13-Year-Old Chad Finchum among the Rising Stars
Each year since Charlotte Motor Speedway's Quaker Steak & Lube Summer Shootout began in 1994, there has been a select group of young racers whose driving skills have separated them from their peers.
Current NASCAR drivers Reed Sorenson, David Ragan, Steve Wallace and Joey Logano are among those who first enjoyed stardom racing either Legends Cars or Bandoleros in the 10-week series of Tuesday night races.
This summer, 13-year-old Chad Finchum is poised to join that group.
In only his second year of Summer Shootout competition, the teenager from Knoxville, Tenn., is dominating the Sprite Bandolero Young Guns division. He won six of the first seven races, building a commanding triple-digit points lead in the division for racers ages 12 to 15.
"We usually do really well here," Finchum said. "This is a competitive track with a lot of fast runners. I love the people at the Shootout, and I really like the track. It's a fun place to learn about racing."
New to the Quaker Steak & Lube Summer Shootout this season, each driver's worst finish was dropped and the points standings were reset following round seven. Finchum's 15th-place finish during round three was wiped from the slate, making him the only driver with a perfect score of six victories.
However, the high school freshman definitely is not a one-track wonder. He won 29 of his first 37 races this season with victories coming at a variety of race tracks, including Atlanta Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
"I've had a pretty good year so far. I'm really excited to be the championship leader in my division here," Finchum said. "We race at a lot of different tracks during the week, not just here. But Lowe's is probably one of my favorite race tracks."
Finchum has been racing for more than half his life. He started at age 6 in a used go-kart.
"We saw an article in a newspaper about a local racer who was selling his go-kart," Finchum explained. "We went over to his house and asked him some questions about racing and what all it involves.
"We also found a track owner who had a spare go-kart," Finchum continued. "He let me run some laps in it and I liked it. He actually ended up selling the kart to us and I started racing from there."
Following a great deal of success in go-karts, Finchum has excelled in Bandoleros and is eagerly anticipating his move to the more powerful Legends Cars.
"Next year we're going to be racing a Legends Car at the Shootout,"
Finchum said. "We've already run some Legends races this season in Tennessee."
Finchum quickly found victory lane in his new Legends Car, winning each of his three starts in the Young Lions division at Newport (Tenn.) Speedway.
Much like those who blazed the trail before him, Finchum has big racing dreams.
"I hope to continue racing for the rest of my life," Finchum said.
"I have always loved it and ever since I was a little kid I've wanted to race. Becoming a NASCAR driver would be the greatest thing ever."
The 10-race Quaker Steak & Lube Summer Shootout runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 12 on the frontstretch quarter-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Admission is just $7 for adults. Children 6-12 are admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free.
Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:15 p.m.
Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and includes three classes of Bandoleros, four divisions of Legends Cars and the sleek Thunder Cars.
For information, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or visit online.