INDIANAPOLIS — In a surprise announcement made Friday at the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis, Dooling-Hayward Motorsports announced that the team will join forces with NASCAR championship team Richard Childress Racing.
The partnership will kick off with the 2018 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals and continue through the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series and USAC National Midget Series seasons.
Brady Bacon will return to drive the Dooling-Hayward No. 63 sprint car for a second-straight season, while Tanner Thorson will move over from Keith Kunz Motorsports to drive the team’s midget in a partial schedule, including the 14th running of Indiana Midget Week this summer.
Bacon, Thorson and team vice president and co-owner Brodie Hayward were all on hand for Friday afternoon’s announcement.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to join together with Richard Childress Racing and looking forward to bringing the two worlds (NASCAR and dirt) together,” said Hayward. “As our preview video earlier said, two worlds are going to collide. We’re excited to kick off the new partnership at the 2018 Chili Bowl and continue it into our full-season sprint car and midget programs as well.”
“It’s important for our race team to align with a grassroots racing organization like Dooling Hayward Motorsports and develop young drivers and crew members,” said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR. “This partnership will be a great opportunity to continue our developmental program and invest in a race team that are proven winners.”
Hayward said Friday that the pairing was one that has been in the works during the latter portion of the season.
“The opportunity presented itself a few months back and we felt it was a great move,” Hayward continued. “Working with all the folks at RCR has been great so far. Mike (Dillon), Richard (Childress), Ty and Austin (Dillon) … they’ve all been tremendous to us. They see the advantage of working with a developmental team, helping to develop drivers and helping the grassroots level of motorsports extend all the way up into the top tiers of racing, as well as getting fans to cross back and forth.”
Hayward added that the new partnership is one that could work in a similar fashion to the ladder system that has been implemented by Toyota Racing Development, with Kyle Larson, Rico Abreu and Christopher Bell all having moved into the upper echelons of American motorsports thanks to their time at the dirt short track level.
“Alliances like this and like what Toyota’s done are certainly a way to develop drivers up through the ranks,” said Hayward. Midgets, non-wing sprint cars, winged car racing … it’s all beneficial from a driving standpoint. It’s certainly a way to take grassroots racing and give drivers there a direct path into NASCAR.”
Both Bacon and Thorson were eager for what RCR’s involvement means, not just for their own racing plans in 2018 but for short track and dirt racing on a larger scale.
“This is obviously a very exciting day,” said Bacon. “I’m obviously super pumped about going for another championship with USAC, and this is a great way to build a bridge between NASCAR and grassroots racing. The resurgence of racing at the grassroots level has been amazing to watch and be a part of over the last couple of years, and we’re excited to continue that, push it forward and get what we do out more into the mainstream and to fans who may not have seen us in the past.”
“It’s something a little different, but it’s something I’m really excited about,” said Thorson. “Sometimes, you have to change your program up a little bit to get better, and I feel like that’s what we’ve done here. I can’t thank Rusty (Kunz), Joe (Dooling Jr.) and Brody enough for the opportunity to come race next season … and to have a NASCAR organization like Childress involved with their team is a great thing as well.”
The Dooling-Hayward/Childress team will kick off its 2018 season at the 32nd Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jan. 9-13.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: email@example.com
Email Race Chaser Online: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews