No matter where you come from, in Stock Car racing the ultimate destination for those who want to be on the up and up is the center of the sport’s hub, North Carolina. For Maine’s Wyatt Alexander, that is exactly where he set his sights on. But, reaching a destination, and being able to stay there can be two completely different matters.
Moving to North Carolina in the Summer of 2017 to further his racing career in Super Late Models on the state’s short tracks, while continuing to pursue his education at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Alexander was in the right place. Over a period of months, things did not smooth out for him in the racetrack and the classroom, which led to one more hard, but critical decision, heading back north.
Since returning to the Pine Tree State in the spring, Alexander has found stability all across the board. But, he has also vowed to get back south for at least one more race in 2019. This weekend, that’s exactly what he is going to do, entering his No. 96 in the PRA Super Late Model race this Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway.
“I miss (N.C.) a lot, I miss my friends, Dean Clattenburg, and the whole gang down there. I’m looking forward to getting back there, Hickory is one of my favorite tracks, and it has been about five months since I moved home. So, I figured I was a little overdue for a visit. Wanted to be back sooner, but we’ve been so busy up here all summer. I’m very excited,” Alexander told Speed51 on Wednesday.
Despite missing the Southern lifestyle, Alexander is already sure that he made the right choice, now living life to the fullest in the surroundings he grew up in.
“Life’s been really good, the decision to move back to Maine was a tough one, and long and thought-out for me. A lot of people were surprised by it. Things were going well in North Carolina, but things were getting to the point where both my academics and racing were struggling. It felt like I was balancing too much and not doing anything to my full potential, and it was frustrating.”
Since moving back, the now 20-year-old Alexander has been reestablishing his racing footing on the short tracks of Maine while beginning to take classes at the University of Maine in Orono.
“I wanted better results on the racetrack and to focus more on school, which is very important to me. So I made the decision to move back home. In way, it has been a big weight lifted off my shoulders, because I’m very happy here. I miss North Carolina, but everyday I find something in Maine that makes me realize how much I love being here, even if I will miss the warm weather in February. I got my friends up here, who I missed. There’s pros and cons, but I’m happy to be home.”
While Alexander has gotten off to a good start in Orono, things have been shaky on the short tracks. At the same time, there is promise on the racing side, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
“Honestly, it’s been a little frustrating. The move back shook things up and rattled my planned schedule. But, part of my decision to move back was to race more, and race competitively. With my crate motor we’re basically a Pro Late Model team all things considered. So, we’ve run some PASS races. The big thing this year is we’ve had a lot of speed, just not on a long run. That’s something I’ve never dealt with,” Alexander explained.
“We went to Spud Speedway, we were the fastest car in two rounds of practice, strong in the heat race, and come feature time we didn’t have it. We went to Speedway 660 in New Brunswick for their 250-lap race, same thing. We’ve had our struggles, but we just need to put it all together. We’ve been strong at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for their weekly shows. Part of the reason I’m looking forward to getting back to Hickory is that we started off the year so well there, and I hope we can get back to that.”
Heading back to Hickory, Alexander hopes Saturday’s PRA Super Late Model race will be just what he and his No. 96 family team need to finish off 2019 and come back stronger than ever in 2020 up north.
“It’s really cool, I’ve always dreamed about making it to the highest level of the sport, goes for most everybody in the sport. When I was racing Legends Cars and getting started with Super Late Models, I never thought we’d go to a place like Hickory and be competitive, even contend for wins, which is what we did this spring,” Alexander recalled.
“Plus, that place has so much history in Stock Car racing. It’s also one of the most awesome race tracks around, it’s my favorite. I think it’s one of the coolest racing surfaces, it’s multi-groove racing, a unique shape, its got some banking, and it’s an equalizer. I never thought I’d go to a place like that and get the hang of it. I’m looking forward to going back.”
Follow Speed51 this Saturday for updates from the PRA Super Late Models, Southern Modified Racing Series, and more from Hickory Motor Speedway. Also, be on the lookout for full race highlights on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT