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Making it in America as a 410 Sprintcar driver is certainly not an easy task. Totally Speedway’s Daniel Powell has interviewed five Australian drivers – Brooke Tatnell, Kerry Madsen, Skip Jackson, Lynton Jeffrey, and Peter Murphy – who have been there and done it.

All five drivers have all done the hard yards to make a name for themselves over in America to get an insight into how they made it happen and what advice they had for drivers wanting to follow a similar path.

 

Brooke Tatnell

What were the early years like?
I first went over to America in 1991 as a wide-eyed 19-year-old with a resume full of my achievements in Australia. I walked around pits and what I soon realised was that what I had achieved in Australia didn’t mean a great deal in America and that I had to prove to myself.

The following year, my dad (George) and I took over all our own gear from Australia, which included the cars and transporter, and ran locally at Knoxville Raceway. I think back then having the likes of fellow Australians Max Dumesny, Brett Lacey and John Walsh racing at the time helped other Australians to get their foot in the door. In America, it doesn’t all happen overnight, and it took me a few years of hard work to pick up a regular ride.

What advice do you have for the young drivers wanting to make it in America?
Want it bad enough! It’s not easy over here and you just have to be persistent and don’t give up. If you want it bad enough and you’re good enough, then it’ll happen.

TS Brooke Tatnell

 

Kerry Madsen

What were the early years like?
I spent three to four months at a time over in America during the early stages, and all that time was spent working with teams and doing a little bit of racing. As the years progressed the more time I spent over in America and my opportunities increased. It all came down to building my contacts over the years.

What advice do you have for the young drivers wanting to make it in America?
Do the hard yards! When you go over to America people aren’t falling over each other to give you a ride. It’s all about going over there and building a good base of contacts for the future. It might take you a few years to get there, but if you keep at it then opportunities will come your way. I can’t offer any better advice than that.

TS Kerry Madsen

 

Skip Jackson

What were the early years like?
My first trip to America was in 1988 with my mentor Rob Worthington while I was still racing Compact Speedcars and the following two years were spent pit crewing with Sprintcar teams.

In 1991, I got my break when fellow Australians Barry Lewis and Sid Moore setup their own team and we ran a one-car operation to run the Knoxville Raceway Track Championship. That deal lasted one year and then the following year I picked up a ride with a local car owner and it all took off from there. For the first five years I’d spend four to five months at a time in America and then I started spending more time over here when I picked up a stable ride. By the middle of the 1990s, I based myself over here and it was around the same time that I won back-to-back Knoxville Raceway Track Championships (1997 and 1998).

What advice do you have for the young drivers wanting to make it in America?
Go to university and get yourself a real job! In all seriousness, it’s a massive sacrifice to chase the dream of a full-time Sprintcar racer and it’s achievable, if you want it. Anyone can do it as you must follow your heart.

TS Skip Jackson

 

Lynton Jeffrey

What were the early years like?
I had been running locally in Australia for about 10 years and after I went through a divorce I made a decision to try and crack the American scene with my wing manufacturing business that my brother Paul and I had started up a business called Vortex Racing Products.

I always had the dream of becoming a full-time Sprintcar driver and I knew that I could do it if I combined it with my business. When I first went over to America in 2002, I drove for a car owner and it was a case of his dreams writing cheques that he couldn’t cash, and the deal fell over. After that sour deal, my brother Paul and I set up our own team and we were also building up Vortex Racing Products, as the racing side of things was an avenue to promote our product, so it was a win-win situation. In the early years of Vortex Racing Products, we had drivers such as Knoxville Raceway Track Championship front runners Terry McCarl and fellow Australian Kerry Madsen use our products as part of a sponsorship deal, and it snow balled from there. I couldn’t be happier with how things have panned out, as Vortex Racing Products is being used by some of the best drivers in the world, I’m happily married with a family, and I’m able to do what I love by racing Sprintcars.

What advice do you have for the young drivers wanting to make it in America?
It’s certainly not an easy road to make it over here and an open chequebook can only get you so far. Over the years we have seen several Australian drivers come over with an open chequebook and they haven’t lasted long. It’s a long road and you are going to come across plenty of tough times. The key is to be respectful, listen and be prepared to work your butt off and it will help you go a long way towards making it over here.

TS Lynton Jeffrey

 

Peter Murphy

What were the early years like?
I first went over to America with the late Brian Healey in 1988, and for me, it was like walking into an Open Wheel magazine.

Brian introduced me to the Kinser family that year, and to be honest, I don’t think I would’ve got to where I am if it wasn’t for that chance meeting. As it turned out, I worked for the Kinser team for several years doing whatever I was told, and it was the best education I could have ever had. It taught me to earn my place, I certainly didn’t get anything handed to me and I had to wait four years for my first drive, and that came through fellow Australian Barry Lewis. Barry has without a doubt done a lot to help young Australians get their foot in the door over in America, and I’m forever thankful for that opportunity.

What advice do you have for the young drivers wanting to make it in America?
The problem these days with a lot of Australians is that they want everything for nothing and are not prepared for fight tooth and nail for it, like I and many overs had to all those years ago.

I’ve heard stories of Australian drivers wanting their flights covered to come over here and that is just not going to happen over here, especially when you are not well known. You have to be prepared to work for it by coming over here off your own back and work for nothing. It’s never going to eventuate if you are not prepared to work for it. It may not happen overnight, but if you are committed 110 percent to achieving your dream then there’s every chance that it’ll happen.

TS Peter Murphy