At this time one year ago, the name Dalton Sargeant was relatively unknown by those that follow short track racing. That started to change when he ran strong for much of the prestigious Winchester 400 before fading late. He then turned a lot of heads with his second-place run at the 47th Annual Snowball Derby.
Now, two weeks after finishing second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener (also his series debut) at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), he heads to the Inaugural Winter Showdown on February 28 at Kern County Raceway (CA) as one of the favorites. But he doesn’t necessarily see things that way.
“I think Derek Thorn will be (the one to beat),” Sargeant told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “He set the precedent with his result at the Snowball Derby when he finished third. Now he’s at his home track so I definitely think he knows how to get around this place pretty well and he’ll be the guy to beat.”
The 16-year-old driver was initially on a path full of twists and turns as he chased a potential Formula One career. He’s since made the move to stock cars and oval racing and is quickly climbing the NASCAR ladder.
He’s a fast learner, but he hasn’t visited many of the oval tracks he’s now racing on and Kern County Raceway is no different. His made his first laps around the big, wide half-mile oval on Monday when he tested at the facility.
“We were running pretty consistent,” Sargeant said. “Derek Thorn was running yesterday and he lives right here in Bakersfield and we were just a little bit off of him. We’re going to keep working on it throughout the week. Hopefully we can get caught up to him as well as some of the other fast drivers.”
Sargeant said that all he really knew about the race track before he got there was that it was big and fast. After testing on Monday, he learned that even though the track is wide, a lot of it won’t be used.
“It almost has about five lanes, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to use too much of the top lane in the middle of the corners,” he said. “It’s near a desert so it’s pretty dirty and dusty on the track. If you’re not on the racing line it’s kind of hard to run.”
While he said his goal for Saturday is a top-five finish, Sargeant is already thinking about what it would be like to be the first to flash under the checkered flag in the Winter Showdown.
“It would be crazy just because we’ve never really come out here and run on the West Coast,” he said. “It would be cool to come out here from the east and beat all these West guys. As I get more time under my belt I start to feel more and more comfortable. I think the results are just going to keep on coming.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com Photo