WINNING WAYS: Devin O’Connell enjoys victory lane at North Carolina’s Southern National Motorsports Park after winning his forth straight Allison Legacy Series feature.
Article from Speed Sport Magazine, October 2014
by Jacob Seelman
Sixteen-year-old racer Devin O’Connell has taken the phrase “all over the map” to a new level this season.
O’Connell, who races in both the Allison Legacy Series and a Legend Car, has made a slightly less-conventional move from Charlotte, NC, to Connecticut as the Northeast is the region of the country where his family originated. The move comes while O’Connell is transitioning back and forth between the two very different styles of race cars while racing at tracks such as Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway, Riverhead (NY) Raceway, Seekonk (Mass) Speedway, Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway and Dillon (SC) Motor Speedway, up and down the East Coast.
“The move itself happened because my mom’s job moved up to New York, so we came back to Connecticut, where my dad is originally from. But it really hasn’t changed a lot of what we wanted to accomplish, O’Connell said in regard to how the move affected his racing mindset. “We knew from the beginning of the year that we were going to travel to a lot of the big Legends races and chase the entire Allison Legacy Series schedule, se we’re just basically running our season and having fun in the process. It does rack up the travel miles a little bit though.”
O’Connell has become a seasoned traveler — and he’s leading the Allison Legacy Series standings despite the multi-state commute from Connecticut to participate in the Southern-based series.
Heading into fall, he had eight victories in 12 Allison Legacy races, including a four-race winning streak. He’s not finished out of the top five this season. The talented teenager held a 125-point advantage over fellow young gun Jake Ruggles with five races remaining. O’Connell has competed in the Allison Legacy Series since 2010 and is chasing his first series title.
O’Connell said he and his team have been working toward this kind of success since the beginning, but he acknowledged this season has been a surprise.
“It’s unlike anything we ever anticipated coming into this year,” O’Connell said. “We’re a small team — my dad and I really didn’t know what we were doing at first — but to now come out the way we have and be the championship point leader after where we started five years ago, it’s a really special feeling for all of the people involved and I couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come together as a team.”
Despite his long tenure in the series, O’Connell continues to soak up information and learn how to do things differently.
“The Allison Legacy car has taught me so much this year, with the extra weight and increased torque, really finally getting a feel for how much different that is from the Legend Car — you really have to get up on the wheel and it almost rolls like a Cadillac.” O’Connell laughed
In addition to his overwhelming success in the Allison Legacy car, O’Connell has been no slouch behind the wheel of his 860 Motorsports Legend Car. O’Connell led the Jack in the box Summer Shootout Series Semi-Pro division for much of the 10-race, eight-week series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, winning two races along the way. He held the championship lead going into the final night of the summer before a flat tire derailed his title hopes.
I couldn’t have asked for a better summer showing than what we had at the Shootout,” O’Connell said.” I wish it would have ended a little better than it did. We really wanted that championship but that flat tire ended our chances at it. Despite that, though, I had a lot of fun and I feel like I learned a lot about myself as a racer for having had to fight like we did through the whole summer. It was truly one of the best experiences in racing that I’ve had to this point in my career.”
O’Connell has also raced the Legend Car at historic tracks in New England this year, including Waterford (Conn) Speedbowl, and Riverhead’s quarter mile bullring, notching top-10 finishes at both facilities in his first visits there.
The highlight of his Northeast season, however, was LegendSTOCK 2014 at Bethel (NY) Motor Speedway where he survived several late race incidents and challenges to finish seventh overall and claim the Semi-Pro class victory and the glass guitar trophy that came with it.
“We’ve been solid everywhere we’ve gone this year, but LegendSTOCK just fell right to us,” O’Connell said. “We dodged a late-race wreck with 10 laps to go that took out some of the really fast cars and just focused on racing our race. I knew if I did what I had to do, then we would be in contention and we were in the right place at the right time.
“To pick up the class victory was indescribable — it’s one of the trophies that I will smile about for a long time,” O’Connell added. “It’s definitely one of the highlights of my career so far.”
O’Connell would like to add another highlight, however, an Allison Legacy Series championship. He’s been close once already, finishing second to Justin LaDuke last year. He’d like to improve that by one spot and based on his body of work this year, he’s well on his way to cementing that goal.
“I don’t want to say it’s done — that’s the last thing you ever want to do when you’re in a position like the one I’m in this year — but we’re close. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season long and the rest should take car of itself.
“It would mean the world to me to finally have this championship. We’ve worked so hard, it would be a dream come true.”
The Allison Legacy Series concludes its season on Nov. 15 at North Carolina’s Southern National Motorsports Park.