Ashton Winger’s 2023 season did not necessarily start off the way he would have liked. There were some very competitive runs such a pair of Crate Racin’ USA victories at East Bay Raceway Park in January and even a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series triumph on that same track in February. However, there was a downside as well when a well documented pit area confrontation during a Southern All-Stars event at Florida’s Southern Raceway in March took away some of the early season momentum that had been built.
However, Winger has more than recovered from that situation. The 23-year-old driver from Senoia, Georgia has, following those early season troubles, again built momentum and has very much capitalized on it.
“I mean adversity, I don’t know,” Winger said in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com when asked if that situation helped him to come out stronger in the end. “You always wish the bad stuff wouldn’t happen. I really feel like it set us back. I don’t love talking about it but that was just long time ago. I’m sure that helps a little bit with where we’re at now but we feel like we were pretty tough before all that stuff happened. It’s just cool to be where we’re at and we’re starting to click a little bit. We needed some time to gel and I’m starting to get the right people in place going up and down the road with me. I’ve had the equipment and the people behind me but now it’s the little stuff. Things are going really well right now and hopefully we’ll just keep riding this wave.”
Not being a part of a national touring series in 2023, the driver of the No. 12 Mathews Motorsports Rocket Chassis took the step of going far from home to compete on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals back in the months of June and July. He had successfully taken on that Midwestern-based tour back in 2021 when he finished second in the final standings behind Bobby Pierce picking up six wins along the way. He improved his points position by one this time around claiming the championship along with another six feature victories and 19 top-10 finishes in the 23 races contested.
The son of Gary Winger, who has long been consider a top shock and setup specialist, drove a family-owned car the last time he went all in on the ‘Hell Tour’.
“We did it in ’21 and we felt like when we did it in ’21 we did the best we could with what we had with our family owned deal,” the young driver recalled. “Me and my dad had some good people helping us, but with this deal, we didn’t have our ducks in a row in Florida at the beginning of the year in order to do a national tour. You don’t get better by not racing everyday so we went and tried to race. since then it’s been me and my dad up until a couple of weeks ago so we kind of had to get regrouped a little bit and we missed out on some races we really wanted to go to.”
Winger returned to his home region shortly after the Summer Nationals to pick up a $7,544 payday in a Schaffer’s Oil Southern Nationals affair at his home track in Senoia.
“We needed to get better here around home,” he explained. “I’ve always avoided racing around home. Hopefully we’ll take everything we’ve learned this year and build on it. There are some big races coming up at the end of this year but it’s hard not to look toward next year as good as I feel like we’re running. Like I said, it’s all about riding that wave.”
This past weekend Winger took on the Hunt the Front Dirt Racing Series in a pair of events first at Lavonia(GA) Speedway then at Rome(GA) Speedway. The Lavonia feature resulted in a $10,000 triumph and it looked as if the checkered flag was in his grasp at Rome until a flat tire coming to the white flag doomed his chance at victory there.
Between the racing he did during the Summer Nationals and since, does Winger feel as if he is a better driver now than he was before the season started?
“Heck, I feel like I’m a better race car driver today than I was last night at Lavonia,” he insisted prior to the feature at Rome. “Laps are everything. An analogy I use is that guys like Scott(Bloomquist) and (Billy)Moyer and all them can still get in a car and be competitive. Scott’s got 30 years on me and let’s just say he runs 100 laps a year more than me for 30 years, that’s 3,000 laps. Anybody that tells you they go somewhere and couldn’t learn something in 3,000 laps. That’s how I look at it, try to go race everyday and step out of your comfort zone. One of my favorite places is Senoia where I grew up but I know that every track is not like Senoia. We’re just trying to build and I’m really happy with where I’m at right now.”
With his growing amount of experience, would Winger like to someday take on a national tour?
“It’s hard,” he pointed out. “If you can run a schedule like a (Dale)McDowell or like (Brandon)Overton did in ’21 and you have stuff go your way it probably makes more financial sense to do a pick-and-choose schedule, but at the same time, after this year if Bobby Pierce wins the World of Outlaws deal who’s going to have anything to say about Bobby?
“I think it’s just however you look at it really,” Winger added. “It’s what your endgame is, and lucky for me, I feel like I take for granted that I’m 23 and I still have time to progress and it doesn’t have to come overnight. As far as an end goal, anybody who says they wouldn’t want to be a Lucas or Outlaws champion and had the opportunity to do it is probably kidding themselves. We keep on doing what we’re doing and if the stars line up we might do it but I’m really lucky to be where I’m at.”
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