SPRINGPORT, Mich. (June 29) – As the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour arrives at Springport Motor Speedway Sunday for the Auto Value Parts Stores & Certified Service Centers 100 presented by JEGS.com, championship contender Brent Downey recalls a 2004 race at Kentucky Speedway that nearly ended his career.
During an American Speed Association race at the 1.5-mile track eight years ago, Downey was hit by another car and slammed the outside wall.
“I about killed myself,” Downey said.
The ASA cars had wicker bills on them to slow them down, as they were faster than the NASCAR vehicles that weekend. But the aerodynamic modifications made the ASA cars unstable.
“We were going around a lapped car, and the lapped car got a little loose and bumped me up the track,” Downey said. “I went head on into the Turn 3 wall. It was before the SAFER Barrier, so it was head-on into the concrete.”
His race car was destroyed and the accident put Downey in the hospital for a couple days. Fortunately, the only injuries were a broken foot and collarbone – and a damaged HANS Device.
“I actually cracked the HANS,” Downey said. “We had the PRI show at Indianapolis, and the guys from HANS came and shook my hand. They were like, ‘Man, I can’t believe you’re alive.'”
Downey sat out the rest of the season, then went back to Late Model racing. But he wasn’t deterred.
“I was out for four months, (taking it) really slow, recovering,” Downey said. “We got back into the ASA Late Model series, and as soon as we jumped back in, we set the track record.”
And his career picked up from there, almost as if the accident didn’t happen.
Now, he’s having a successful season in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, topping the points standings until the most recent race – when he led the race until a hub broke, forcing him to finish many laps down.
“It is pretty disappointing,” Downey said of the race at Dixie Motor Speedway. “Last year, we went to Dixie, we were only a 13th-place car. We just didn’t have the right setup, so going back there and dominating was awesome. Then it was heartbreaking, leading (and falling out).”
The broken hub has since been repaired, and Downey is looking to regain momentum.
“My biggest thing I’m looking for is to get a couple wins this year,” Downey said. “We’ve got the same crew as last year, so that helps out. Every time I’ve raced, we’ve always had a different crew, which means we’re always learning new setups, different cars.
“This year, everything has meshed together and it’s really starting to show.”
Downey, of Brownsburg, Ind., got the racing bug early in his life after going to car shows with his dad, who displayed a hot rod. Downey raced quarter-midgets at age 5 and wanted to move up to bigger cars, but age restrictions prevented him from doing so.
“You had to be 16 or 18 or 21 to move up to anything else,” Downey said. “Now, at 13, you can get in a Late Model.”
At age 16, he ran a Legends car because he wasn’t old enough for Late Models. Finally, at age 18, he ran the Kendall Late Model Series before going to the ASA national tour. After the accident at Kentucky, Downey returned to Late Models.
This year, Downey has one third-place finish and three top-fives in the season’s first five races, a sign of his consistent strength at every track.
“The JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour is an awesome series to run,” Downey said. “Anyone who is looking to get into Late Models and not go out there and spend a ton of money, you can come in here and be competitive.”
One of Downey’s chief competitors, Daniel Hemric, took over the points lead at Dixie by winning his third race of the season. Chasing them in the top five are third-place Anderson Bowen, the leader in the Howie Lettow Rookie of the Year standings, fourth-place Chad Finley and fifth-place Josh Nelms.
The 3/8ths-mile track hosts an three-hour open practice Saturday at noon. On Sunday, race day, pit gates open for hauler parking at 10 a.m., with teams able to unload 12:30 p.m. Practice will begin at 3:30 p.m., with qualifying at 6:15 p.m.
The race program will begin at 7 p.m. and will include USAC Ford Focus Midgets, in addition to the 100-lap JEGS/CRA race. The night will be capped off with a fireworks show celebrating the upcoming July 4 holiday.
More information on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by GM Performance Parts is available at www.craracing.net.
Media Note: Additional information is available at the following locations:
Scott “Woody” Woodruff
JEGS, Director of Media & Motorsports
Office: 800-345-4545 (#3, ext. 412)