TALLADEGA – Having the chance to drive at Talladega Superspeedway is a thrill for any competitor in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. For Chase Edge, a dirt track late model driver from Penton, it was an entirely new experience altogether.
Edge, an 18-year-old first-year student at Southern Union State Community College in Wadley, participated in last week’s ARCA Racing Series open test at the famous 2.66-mile oval. After six years of competing on dirt tracks, Edge made his first laps on asphalt with his eyes on one day becoming a stock car star.
“I think it went pretty well, for my first time being on asphalt and driving anything,” said Edge, who tested for Fast Track Racing. “I didn’t wreck, so I thought it went pretty good.”
Fast Track Racing is owned and operated by Andy Hillenburg, the 1995 ARCA champion who also made 29 starts in the three NASCAR national series and competed in the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Today, Hillenburg also operates Rockingham Speedway, which recently hosted a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race – its first NASCAR action since 2004.
The chance to drive for Hillenburg came after Edge experienced one of the harsh realities of major stock car racing – that a driver’s aspirations and marketing plans don’t always work together.
“We’ve been through a lot of stuff with a marketing company that didn’t work out, so we got in touch with Fast Track,” Edge said. “Thankfully, they let me drive their car for them.”
Edge finished his best lap in 55.007 seconds, at a speed of 174.087 mph. That effort ranked him 26th in last Wednesday’s session, but Edge admitted he was at the track to learn more than anything else.
Though just barely old enough to drive on a superspeedway – ARCA requires competitors to be 18 years old – Edge has the beginnings of a résumé that could one day have him competing live on SPEED, the television home to the ARCA Racing Series. In 2010, he won a late model championship at East Alabama Motor Speedway. He has also competed in the NeSmith Dirt Late Model Series, and continues to compete locally today. Penton Raceway, located outside LaFayette, is his home track.
With Talladega Superspeedway just an 80-mile drive from Edge’s home, competing at the track has undoubtedly been in his mind throughout his growing racing career. The sheer size of the superspeedway definitely grabbed Edge’s attention. He said he was used to short track races and quick distances, rather than having to build speed over the longest circuit in ARCA competition.
Now, his hopes for ARCA hinge on finding sponsorship. Pairing with the business-minded Hillenburg, Edge thinks, can give him an advantage.
“I’m hoping I can get to find a sponsor and race with Andy, you know, maybe get a ride or something like that,” he said. “I’ve got to go to the Fast Track Racing School. We’re going to try to do that in the next month or two, so hopefully after that we’ll be ready to go.”