If you’re going to use Late Models to continue building the foundation of a long stock car racing career, it doesn’t hurt to learn from one of the best to ever drive one.
That’s the strategy for 16-year-old Dalton Sargeant starting with this weekend’s NASCAR Late Model events at Caraway (NC) and Motor Mile (VA). Sargeant, a native Floridian, will take his helmet to a new ride prepared by two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam.
Sargeant began his rookie Late Model season with Bassett Racing and picked up his first stock car win on the Virginia International Raceway road course last month. With the move to the Lee Pulliam Performance stable for the remainder of 2014, Sargeant now hopes to continue building what is already a strong ground floor to his stock car career.
“I saw an opportunity at Lee Pulliam Performance to better myself,” Sargeant told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Working with Lee, I can learn the most. He has a high reputation and I think he’s very respectful on the track. I’ve learned a lot from him on the track, now hopefully working with him I can learn even more to progress myself.
“He’s an experienced driver to say the least, being a two-time National Champion and he’s doing quite well for himself this year. It’s a great experience to work with them to further my racing career and hopefully I can continue to get better as a driver. I saw working with him to be a very good option. It looks like I can learn the maximum amount from Lee not only driving-wise, but off the track as well. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Pulliam and his Lee Pulliam Performance operation already fields entries for Rusty Skewes’ Top Gun Motorsports team as well as rookie Late Model drivers Garrett Bunch and G.R. Waldrop. Adding Sargeant to the fleet gives Pulliam another opportunity to share his expertise of the short track game.
“I’ve raced against Dalton at several different race tracks and he’s run well everywhere,” said Pulliam, a past winner of such prestigious Late Model events as the Martinsville 300 and the Myrtle Beach 400. “He’s right there on the verge of winning a lot of Late Model races. At 16 years old, that’s pretty impressive. He’s always been a fierce competitor on the racetrack, but off the racetrack he seems to be really well-mannered and not hot-tempered.”
Sargeant began racing in 2007 at the age of nine in karts, then moved to open-wheeled Formula cars that he raced all across the globe. He has finished on the podium at such historic road courses such as Brands Hatch, the Mugello Circuit and Sebring International Raceway.
He will make his debut with Lee Pulliam Performance on Friday, September 5 at North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway. Pulliam will be atop the pit box for the rookie driver’s debut with the team at Caraway. The next night, Sargeant will join Pulliam and several other members of the team in competition at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway.
“Not only are we looking for victories, but also looking to better myself as a racing driver,” said Sargeant. “As I move up the racing levels, I want to do the most I can do to better myself. This weekend, we just want to stay up at the front and run well, but also learn the most possible. I’m also looking forward to working with and getting to know all the guys on the team.”
With 22 Late Model wins to his credit as a driver in 2014, Pulliam is looking forward to adding another young talent to his stable.
“I love winning and driving racecars, but I love working on them too,” said Pulliam. “I’ve been really fortunate to have a good customer clientele. For me, it’s been the biggest deal at the shop. I put more effort into their cars every week than I do in my own cars. For us to win as many races as we do in our own car, it takes a lot of effort from the whole team, including the employees that work in the shop with me.”
Even before the racing weekend begins, Sargeant and Pulliam will begin developing a rapport in a test session.
“We’re going to do a little test session on Thursday,” said Pulliam. “I’ve got a lot of ideas that will help him get used to this car and the car itself is right where it needs to be for him. We’ve got a lot of things that we’re going to try and see what suits his style the best. We’ll adapt the car as best we can to go as fast as it can with him in it.”
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield. Photo credit: Speed51.com