CONCORD, N.C. — Audio, photo and story by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — There’s one thing you can be sure of anytime you run into Chase Purdy at the race track — the Meridian, Mississippi native will always have a smile on his face.
The young star has brought a wealth of optimism and renewed focus to his racing endeavors in 2014, showing renewed focus as he looks to grow and mature as a race car driver at one of the meccas of motorsports, the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Purdy, a former Bandolero division national champion, is currently in search of his first-career Jack in the Box Summer Shootout title after racing predominately at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in their “Thursday Thunder” championship. Purdy made his first full-season attempt at the Shootout last summer, notching four top-five and six-top ten finishes en route to a top ten result in the summer-long points standings.
Those numbers though, good as they were, were not enough for the 14-year-old. Purdy wanted a win and he wanted one badly. The young gun said coming into this year’s title fight that he knew from the beginning just consistency would not be enough; wins would claim a championship this time around.
“We’ve known from the time we started that we’re going to have to win races if we want to win the Shootout title this year,” Purdy said recently to Race Chaser Online. “You can’t just be consistent any more, especially with the way they’ve restructured the points. That five point bonus for winning the race is huge now.”
Under the new points structure for the Summer Shootout, each position is worth a single point, as in NASCAR’s top three series, but second place receives 45 points, with the decrease on back, while the winner receives 50 points.
Purdy grabbed his first career Shootout win during a rain-postponed Round 2, just eight days after a hard crash in the opening round sent him back to the pits in the back of an ambulance. That win, he says, was made more special because of how hard they fought to both get the car repaired and because of his return from being knocked around the previous week.
“I was a little banged up after that wreck,” Purdy admits, “but I wasn’t gonna let that stop me. I’ve known we could contend for wins and that race, everything just went perfect for us. We won the heat race; we started on the front row and we just took off. I couldn’t have asked for a better car and I felt proud because when you beat guys like Ashton (Winger), Jensen (Jorgensen) and (Miguel) Cesar, you’ve done something pretty cool.
In addition to the fight for the Shootout points, Purdy is also locked in a battle for the Bandolero National Championship with Jorgensen and Winger, a battle that he says again will be punctuated by wins.
“I’m just wanting to win right now. With Jensen having twelve wins; we’re really trying to catch up with him and wins are going to make the difference, especially the later we get into the season. But you look at it, you’ve got one-two-three in the nation out there running first through third about every week. It’s not easy.”
Despite the fierceness of the on-track competition between Purdy and his named rivals, he says that the off-track friendships between them makes the on-track competition more fun in a way.
“You know, sometimes it’s rough if we get into it on the track, but away from the cars, we’re all pretty good friends,” Purdy says of the group. “Myself, Ashton, Connor (Younginer) and Chandler (Smith) from the Bandits division, it’s just a really good group and we mess with each other and have some fun. But when we put those helmets on we all know it’s business then. I think it does make it lighter though, in a way. I at least enjoy it more.”
Following this year’s Summer Shootout, Purdy plans to move up into a Legend Car for the Winter Heat and the 2015 season, but right now, the young driver is focused on the task at hand.
“We’re planning to move up for next summer and even the Winter Flurry (at Atlanta) and Winter Heat (at Charlotte) but for now it’s all about this last year in the Bando and trying to bring home not just the Shootout, but the National title too.”
Purdy heads into Round Seven of the Summer Shootout locked in a tight points battle with Jorgensen, Cesar and current points leader Winger. With all four drivers separated by less than ten points, it’s still anyone’s game and Purdy knows that.
“This points fight is far from over,” Purdy expressed. “It’s so tight, and with the way the accidents are, any one of us could be collected or get through a big crash. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, and that part will take care of itself.”
“When it comes down to it though, I just want to win again. We got that first one, and now I’m ready for another one. It’s go time — we have to give it our all, 110 percent, and go win this championship.”
Listen in to more of Chase’s interview with Managing Editor Jacob Seelman during the 2014 Jack in the Box Summer Shootout: