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Double Duty for David Stremme
The South Bend, Ind., native will compete in the Dollar General 300 NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday night, Oct. 14, and attempt to make the starting field for the UAW-GM Quality 500, round five of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, on Saturday night, Oct. 15.
Stremme was just 15 when he borrowed his mom's car for a Saturday night of red-hot action. But it wasn't just any car and Stremme didn't plan to visit the local drive-in. It was his mom's bright pink street stock and he was going to race it at New Paris Speedway.
His fellow competitors laughed and made jokes the first night Stremme drove his mom's pink car, but they weren't laughing long as the youngster won in only his second start.
"They went from laughing at me to being mad," Stremme recalled. "I finished third the first night and won the next. They got mad for a few reasons. One, it was my mom's race car. Two, it was only the second time I raced, and I beat them."
However, Stremme's fun ended as quickly as it began.
"One of the track rules was you had to have a valid driver's license to race," Stremme said. "They found out how old I was and told me to sit until I got mine at 16."
Fast forward to today.
Not only does Stremme, 27, have his driver's license, he has earned a ride in America's premier motorsports series.
After three years in the NASCAR Busch Series, Stremme will take over the No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series next season.
Although he has yet to visit victory lane in the Busch Series, Stremme has been impressive and consistent in the No. 14 Navy Dodge this season and the No. 32 TrimSpa machine before that.
Stremme's consistency, talent and knowledge are what prompted Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates to sign him as a development driver in 2003. Just three seasons later, he is being rewarded with the ultimate goal of every racer-a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ride.
"The great thing about all of this is that I still get to drive the No. 14 Navy car and finish the season with FitzBradshaw Racing," Stremme said. "My concentration will be totally devoted to this car through the rest of the season. I can't even begin to look toward next year for a few reasons.
"First, I will be driving the No. 39 Cup car for Ganassi in just a few races and not the No. 40 Coors Light car. Right now, that car still belongs to Sterling Marlin.
"I respect Sterling so much for all he's done in this sport. The No. 40 Dodge is his car and I hope he gets to finish his season out the way he wants. It probably won't sink in until next year when I start testing the car at Daytona."
Stremme's family has long been involved in auto racing. His grandfather, father and mother all drove race cars on Midwestern short tracks and younger brother Bobby is working through the late model ranks.
"I grew up in a racing family and that's all we ever knew. Vacations weren't spent at the beach, they were spent racing. My mom (Cindy) and dad (Lou) were both good racers."
But things definitely got interesting when all three family members were on the track at the same time.
"Oh yeah," Stremme said with a big laugh. "Once, the three of us were all practicing at the same time. My dad wanted to race me for a hot dog, just for fun. We ended up catching my mom on the track. As I went to pass her on the outside, dad went down low underneath her and that ended up running me off the track. And that was just a practice session!
"We looked out for and helped each other on the track. Those were some really special times not too many families can say they have shared the way we did."
After starting in his mother's pink street stock, Stremme methodically worked up to Late Models and then to the America Speed Association. After running selected ASA races in 2000 and 2001, Stremme met veteran crew chief Howie Lettow who had guided such rising stars as Jimmie Johnson, Tony Raines and Ted Musgrave during their formative years in ASA.
Working with Lettow, Stremme won two races, earned four poles and was named the 2002 ASA Rookie of the Year. His success on the tough ASA circuit caught the eyes of Ganassi and Sabates.
"Chip and Felix want me to go out and compete," Stremme said. "They want me to win, but are looking for me to gain experience more than anything. After three years under their watchful eyes, they feel I'm ready to move up to the Cup level."
Starting out in a pink race car probably wasn't the best move, but it might have been a good omen.
"Hey, I moved here (North Carolina) and learned that Dale Earnhardt started in a pink car," said Stremme. "He had that K2 car he raced at the local tracks and look how successful he became in NASCAR racing."
Tickets for the Dollar General 300 on Friday night, Oct. 14, and the UAW-GM Quality 500 on Saturday night, Oct. 15, can be obtained by calling 1-800-455-FANS or click here.