Hickory Champ McDaniel Evaluating 2014
Repeat Champ Wants To Improve On The Road
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Austin McDaniel maintained his level of success at a challenging and historic NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track in 2013. He won his second consecutive NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model track championship at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
McDaniel, 24, of Harrisburg, N.C., is evaluating his plans for 2014. He’s wants to maintain success at Hickory, but wants to gain more experience and step-up his results at other tracks.
“We could run just the Zloop Big 10 Challenge Series races at Hickory and try to get experience and improve at some other southeastern tracks,” McDaniel said.
The Zloop series includes 10 100-lap Late Model specials within Hickory’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule. Separate track points and point fund are kept for the 10 events.
“Competition is getting tougher at Hickory,” McDaniel said. “We won five races in 2013 compared to nine in 2012. Guys like Shane Lee are coming up and drivers from other tracks are stopping in.”
Lee had a two-win season. He won the track and state rookie-of-the-year awards and finished second to McDaniel in the track point race. Lee is being mentored by 1997 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Dexter Canipe.
“We’re at practice sessions or testing at Hickory during the week. We experiment with new ideas and set-ups, and evaluate what we’re doing. We’ve worked hard to be successful there,” McDaniel said.
He made a few starts at other tracks in 2013. His best performance was a pair of thirds in twin 50s at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. He also had a couple of top-10s at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C. Those are some of the tracks where he’d like to improve his performance.
“When we traveled we felt like we were a little behind last year,” McDaniel said. “I’d like to get used to showing up somewhere and as a driver be able to adjust, figure them out and be competitive.”
McDaniel has been building his career since winning the track and state rookie-of-the-year award in 2011. Crew chief Jonathan Morrison joined him in his last Sportsman division races of 2010 and they won at Myrtle Beach. Tire specialist Terry Ellis came over from Dexter Canipe Jr.’s team in 2011. Completing the team are engine specialist Chris Harrington, Kenny Hatley, Eddie Westmoreland, McDaniel’s mom Stephanie and girlfriend Ashlyn. The team’s LTO Performance Warehouse chassis is owned by McDaniel’s father Brian and grandfathers David Traylor and James McDaniel. Harrington prepares the crate engine and the built engine is by Kevin Blank. Sponsors include Hendrick Honda of Hickory and Oz’s Jewelers.
McDaniel attends the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is studying mechanical engineering. He’d like to make his career in racing or be a performance design engineer for an automobile manufacturer. He’s currently a service technician at Honda Cars of Concord.