Just one year after a serious car wreck delayed his rookie season, World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series driver, Cody Darrah, is eyeing his first win at the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown, Friday, May 27, at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.

The 21-year-old Darrah, in his first full year of competition, will pilot Kasey Kahne Racing’s No. 91 Great Clips sprint car at the four-tenths-mile clay oval.

“I enjoy racing at Charlotte,” Darrah said. “They always have a great turnout there with the fans. With Kasey Kahne Racing being based nearby, it gives us a chance to have a lot of our friends and family come to the track and support us.”

Darrah has a long family history in short-track racing. His uncle, Rick Eckert, is a star in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

“My uncle, he has followed his dream and turned it into a career, racing with the World of Outlaws late models,” Darrah added. “It was only kind of natural for me to actually be behind the wheel. It is kind of all I’ve ever known.”

Darrah started racing four-wheelers and motorcycles when he was 6 years old before upgrading to a micro sprint when he was 14. He ran those for two years before moving into a full-fledged sprint car.

“The reason we got a sprint car is when I was little the tracks around us really had a good following for late models, but they had an even better following for sprint cars,” Darrah said. “From where we’re at in York, Pa., we’d have to travel about two hours to get to a good late-model race track. Instead, if you got a 410 sprint car, you could travel within an hour and a half and be at six of the top race tracks in the country.”

The decision paid off. It didn’t take long for Darrah to begin turning heads while racing in the ultra-competitive central Pennsylvania region, and in 2009 he received national attention by winning the prestigious World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Summer Nationals at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

That victory got the attention of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star and World of Outlaws team owner Kasey Kahne and soon Darrah had signed a contract to race the full 2010 World of Outlaws schedule for Kasey Kahne Racing.

But in February, before Darrah could make his first start with his new team, everything came to a crashing halt.

In Florida for the season-opening DIRTcar Nationals, Darrah was on his way to Daytona International Speedway to watch his boss qualify for the Daytona 500 when the vehicle he was in was involved in a head-on crash.

“I was in the hospital for 21 days,” Darrah recalled. “I had a massive fracture to my left leg.”

Darrah’s season was finished before it started. Instead of spending the year battling for victories in the most competitive sprint-car series in the world, Darrah was spending most of his time rehabbing his injured leg.

“It is crazy how mentally you think you can do it,” Darrah said. “Then, when you are going through rehab, every day you push yourself to tears and you’re sitting there beaten down and broken, not able to walk and all you want to do is sit in the car. The only thing that really kept me going was wanting to get back in the car.”

Kahne didn’t give up on Darrah. The NASCAR veteran, who came up through the sprint-car ranks, made sure Darrah received the best medical care possible while also making sure the youngster got all the support he needed.

“The business we are in is racing,” Darrah said. “There are a lot of owners out there who base everything off of performance, so if you’re not doing it, there are a lot more drivers than there are seats, so you get kicked out pretty easy.

“In Kasey’s world and Kasey’s shop, it is way different. For me, he was there for me more than anything. Not just to hold our team behind me while I was hurt and down, but to be behind me while I was hurt and down. He got me to the best doctors that were known to work with my injury. He helped orchestrate getting me the surgeries I needed and after that the recovery. It’s just surreal how much backing he gave me.”

It took a lot of hard work, but by the end of the 2010 season Darrah was ready to climb back behind the wheel of a sprint car. He made his return last October at Maryland’s Hagerstown Speedway and stunningly drove to a $10,000 victory.

“When we crossed the checkers there it was just emotional for me to even find the scales,” Darrah said. “It was a relief off my shoulders and made me know I could do this, I still had it. I credit a lot of it to being forced into a situation where you are hurt and you have to overcome it.”

Overcome it he did. A year after breaking his leg in that car crash, Darrah finally began his rookie season with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and Kasey Kahne Racing at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park.

While he didn’t find victory lane during the first two months of the season, Darrah is confident that what he learned while on the sidelines last year will help him during his rookie season with the World of Outlaws.

“We’re racing against guys and teams that have been doing this for a long time, before I was born,” Darrah said. “I think Steve Kinser won races 10 years before I was born. It is a tough crowd and I never realized how tough it is to adapt to all these race tracks. As a team we’re learning and we’re getting through it. We definitely have the speed and equipment to make it to victory lane.

“You have to achieve a focus that you’ve never been able to achieve. You are forced into a position where you have to put more effort into it to get over it. It has been a long road and it’s still going.”

Fans can see Darrah and other stars of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series battle it out in the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown on Friday, May 27. Spectator gates open at 4:00 p.m. and drivers will participate in a free autograph session from 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. on the main concourse. The first 1,000 fans to present a NOS Energy Drink from Circle K at the gate for the autograph party will receive a free limited-edition commemorative poster.

Opening ceremonies begin at 7:00 p.m. with the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown scheduled to start at 8:35 p.m. After the World of Outlaws sprint car feature is complete, the NDRA Crate Late Model Series will take to The Dirt Track at Charlotte for their feature event.

Tickets for the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown are still available. Reserved seats are just $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. For just $15, fans 14 and older can upgrade their ticket to include a pit pass. Tickets can be obtained by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455 FANS (3267) or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.

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