After spending 10 years in the Sport Series, the Maine native is making the jump to Super Late Models for the 2021 season starting with next weekend’s Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway. With the move, he realizes a dream he set out to achieve as a kid.
“It kind of all starts back at Beech Ridge where I’ve been racing the Sport Series car. For the last few years I’ve been expressing my interest in it because that’s the goal. That’s where I want to be at, that’s the mecca of what you can do at this level short of Modified racing or something like that,” Sanborn told Speed51. “It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid, I want to be at the top of what I can do.”
After climbing behind the wheel of a Super Late Model last summer for a practice session, the desire to compete in one became stronger than ever. The prospect of getting into a Late Model was brought up in a conversation during Oxford 250 weekend.
One of the drivers in said conversation last August was 2017 ARCA Menards Series champion Austin Theriault, who would later make the call that would help kickstart Sanborn Racing Enterprises’ foray into the Super Late Model world.
After working out the details and picking up support from Hudson Speedway and Chasing The Checkered, Sanborn will head to North Carolina with an empty trailer and return to Maine after the Easter Bunny weekend with a Super Late Model.
“My good friend Rusty Poland, Derek Kneeland and myself all share a shop in Windham (Maine) here and one day last year I was racing my Sport Series car and Rusty says, ‘Hey, would you like to try out the wide-tired monster? I was like excuse me? He let me practice his for about five laps or so and that got my juices flowing a little bit trying to figure out how I can just get into one myself.
“We went to the Oxford 250 and I helped Rusty and we were parked next to Wyatt Alexander, who had flown in Austin Theriault to help him out and at the end of the night after the 250, we were chumming it up a little bit and I never thought anything of it. A few months later I was at work and my phone goes off and it was Austin Theriault.
He said, ‘I got my Super Late Model and I’m not really able to drive it all that much and there’s no sense in it sitting so we’ll get you in it and figure out what you can do.’ I’m like holy s—, how is my name coming up in this conversation? It’s that phone call that nobody ever gets anymore, you know what I mean? It’s one of those Clint Bowyer-esque, Richard Childress-type deals where I’m like really, who the hell is this? I almost hung up.
With two 150-lap races on back-to-back days at Hickory, the Easter Bunny 150s present Sanborn with a great opportunity to get extra experience in a Super Late Model before returning home. He plans on using the weekend to start building his notebook for future races in the Late Model.
“I think it’s truly a golden opportunity. We put ourselves in a position to where it’s going to be a huge learning opportunity. It’s going to be great to have Dean (Clattenburg) and Austin (Theriault) at the racetrack with us. We’re bring our notebooks for sure, this is something that we’ll have to capitalize on to start building our own notebook. It’s going to be a season of acquiring things that we simply don’t have. I have everything I need for a Sport Series car but Super Late Models are an entirely different animal.”
In the meantime, he takes any free time he receives to prepare for the two races. The event brings an extra challenge with making his first Super Late Model start at a facility he’s never competed at before.
“There’s no virtual version of Hickory Motor Speedway but I’ve been on iRacing a little bit just running the short tracks; the Bullrings, the Oxford Plains’ of the world and equating myself with maybe the timing. You don’t have the feel of an actual race car on iRacing but you can feel the timing and accuracy of where your marks may or may not be, things like that. That, and honestly just old school watching videos. I’ve been on YouTube hours and hours. Every night before bed, anytime I can be at work, just watching videos of how different drivers attack the racetrack.
“It’s one of those deals where I don’t have any laps around that racetrack or in a Super Late Model really, so it’s going to be one of those double-doses of reality to try and figure out where I am in the car, where the rest of the car is, where the racetrack is, things like that. Just simple nuances you really don’t think of in a car that you’ve been racing for ten years. It’s going to be a whole new animal and I’m just excited to be able to do it and finally have my name with the big guns of the Super Late Model world on that entry sheet alone, it’s kind of surreal.”
While his Super Late Model schedule will be limited compared to running the Sport Series full-time in years past, Sanborn is looking forward to making the jump and sharing the track with former competitors from his go-kart days.
“Purely based off finances it’s probably going to be a limited schedule but we’re finally in a position as a team that I feel like we should’ve been at for a long time now. I’ve raced with a lot of these guys before. I’ve raced with the Bobby Timmons’ and the Rusty Poland’s and the DJ Shaw’s and Joey Doiron’s of the world, we all ran go-karts together and due to circumstances they were able to blossom and get to that level much quicker than I could.
This is something that I felt like I belonged to be at for a long time and I felt like I’ve been held back a little bit just due to circumstances, it’s really no one’s fault. I’m just happy to be here finally, I’m happy to put our Sanborn name on a Super Late Model in regards to our team and I’m excited to bring everybody that’s been with me from day one all the way to the top with us. It’s probably the first time in about ten years or so since I’ve been anxious to be in a race car.
While he mentions his goals for his first weekend in a Super Late Model are achievable, Sanborn also asserts that he is making the trip to Hickory to compete and make a name for himself.
“I posted a video on Facebook saying our goals are realistic but we’re also competitors at heart and as a team we’re not going to show up just to suck either. The No. 1 is something that hopefully people will notice and put our name on the map and not just float around in the back. We’re there to have a solid finish but we’re also realistic with what we’re going to be able to do on the racetrack too.”
Both Easter Bunny 150s will be broadcasted live on Speed51.TV during the April 2-3 weekend, with single-day and weekend passes available to purchase. Click here for more information.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Charlie Sanborn III Facebook