After two years of tearing up the Legends Cars circuit in both the North and South, Devin O’Connell took the opportunity in 2016 to make a big step up, competing full-time on the American-Canadian Tour circuit. Later in the year, he also made his Late Model Stock Car debut to cap off a memorable year. Now, the 19-year-old Connecticut driver is set to take another big step into one the top levels in short track racing: Super Late Models.
While a lot of young drivers nowadays seek out rides in the Super Late Model and Pro Stock ranks, O’Connell is taking the old-fashioned approach, running his own set of wheels out of his new shop on the Connecticut shore. The former Legends Cars standout will run a New England based schedule, with family and friends coming onboard to fill out his team.
“We’re running our own team this year, it’s a little cheaper to run it by ourselves. It’s going to be me and a bunch of buds,” O’Connell told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We’ve bought a really good car from Dearborn Racing up in Maine, an old Hamke car that’s absolutely mint.”
In 2016, O’Connell sat behind the wheel of the Hallstrom Motorsports No. 1 ACT Late Model, but he’s accustomed to maintaining his own cars in both Allison Legacy and Legends Cars from previous years. While maintaining his own cars,he scored multiple champions, including track, state, national, and world titles in Legend Cars in 2015.
O’Connell is embracing the chance to be more hands on to learn about intricacies of the Super Late Model.
“We’re trying to get started, I want to learn how to set up bump-stops and all that. Learn how the suspension works with the Supers versus everything else. It’s about learning how they work, I’m happy I get to my hands dirty again.”
O’Connell has his eyes set on the rookie title in the Granite State Pro Stock Series with occasional appearances planned in PASS North, including one of the biggest short track events of them all.
“The plan is to run the Granite State Pro Stocks full-time with an occasional PASS show, the Oxford 250 and the Pro Stock Nationals at Seekonk. If we can get some sponsors I would love to hit up as many of the big shows around the country as I can,” he stated. “I’m willing to drive anything with four wheels and a motor, we get what we need, we’ll try to expand, get outside the Northeast and see what goes down.”
O’Connell has shown promise in his first year of Late Models, most recently making the field for the Battle at the Beach last November at Myrtle Beach Speedway during his debut in a Late Model Stock Car. He also picked up Rookie of the Year honors with the American-Canadian Tour.
“We started to show our strength near the end of the year at Hallstrom Motorsports,” he commented. “They gave me such a great opportunity last year and I’m so thankful for it. This year with how the circumstances have gone we figured getting our own car was a little bit better deal. If we get some sponsorship and I can do a couple of races with Hallstrom, I’d love to go up for a couple shows, maybe do the Milk Bowl and some of the big Thunder Road races. It all depends on money.”
Currently the plan for O’Connell is to debut his new ride at the GSPSS season opener at Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire on April 30. O’Connell has hinted that this might come sooner if the team gets its ducks in a row and they can get the car ready to race, with the team dropping the engine in the car over the past week. Whenever that first outing comes, it will not be soon enough for the eager young gun.
“I’m excited, I’ve been wanting to run a Super Late Model since I was 13. Finally being able to say I’ve raced one is neat. I’m stoked, I can’t wait.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT