Growing up racing Quarter Midgets on the 1/20-mile oval in turns one and two at New Smyrna Speedway, Anthony Sergi dreamed about one day winning a championship on the big track. At the age of 20 years old, he accomplished that feat in 2015 by beating a handful of the heroes he admired as a young child watching in the grandstands of the Florida half-mile.
Sergi of Geneva, Florida, experienced the most successful season of his career behind the wheel of a Super Late Model this season. He picked up three wins, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 13 races on his way to winning the Super Late Model track championship by just two markers over veteran racer Brad May.
“As I was growing up I always saw the big track and wanted to be up on the big track racing with the big guys,” said Sergi. “As soon as I got to the Super Late division that was my main goal to get the championship at my home track of New Smyrna and beat guys like David Rogers who I’ve been looking up to since I’ve been coming up through the ranks.”
Sergi’s championship season comes one year after being held winless and recording one top-five finish at New Smyrna Speedway. He points to his confidence behind the wheel as the biggest difference between a winless season and a championship campaign.
“I feel like this year my confidence really grew,” said the driver of the No. 20 MJS Concrete Chevrolet. “After that first race when I went out there and beat Wayne Anderson and David Rogers my confidence grew and my crew really stepped up to the game. They got the car set up perfectly and we were doing really well early in the year.
“At the end of the year we had some problems with the car and the last race we had to bring out the backup car because we wrecked the primary car in a 100-lapper at New Smyrna. This year we were consistent and we were always the fastest car there at New Smyrna.”
Throughout the season, Sergi fought tooth and nail with May for the season championship. Both drivers had three wins to their name, but Sergi’s consistency throughout the season proved to be the difference.
The championship ultimately came down to the final race in October and when Sergi found himself behind the wheel of a backup car, he admitted it was a bit nerve-wracking competing for the title.
“There at that last race, after I wrecked my primary car, I was a little worried because usually we use the secondary car just for short tracks like Auburndale, Citrus County and Desoto,” Sergi admitted. “We had to use that car because it was the only car we had because the other one was up at Gary Crooks’ shop getting a clip put on it. I was a little worried about that. We really had to work on it.
“We went out there and it wasn’t as good as we thought it would be. It was really loose and that last race was really nerve-wrecking. We ended up finishing third and it was neve-wrecking but we made it happen so that was good.”
As a young driver competing among well-respected veteran racers such as David Rogers, Wayne Anderson and May, Sergi has done his best to earn respect from veteran racers during the early stages of his career. During his rookie season in the Super Late Model division two years ago, he may have even been giving them too much respect. But now as he matures behind the wheel, he’s confident he has enough respect from the veterans to race wheel-to-wheel.
“I’m giving everybody enough room to race, but not like I was two years ago,” Sergi explained. “Two years ago, I was giving guys like David Rogers as much room as I could so I could make a name for myself and show them that I’m a clean driver. I felt like my first year that my goal was just to make everyone know that I was just out there to race and I wasn’t out there to wreck cars.
“I feel like with that reputation that everyone knows I’m out there and knows that if they see the 20 car that I’m going to race them as clean as possible. Now I’ve got a name for myself so they know I’m there and I’m racing them like a real racer should.”
Looking forward to 2016, Sergi is unsure of how much he’ll be able to race due to his intense schedule as a Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Central Florida. He’s hoping to make some of the marquee Super Late Model events at New Smyrna and make a few stops in victory lane along the way.
“Next semester is going to be a hard semester for me,” Sergi said. “I’m starting to get into my harder classes of engineering and getting into the more stressful stuff so next year we might just be doing the big races and trying to contend for the Bright House championship. I want to get a big win. The biggest win I have is in a 50 lapper earlier this year, so I want to go out and get some of those 100 lap wins such as the Bright House race, Orange Blossom, Pete Orr or the Red-Eye.”
For more information on Anthony Sergi, including updates on his 2016 racing schedule, be sure to visit www.anthonysergiracing.com and follow him on Twitter at @AnthonySergi20.
-51 Sports Press Release. Photo credit: Jim Jones/New Smyrna Speedway