By DEAN REYNOLDS
MECHANICSBURG, PA – For a better part of a decade or more, Australian native sprint car drivers have been coming over the United States to spend a summer here in what is their winter there. Brisbane’s James McFadden has been regarded as one of the best in recent times to make the yearly journey. Thursday night at the Williams Grove Speedway he proved to the sprint car world that the accolades have merit.
McFadden was again behind the wheel of Matt Highlands familiar #3 where he went on to win his heat, the dash and all 25 laps of the World of Outlaws (WoO) A-Main to capture night two of the National Open. While it was another win in McFadden’s resume, this was a whole lot more special as they would say.
This night was McFadden’s first career WoO win and it came at arguably the third biggest weekend for sprint cars here at the land of the stars and stripes. You can say McFadden fired the shot heard around the world.
By the listing above leading and winning heat, dash and all 25 laps you might think this was possibly a single groove, not favorable track conditions, hand me the win scenario? Ha… think again.
Not only did he wrestle, Highland’s Maxim high and low but also through lapped traffic with the best of Williams Grove in Greg Hodnett and the best in the world in Donny Schatz right behind.
“Yea, Ryan (Smith) and Brown (Brian) were running their own race for position right in front of me in the final laps. I would get by one and one would get me back, it was crazy trying to get by and get a clear run on them,” McFadden noted on the final three or so laps that had the crowd on the edge, “Then I had an opening to rip the top and get by.
“I had a feeling Greg (Hodnett) would use the bottom on me so I just really had to make that move and hoped it worked out,” he went on with excitement in his voice. “It was so close to the end and I wanted to win this race so bad you sometimes have to take a chance. I did and I guess it was the right one.”
McFadden has caught the eyes of several top owners in the states and Matt Highlands was one of them giving him a ride here in the hot bed of sprint car racing and also at Knoxville as well. The duo has been getting closer and this night they jelled.
“This is my first Outlaw win, my first win in Pa and to do it on a half mile is pretty cool,” he exclaimed. “I tell you, Matt, Pickles and Steve just work so hard. This car is just one of the best and I am so happy to get a win for them. The longer was have been working together the better we have been getting.”
For McFadden, Australia is still his bread and butter where he has won all the biggest events and made the biggest headlines but he is quick to admit racing over here is the toughest.
“When you come here for 20 races or so and run against the best drivers it’s so hard,” James continued. “I am so fortunate to have Matt give me this ride and have it ready each time out for me. I just hope I can do the job behind the wheel.”
With the new format for the three-night National Open where you acquire points in each event leading up to the $50,000 to win finale’, McFadden is now one of the favorites.
“The win was tonight and tomorrow is a different day but we have some confidence now going into tomorrow,” he looked ahead. “We are sitting in good shape to maybe have a good run.”
Asked if this was his career highlight so far, he simply said. “Oh yea… It probably won’t sink it until the 20 hour plane ride home on Monday.”
Yes, come Monday James McFadden will be on his way back to Brisbane and continue to race in front of his native fans… But on Thursday he again fired the shot heard around the world.