When you think of the hometowns of Dirt Late Model racers places like Newport, Tenn., Mooresburg, Tenn., Shinnston, WV or Blairsville, GA come to mind. But over the next few weeks the town name of Perth, Western Australia will boom out over the public address systems of tracks playing host to the Southern Nationals mini-series when driver Craig Vosbergen is introduced.
For about one month each year, Vosbergen takes leave of his home and oil rig maintenance business in Australia to pursue his passion for Dirt Late Model racing in the United States. The Southern Nationals with a compact schedule that features eleven races over the course of a two week span is perfect for someone looking to compete frequently during a relatively short period of time.
Vosbergen races regularly in his native land but he very much enjoys the challenge of taking on the best in the sport on this side of the ocean as well. And last year proved to be one of his better efforts as the No. 8 machine pulled into victory lane at the Crossville Speedway to earn the driver’s first ever Late Model win in the United States.
Along with that Crossville triumph, Vosbergen scored multiple podium results and finished seventh in the final Southern Nationals standings for the 2016 campaign.
“That was really good because we’ve been trying for a lot of years travelling over in the States and to get those sort of results was really rewarding for us,” Vosbergen declared in a telephone interview with InsideDirtRacing.com.
And not only was a trip to victory lane good for his own state of mind, but Vosbergen also believes it gained something for him that every racer hopes to achieve.
“It takes a while for all the guys to get to know you and how you race so it gives you a little bit of respect with your fellow racers,” the 50-year-old driver said. “It’s just nice to think of all the money and hard work you’ve put in and now you’ve got something to show for it at the end of the day. We enjoy our racing and I wasn’t going to run away and slash my wrists if I didn’t win a feature race but it’s sure nice to come home and look at that check and trophy and think that we did have a pretty good run.”
Before he can race here, the Australian faces several challenges. The first of which is the extraordinary amount of travel required just to get from Perth to the Morristown, Tenn. shop where his cars are maintained by the Roger Sellers-owned Double Down Motorsports team.
“We’re getting a bit more used to the travel but it is tough the first week you’re there,” Vosbergen explained. “You’re a bit screwed up time wise. But normally that’s our biggest week because we’re trying to get everything organized with the cars and transporters. We really don’t have time to worry about how tired we are. We’re too busy thrashing to try and get everything organized. Once we finish all that and fly home and I’m basically a zombie for about a week. Apart from the jet lag part of it, you’re just mentally and physically worn out.”
Aside from the logistics part of it, Vosbergen and his Aussie crew members face the challenge of trying to catch up on the ever changing technology of Dirt Late Model racing.
“It’s really tough,” Vosbergen admitted. “That’s the toughest thing we face. We’re just part-time racers and these guys have already got forty races under their belts by the time we get there. Things change on a weekly basis. They’re constantly trying different shocks, springs, and all sorts of stuff. We’re really lucky to be hooked up with the guys at Double Down Motorsports, Roger Sellers and (driver)Shanon Buckingham. We really rely heavily on those guys for that sort of information. We run out of their shop and they really are a huge help to us. We’re always in communication and we feel like that gives us a little bit of a head start when we get there otherwise we would be playing catch up for at least the first couple of weeks.”
Australia is know as a sporting country. A number athletic endeavors are very popular ‘Down Under’. So what drew Vosbergen to racing as his sport of choice.
“I was brought up in those circles,” Vosbergen recalled. “My dad has raced all his life, and basically, I was born into it. I was at the speedways and drag race events when I was still in a pram(stroller). I started racing junior sedans at about the age of ten and have raced ever since.”
But specifically, how would someone from such a faraway place be drawn to a form of the sport that is primarily centered in the southeastern and Midwestern parts of the United States?
“Well, it sort of evolved that way,” Vosbergen explained. “In Australia in the 1980’s we had what they called Grand National Sedans that were based on the American wedge cars. Ray Godsey, Rodney Combs and those guys used to come over here with those cars that had the big wings on the back so that’s what we raced over here. That was the sedan class. Those were left hand drive.
“In the 1990’s we went to what we call a Super Sedan, which is a right hand drive because in Australia we drive on the right hand side of the car,” he continued. “Those cars more resembled something on the road. People then started switching back after seeing what was going on in the States and importing a few of those. I guess it was the late 90’s when we started a Dirt Late Model division and it’s just grown from there. It started off with guys building their own cars over here then a few got imported. I would say now that 95% of the cars that race here are imported.”
After a successful campaign last season in America, what will Vosbergen be hoping to accomplish in 2017?
“Last year I was asked that and I was happy to be competitive. I mean you see guys come out one night and they’re sitting in the B-main and they may not even make it to the feature and the next night they may go out and win the feature. That’s how competitive it is. A top-5 is always my goal because I feel like if I can do that I’ve had a really good night. If you’re on the podium, you’ve had an even better night. At the end of the day, I’d like to think we’re competitive and can hold our own.”