the question becomes how to get those viewers interested in events like Chariots of Thunder, an ever-growing event that kicks off the Australian Sprint Car season in the Northern Territory, and other big events taking place in our off season.
Clay Per View, the largest racing pay-per-view vendor in Australia and has a very high quality product week in and out, worked with Perth Motorplex on a deal for viewers in the American to see USA vs WA Speedweek this year with just a standard monthly subscription that gets you access to a handful of lower-level races and on demand replays of other events. I stumbled onto it and felt this could have been promoted more to bring a few more eyeballs to that series.
Even during the season if we have a rainy spring weekend, I’ll pony up a few bucks to catch a late season Perth event or some other program. To me watching some international sprint car racing with breakfast is better than watching some talking heads on a weekend morning show or two people yelling at each other on one of the sports networks on televisions.
There have been rumblings about at least one of our American touring sprint car series at least exploring the idea of doing something internationally. Watching these races down under gives you a wider sense of how Sprint Car racing is truly an international sport and gives you a different perspective. For me, viewing these races from Australia during the winter is the great way to pass the time during our ever shrinking off season.
• While the Americans have headed back home, Australia still has a major event this weekend with the Australian Sprintcar Title taking place Friday and Saturday at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Victoria.
Defending Aussie title winner Jock Goodyear will look to bounce back from a Classic weekend that ended with a charge through the field after a preliminary night crash buried him back in the field for the finale.
• This week is an appetizer of sorts with the United Sprint Car Series starting their 2024 season at Volusia Speedway Park Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with an impressive list of 45 pre-entered drivers from 17 states and two Canadian provinces.
• Speaking of young, up and coming Australian drivers, Central Pennsylvania race fans will get to see Western Australia standout Callum Williamson aboard the Trone Racing 39 car on the Central Pennsylvania circuit in 2024.
Williamson’s audition for the ride happened to take place while Trone was watching the action from USA vs WA Speedweek at Perth Motorplex. Williamson is expected to arrive in American in May for a three-month stint.
• I was unsure how teams would react to the Open Wheel Showdown for pavement sprint cars moving from Las Vegas to Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California. A quick straw poll of drivers was positive about the move along with the race taking place earlier in November that last year, this season taking place November 22-24.
• The American Racing Drivers Club midget car series has suspended operations for the 2024 season citing low car counts.