TALLADEGA, Ala. — Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — Lori Audie photo —
The pride of the Alabama Crimson Tide is making a pit stop for Friday’s ARCA Racing Series General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway.
University of Alabama student Tyler Audie is back behind the wheel of the No. 12 Audie Expo/Prattville Pub Toyota for Kyle Beattie Racing at the 2.66-mile track. Audie scored his career-best finish last year with a 10th at Talladega, and was running as high as fifth on the final lap.
Now, the 19-year-old wants more.
“I’m just really looking forward to going back.,” Audie said. “It was my favorite track we ran last year. As far as expectations go, I wouldn’t say it’s out of the cards that we could win it. Our cars have been getting better and better every race. We’ve been figuring things out, figuring out who we run with good in the draft, if our car’s good leading or good following. We got Chris Osborne up in the spotter’s stand for us this weekend, so we’re really excited about that one.”
“So, I’d expect at least a top-five out of us. I know we’re capable of it when we show up at the race together.”
The rising star also raced at Pocono and Chicagoland in 2015, but didn’t make any more appearances in ARCA competition afterwards. Audie did, however, make this year’s ARCA season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in February, getting the final qualifying spot on time in 30th and bringing home a 12th-place finish in the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire.
“Our race at Daytona didn’t really go the way we hoped it would,” Audie said. “We didn’t qualify all that well … we started 30th, so we were just real key on staying patient throughout the race. We were expecting some big wrecks and they came and we got through them and then it was just all pit strategy from there and just trying to hook up with someone to get to the front. Working well with some of the Empire cars there, hooked up with some of the Lira cars for a couple laps there, but the race overall went really well.”
“Towards the end there, we got off the lead pack, but we hooked with a second smaller pack of like eight or nine cars and once again we were there, we stayed out in front of that pack and rode away with how our car handles out in the clean air, so we’re really excited of what we’re going to do here at Talladega.”
The group qualifying session for the restrictor-plate tracks also returns this weekend, and drivers have offered mixed reviews on whether ARCA should keep the format or not. While eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart has been very vocal about it after being collecting in a multi-car crash on lap two in Daytona, Audie says he doesn’t mind the differences between the two formats.
“I’ve had fairly mixed experiences with the group qualifying,” he said. “We qualified at Daytona last year and it was a mess. Only two of the cars laid back and three of them went together, but when you do group qualifying, you kind of have to all run together. It doesn’t really make a big enough difference. As far as keeping it, I can’t really say. I approve of it. I think there’s some good things that can come out of it. You usually see who’s got a really strong car in the draft with it versus single-car qualifying where it’s just who has the biggest motor.”
While he’s not in the driver’s seat, Audie studies aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama, for which its prestigious football program won another national championship in January to add to the school’s banner. He began school there last fall and is about to complete his first year of college in Tuscaloosa.
“School’s going well … I’m just trying to get through finals week, but the first two semesters have been great,” Audie said. “It’s been a pretty big transition from high school, so it’s just been a lot of adjusting. It actually hasn’t been as hectic with the racing as I thought it would be. I thought for sure I’d be missing a lot more school, but really it’s not that bad. The schedule, most of the races on the weekends so you only really miss one day and flying out for one. For Daytona, I missed one day of school, so it wasn’t too hard to catch up on.”
“Last semester, I had an 8 a.m. [class], but this semester, my earliest class is at 10. I know this … I will never take an 8 a.m. again, unless I have no choice.”
Audie enters finals week with the momentum of the strong Talladega showing last year, and also has a bright spot from his Pocono effort last June, where he recorded his best-career qualifying effort of 11th — only one spot behind JR Motorsports driver Cole Custer, who went on to win the second event there later that summer.
“We never expected the result we did from Pocono when we went there,” he said. “It was a really challenging track first off. Second off, it was just that we’ve never been there before. To qualify that well ahead of a lot of good drivers, Josh Williams was behind us and even to be close to JR Motorsports, it made our team ecstatic. We just never thought we’d be in that position with the budget that we’re on.”
The No. 12 Kyle Beattie Racing team with Tyler Audie may well be an underdog to watch Friday evening, and as legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully once said after a hobbling Kirk Gibson hit the game-winning home run in Game 1 the 1988 World Series, “The impossible has happened.”
Don’t be surprised if it happens in Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega, a track well-known for its upsets.
Listen in to Race Chaser Online’s full conversation with Tyler Audie by clicking on the player below:
About the Writer
Kyle Magda is a Northeast Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and a co-host of both Motorsports Madness and the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, airing at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and Thursday nights, respectively, on the Performance Motorsports Network. Magda broke into racing in mid-2001 as the sport’s tide was beginning to change towards the current modern-era formula, but still has an affinity for the history of NASCAR’s earlier days.
The 23-year-old is a graduate of Penn State University and can be found traveling to numerous tracks across the country, covering everything from NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series to the UNOH All-Stars Circuit of Champions and the Super Cup Stock Car Series.
Email Kyle at: [email protected]
Follow on Twitter: @KyleMagda
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