SEDALIA, MO – Paul McMahan remembers March 23, 2001 like it was yesterday. He can remember the weather — it was bone-chilling cold, that early spring day, so he definitely remembers what he wore — a heavy coat and hat. If pressed, he may even remember what he had for lunch that day. Why does this day standout among thousands of others in his life? Because, that’s the date of the veteran drivers first-career World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series win and it came at Missouri State Fair Speedway in Sedalia.
McMahan and his fellow Outlaws competitors return to the historic half-mile this week on Friday, May 5 for the running of the Missouri Show-Me State Showdown. The event will mark the series’ first visit to Sedalia since 2012.
The Californian, who now calls the Nashville area home, started second in the 25-lap main event at Sedalia in March of 2001 and had to endure a red flag on the original start and a yellow on the second start. The third time was in fact the charm, as the green flag flew and McMahan used a strong run heading into turn one to take the lead from pole sitter Brad Furr.
McMahan would then lead flag-to-flag, holding off a last-lap, last corner charge by Craig Dollansky, to claim his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series win aboard the No. U2 for car owner Warren Johnson. The margin of victory was a scant 0.13-seconds at the line.
“Anytime you have a first of something you definitely remember it,” said McMahan. “That was a special night to finally get my first World of Outlaws win. I was all by myself that night. I didn’t have any family or friends with me. It was just my crew guys and myself, but it was special for us all.”
McMahan has made 11 starts with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series at Missouri State Fair Speedway in his career. He has seven top-10 finishes, with four of those being top-five showings, including the win in 2001. Following that victory, McMahan finished eighth or better in each of his next six starts with the series at Sedalia. In his most recent start at the half-mile in 2012, McMahan was 13th.
“Sedalia is one of those places that you have to qualify well, though, that’s becoming very important just about everywhere we race, anymore,” he noted. “You have to have a good car later in the night at a track like Sedalia, but the whole night is based off how you qualify. We have Speedway Engines this year, which has really helped our qualifying efforts.”
After having more than their fair share of bad luck in 2016, the Destiny Motorsports team that McMahan drivers for made a number of changes in the off-season as they prepared for the 2017 campaign. The most noticeable was a switch from the No. 7 to the No. 4 on the top wing and tail tank of the car. The team also switched to a blue and yellow paint scheme. Through all of the trials and tribulations over the last year or so, Rick and Barb Rogers, owners of the team, have been steadfast in their commitment to McMahan and competing full-time with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series.
“All you can do is forget about it,” said McMahan when asked about the bad luck last year. “There’s a saying in racing that you are only as good as your last race. Whether you win or have bad luck, you have to forget about it, because tomorrow is a new day. One thing I always told Rick and Barb Rogers about the struggles they’ve had in the past, is that we have two options. You can either quit or keep working, which one do you want to do. None of us are quitters, so we’ll keep working at it and flip this around.”
Another key element that was added in the off-season was bringing veteran crew chief Shane Bowers on-board. McMahan had worked with Bowers in the past and the two have always had a good rapport. Bowers has been part of championship-winning teams in the past as a crew member for Donny Schatz and then later Jason Meyers.
“Shane has helped me tremendously, especially getting me comfortable in the race car,” McMahan shared. “It’s very important to have an experienced crew chief like Shane. You have to believe in them and they have to believe in you and work well together. We communicate very well and sometimes it’s just a look I give him or he gives me and we’ll know exactly what each is talking about. It’s key to have a relationship like that with a crew chief.”
With over 70 races remaining on the season, McMahan is optimistic as the team continues to knock on the door of their first win together. They finished a season-best second a couple of weeks ago at Gator Motorplex in Texas and also finished among the top-five at Cocopah Speedway in Arizona. McMahan has seven top-10 finishes this season and is tied for 10th in points.
“The goal is to win races and hopefully be in the top-five in points by the end of the year,” said McMahan. “We dug ourselves a hole at the beginning of the year down in Florida, with some bad luck with part failures and things out of our control. That put us behind the eight-ball, but we keep plugging away and chipping away at the points. We are still not where we need to be, but we are headed in the right direction and are getting closer to victories. We just have to keep working hard and hopefully the wins will come shortly.”
Tickets for the Sedalia Show-Me State Showdown, featuring the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series at Missouri State Fair Speedway in Sedalia on Friday, May 5, can be purchased online at https://slspromotions.ticketforce.com and at the track on race day.
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