Even without a win, Madison sitting pretty
By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times,
Though he has yet to win a race, Stuart Madison sees himself in an enviable position as he heads into the second half of the season at Citrus County Speedway.
With 15 races in the books, he commands the Street-Legal Junker division by a whopping 84 points over closest rival Jerry Hoover.
But success in this entry-level division is a matter of perspective. With a race purse of just $50 -- every dime of which goes to the winner -- Hoover's four victories puts him $200 in front of Madison.
That doesn't seem to bother the 29-year-old Wildwood driver in the least. To him, the sheer joy of racing more than makes up for the lack of financial reward.
"Nobody does this for the money, that's for sure," said Madison who pilots the B&S Auto Supply/Total Performance Vinyl Graphics-sponsored No. 2 machine. "For us, it's a great learning experience, a chance to get out and be competitive not have to spend a lot of money doing it."
That was the initial appeal to Madison when the speedway introduced the division three years ago. Low-cost and no-frills, it allowed curious race fans like himself an opportunity to strap on a helmet and get behind the wheel.
He bought a mid-'70s Monte Carlo from a junkyard, stripped out the glass and trim, and hit the modified oval course for the inaugural event.
It was an eye-opening experience, especially for someone who had never been closer to a track than the grandstands.
"It was so much faster than it looked," recalled Madison. "I gained a lot of respect for guys who are out there every week."
The division has grown tremendously.
On any given Saturday there are between 18 and 22 feature entrants. The cars, while still strictly stock, are much more in line safety-wise with other divisions. All must now have four-point roll cages, approved driver seats and safety harnesses.
Madison says the division has also brought more respect for the competitors. What was once a novelty event at the end of the night has taken on a more serious light.
"It may be a beginner's class, but we're racing just as hard as everyone else," said Madison. "We went to the track manager and asked him to help us out."
In response, the track agreed to change the class name to Thunder Stocks. In addition, the cars will now be running the regular oval circuit, allowing them to eliminate the sharp right-hand chicane, which has been the scene of several rollovers in recent weeks.
"I think fans are going to see some exciting racing this summer," said Madison. "A lot of guys are waiting to go out and step it up."
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