Racing captivated Tyler Dayton the first time he stepped in a quarter-midget, but it took his family operation nine years of competing in various series before the Mooresville teenager could win a championship.
Dayton, 16, earned Hickory Motor Speedway’s Smokey’s Super Trucks championship in a tightly fought battle with Asheville’s Sheflon Clay and Hickory’s Allen Huffman. Entering the season finale, only 10 points separated the three. Clay led the standings with Dayton four points behind and Huffman back by 10.
“I knew how tough it was going to be so my only goal was to go out and win the (final) race and let everything else play out for itself,” Dayton said.
The season finale was an intense battle, just as the title chase had been throughout the year. In the waning laps, Dayton led, Clay was second and Huffman third. Dayton claimed the victory, but didn’t know if he had the championship until the other two contenders took the checkered flag. Entering the third turn on the final lap, Huffman ducked to the inside of Clay and as they raced through the turn the two collided. Clay’s car spun, Huffman’s didn’t. Huffman claimed second, while Clay had to settle for fourth. That gave Dayton the championship in his inaugural super truck season.
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“This is probably the biggest goal I’ve reached in my nine-year racing career,” the Mooresville High School junior said. “It was a moment of disbelief that all the work my family and I had done over the nine years had finally paid off and we got it.”
Even though Dayton’s father, Bill, had once raced successfully at Hialeah, Fla., Speedway, when the family moved from Homestead, Fla., to Mooresville racing was not in their plans. At least that was the case until the summer of 2007 when Tyler competed in his first quarter-midget event at the North Carolina Quarter Midget Association track in Salisbury. After only five months of competing in the Junior Novice class, Dayton had recorded four victories.
While continuing to compete in various quarter-midget classes in 2008, Dayton ventured into Bandolero racing in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Summer Shootout Series. He competed in Bandoleros for three seasons before making his late model debut at age 12 at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont. For two years, Dayton competed in the PASS South super late model series before his family decided to switch to super trucks.
“We knew it was a more affordable series than the series we ran before,” Dayton said. “The series we ran before was very competitive with a lot of big teams with big money, which we didn’t have. So we moved to something more local so we didn’t have to travel very far, it was a lot cheaper to run than the other series and a lot more fun (because of the side-by-side racing).”
Dayton had only nine super truck starts when he claimed his first victory at Hickory in late May. He then won two more en route to his track championship, including the season finale.
For 2016, Dayton and his father are putting a new body on his super truck with plans to return to the historic Hickory track. However, he also would like to acquire sponsorship for a couple of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events and in two years compete in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville.
Winter Heat Series resumes
Racing in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Winter Heat Series resumes Jan. 9-10 on the facility’s road course. The series’ first two races occurred Dec. 5 and 12 on the fifth-mile track. Racing on the road course also will be held Jan. 16-17. The final race is scheduled for Jan. 23. Practices are slated for Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29. Gates open at noon each Friday, 8 a.m. each Saturday and 10 a.m. each Sunday.
Legend Cars, INEX schedule banquet
U.S. Legend Cars International and INEX have scheduled the 2015 international awards banquet for Jan. 30 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s The Speedway Club. State, international and national champions will be honored at the event that begins with cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Admission to the evening attire event is $50 for adults and $20 for children age 10 and younger. Anyone planning to attend should RSVP by Jan. 15.
East Lincoln sets awards banquet
East Lincoln Speedway officials have scheduled the track’s annual awards dinner for Jan. 16 at Fat Boys restaurant in Mooresville. Trophies and prize money will be given to the top five in the following standings: Renegade, Limited Sportsman, Front Wheel Drive, Stock 4, Pro 4, 602 Modified, UMP Modified, and Late Model. Admission is $20 per person. Tickets are available at TJs Motorsports in Denver, or by calling 516-906-7399.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.