In just one year, Paul Sparrow, of Gastonia, N.C., went from watching CRASHCar races at Charlotte Motor Speedway to hoisting the unique racing division's championship trophy.

The brainchild of hall of fame promoter H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, the CRASHCar division features basically stock production automobiles with cartoon-style themes and brightly colored graphics. Virtually any full-sized or mid-sized convertible, coupe or sedan can be transformed into a CRASHCar and the rulebook is designed to maximize safety while minimizing costs.

The division's sophomore season consisted of 13 races. Seven were run in conjunction with the Summer Shootout Series on the paved quarter-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the remainder on the lightning-fast, four-tenths-mile clay oval at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"Back in 2005, I watched CRASHCars for the first time. The racing was so much more exciting and different than any type I had seen before," explained the 31-year-old Sparrow. "The cars were able to beat and bang and get away with it. When I left the track, I said to myself, 'I have got to get a CRASHCar'."

It wasn't long before Sparrow's desire to race a CRASHCar came to fruition, thanks to a friend's misfortune.

"A friend of mine originally drove a CRASHCar in 2005. He blew his motor and didn't have the money to fix it," Sparrow said. "I offered to put my motor in his car and I finished out the season. I had so much fun; I ended up buying the car from him."

Driving a car nicknamed "Invader," Sparrow won four races, including a string of three in row, and finished the season with an incredible average finish of 3.3.

"Those wins came as a huge shock. At the end of '05, I had a hard time keeping up with the field," he explained. "I was running the same motor this year. So I'd have to give some credit to Ken Deese in the Big Show. He helped out a lot in showing me how to get around the quarter-mile asphalt track.

"Initially, I wasn't planning on running for points, but after the first three races I was in the lead. Then, I just made my mind up to try and win it all," said Sparrow. "It seemed like every time I had a good run, second and third place had bad luck. So I slowly started expanding my points lead."

Even though Sparrow won the title by 198 points over Deese, the inaugural series champion, the CRASHCars presented spectacular racing throughout the season.

"CRASHCar racing is very entertaining for the fans; they always get a good show. CRASHCars are far more exciting than regular racing," Sparrow added. "Track officials do everything they can to make it a great time for everyone. You never know when they might invert the finishing order, or let the second-place car win. Sometimes if the leader is too far out front, the Enforcer will pull in front of him and slow him down."

The CRASHCar concept was introduced with the idea of providing a series where race fans could do exactly what Sparrow did-go from being a spectator to a race winning competitor at a relatively low cost.

"Anyone can build and race his or her own CRASHCar," said Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "If they know what they are doing and can work on it themselves, they can build a car for under $5,000, and there are some that were built for under $3,500."

"Once you get your car built, it doesn't take much work to maintain it. You have to get your safety equipment installed, and as long as you don't get into too much trouble, all you have to buy is tires," concluded Sparrow, who earned $5,000 for his championship effort.

For information on the CRASHCar series, including rules and car specifications, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at 704-455-3205.