Lake Norman & Mooresville

Tough jobs helped shape young race driver

Entering the ARCA season finale, Sarah Cornett-Ching is seventh in the standings, a position that could result in her being the highest finishing female rookie in the series history.
Entering the ARCA season finale, Sarah Cornett-Ching is seventh in the standings, a position that could result in her being the highest finishing female rookie in the series history. COURTESY OF TONY BLANCHARD RACING

When Sarah Cornett-Ching took welding jobs in remote areas of Canada she often was subjected to adverse conditions, but she says working in that tough environment gave her the mental strength for a racing career.

“Sometimes I would be on scaffolding 60 feet in the air and it would be really windy,” the Denver resident said. “Then in the summer it would be really hot, close to 110 degrees at one of my jobs. In the winter time it was minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I think being able to stay focused and still get that good weld even though you’re facing all those different things helped me.”

In Cornett-Ching’s rookie ARCA season, the Summerland, British Columbia, native has produced five top-10 finishes in 19 races. She’s seventh in the standings heading into the season finale at Kansas. If she maintains that position, she will be the highest finishing female rookie in points in ARCA history.

Team owner Tony Blanchard says more racing success awaits her. He’s already signed her to a multi-year contract and has his sights on a schedule of at least 20 races for 2016.

“There are so many things about her that make her such a good racer,” said Blanchard, who’s also Cornett-Ching’s crew chief. “She just has the ability to adapt and learn.

“Next year I don’t want to get caught up in a point battle. I just want to go race and race hard with no baggage. Right now we’re going to run any track that benefits her future.”

In addition to ARCA in 2016, Cornett-Ching, who works at the team’s Denver, shop daily, will compete in selected NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races, and a few events in either NASCAR’s Camping World Truck or Xfinity series.

“Everything has been a huge adjustment,” she said about racing in ARCA. “Luckily, Tony has worked with a lot of young drivers and he knew what to expect.”

Blanchard and Cornett-Ching met in 2011 when she attended his school, Race 101. At the time, she was racing late models in Canada. After attending the school and testing with Blanchard, she returned to Canada to work on various welding jobs. While working as part of the Real Seal Welders, she saved her money to return to North Carolina and do more on-track testing with Blanchard’s team.

“To succeed in this sport, you have to have determination but you have to have the ability to open the door and say I need help,” Blanchard said. “The fact that she was 100 percent determined, but yet open to growth made it a much easier process to teach her and carry her through the process. She came down (to North Carolina) and found out ways to make herself more appealing as far as marketing, media, education, being able to communicate, and that helped her propel herself from being a Saturday night racer.”

Cornett-Ching said she was always with her father during his Canadian racing career, working on his crew, even helping change an engine one night, when “I was probably too young to be in the pits.”

At age 12, her mother agreed to allow her to drive a race car. She started racing four-cylinder cars at Penticton Speedway in Penticton, British Columbia, winning two championships in three years. Next on her agenda were street stocks. Once Cornett-Ching advanced into the late model ranks, she competed in a regional tour that circulated around southern British Columbia. She also made her NASCAR Canadian Tire Series debut in 2011 with a 14th-place finish.

Cornett-Ching raced late models for three years before graduating from high school. After graduation, she selected a college program near her home that promoted women entering a trade. By entering the welding program, a scholarship paid for her first year of school. Blanchard said being a certified welder helps her be a smart driver.

“A lot of the young drivers that are out there now don’t appreciate the cost or the hours that teams put in,” Blanchard said. “It builds a better team when the team respects the driver and knows that they’re working both toward the same goal instead of just jumping in a seat and playing in a race car.”

Entering 2015, Blanchard and Cornett-Ching thought their only race this year would be the season opener at Daytona. In her inaugural event at the 2.5-mile speedway she placed 31st. A full schedule developed after financial backing materialized. Her best finish of eighth this year came at Talladega and Chicago.

“She’s just a very good person with determination and goals,” Blanchard said. “She enjoys interacting with the fans. She brings a new breath of life into racing.”

Pink in October

Concord-based Ken Schrader Racing and its primary sponsor, Federated Auto Parts, will support the Breast Health Center at CHS Northeast in Concord during October for the fifth consecutive year.

Also, during breast cancer awareness month, the team’s No. 52 entry in the ARCA season finale at Kansas will be adorned in pink decals as will Schrader’s No. 9 modified that he’ll race throughout the month.

Fans may purchase a pink ribbon for $10 on either race car by visiting http://givenortheastfoundation.org.

Action Express

For the second straight year, Denver-based Action Express Racing has claimed the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship with drivers Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais.

During the season finale earlier this month at Road Atlanta, Fittipaldi and Barbosa also clinched the North American Endurance Championship for the team for the second consecutive year. Action Express Racing’s second team with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran driving finished third.

Byron claims championship, rookie honors

William Byron captured the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship and the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year title driving for Mooresville-based HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks.

The 17-year-old Charlotte resident is the fifth driver to win the rookie title and the series championship in the same season. He claimed the rookie title by defeating his teammate, Dalton Sargeant, on a tiebreaker. Both finished with 99 points in the rookie standings, but Byron placed higher in the overall points. Byron ended the season with four victories, three poles, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 14 races while leading a series-high 740 laps.

NCAHOF inducts Allison, Sox and Martin

Racing legends Donnie Allison, Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin have been inducted into the Mooresville-based North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame’s Walk of Fame. The induction occurred earlier this month at Mooresville’s Charles Mack Citizen Center.

Deb Williams is a freelance writer: dwilliamscltobs@gmail.com.

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