Posted: 26 days ago
Story by Richard Golardi (source: hoseheads.com)
February 17, 2017 - Caleb Armstrong was on his way to winning the 2016 Little 500, or so it appeared. In the lead late in the race, and consistently one of the fastest cars all night long at Anderson Speedway on May 28, 2016, it appeared that he would be challenged for the lead as the 500th lap and the checkered flag approached. Kody Swanson cut down on his lead each lap until he and Caleb both dove for the bottom groove in turn 3 late in the race and collided. Swanson continued on in the race without major damage, but Armstrong’s car had broken parts and he spun on the front straight a few seconds later. Swanson went on to win his first Little 500 for himself and his Hoffman Racing team.
Nine months later, Caleb Armstrong was racing in a new year, a different car, a different race series, and a different race surface – dirt. There was another popular sprint car racing star that challenged this time and this race – Donny Schatz. It was Thursday, February 16, 2017 at Volusia Speedway Park with the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions. This was the last race in Florida for the series in 2017. In both the second heat race and in the first dash, Armstrong was challenged by Donny Schatz twice, and twice he defeated him, winning both the heat race and the dash. This earned him a front row starting spot for the feature race. Staying in the top three through much of the 30-lap race, he was passed by two other cars late and had a top five finish at the end. It was a far better end result than nine months earlier, and he had shown his prowess at racing on both pavement and dirt.
Armstrong had another top five during this year’s Florida Speedweeks, which happened on opening night last week at Bubba Raceway Park with the All Star series. He had been to Florida twice previously for racing during February, and last year was his first race at Volusia. “I’d never been there. It was a different experience,” he said. “I’m still kind of new to this wing thing. That’s probably the fastest track I’ve ever been on. Going there this year, I feel more comfortable and I feel I’ll be better over there. We’re actually just going to do the two All Stars races, because we’re running the All Stars all year.” Caleb explained that the team was not going to stay for the following three World of Outlaws races because of the reputation the track had earned for being hard on motors.
“We’re trying to save what we can for the rest of the year. We did the same thing last year, just ran the All Star races and then went home. I ran the Little 500. That was the only pavement race that I ran. We led about 200 laps last year, and had something break at the end. But that race is a really fun race. Rick Dawson (Anderson Speedway track owner) does a really good job up there, promoting that whole deal. It’s fun to do 500 laps in a sprint car, make pit stops and stuff – it’s pretty crazy.”
Regarding the third turn collision with Kody Swanson late in the race, Caleb stated, “It’s racing. It is what it is. Karma has a way of playing itself out in life, I feel like. We’ll be there for sure this year. Hopefully we can have the same speed we did last year and hopefully we can actually pull it off.” He did believe he was on his way to winning the Little 500 last year. “That’s what I thought too – I was hoping for it.”
Dirt will dominate his racing again this year, as last year. He had planned on doing the full All Star series schedule last year and then he broke his leg in early June, shortly after the Little 500. “It was one of the first races after the Little 500. So I sat out for two and a half months. So that kind of ruined the whole thing. I missed out on a good portion of the year. So I only ran about 15 to 20 races last year. That’s the plan to run the whole All Star circuit this year and we’ve got a good group of guys surrounding us this year, so I feel pretty confident.”
The team and equipment for 2017 are mostly the same as 2016. He wants to be a front-runner in All Star series racing this year, with a goal to finish in the top three in 2017 All Star series points. He was relishing the chance to race against the many Outlaw and PA Posse drivers in the first All Star series races of the year. “I think they said there were 17 guys running full-time this year with the All Stars, so that’s a pretty good amount of people running. We had a good start and hopefully we just keep getting better and better.”