McFadden heads back to US for outlaws tilt

James McFadden

Leading Australian sprintcar driver James McFadden returns to America this week to prepare for the new World of Outlaws championship, after a successful summer venture with a new team.

McFadden spearheaded the newly formed Hodges Motorsport squad – led by former Warrnambool native, leading Melbourne sports producer Tim Hodges – which fell agonisingly short of winning the race they wanted most, Sunday’s Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.

After winning the Saturday preliminary A-main at Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway, McFadden started third on the grid and led the opening laps of this year’s Classic final, only to suffer suspension issues and fade late to finish fifth.

“Obviously fifth in the Classic, it wasn’t the end goal we wanted,” said McFadden.

“It was still solid running – top five with 120 cars, that’s still decent.

“We led a lot of laps there and felt really, really good, but just tagged the fence lapping a lapped car and ripped the suspension out.

“The last 20 to 25 laps we were hanging on, lucky to finish fifth I guess – at the end I’m just a bit disappointed in myself.”

The team which had high profile co-owners including IndyCar star Scott McLaughlin, AFL spearhead Jack Riewoldt and sports broadcaster Gerard Whateley – ran nine events in a streamlined campaign to fit McFadden’s wishes after a long 2022 season in the USA.

They had six podiums, headlined with three victories – at Avalon’s Speed Week round on December 30, Mount Gambier’s King’s Challenge on Thursday and the Saturday night Warrnambool A-main – which was run Sunday afternoon after night two was washed out.

“The Hodges Motorsport guys have done a hell of a job. They built a team from nothing with the backing of NAPA, Tim and everyone involved,” said McFadden said.

“But it’s been a cool journey and a lot of fun, it’s good to say our worst result was fifth, but it’s the one we wanted most.

“All in all a really fun season and I enjoyed everything we’ve accomplished and hopefully we do some more.”

Whateley, one of Australia’s leading sports broadcasters, was trackside for the weekend’s 50th anniversary edition of the Classic.

The Fox Footy and Radio SEN star was a keen fan in his first time at the speedway.

“Their skill, their excellence, the determination and daring, the bravery and madness, it’s something to behold,” Whateley said of his experience.

“I had a great time, I watched the final from the midfield and had the full experience, it was thrilling.

“Loved it all and after the weekend it makes me even more fond of the Warrnambool community.”

McFadden is the sole Australian running full-time in the Outlaws championship, which begins next Thursday in Florida.

After placing seventh last year, he has high hopes as he returns for his second season with ROTH Motorsport for 2023 – which this year will have engines supplied by Toyota.

“ROTH has had a car in the championship for 25 years, and for them to ask us back means they must have some belief in our ability and what we can do,” said McFadden.

“I’m excited to get the year started, it’s a big project to get over there and I’m just pumped to start the year the way we finished it off.”

McFadden finished last season as one of the leading threats – highlighted by his fifth Outlaws win in October at Kansas.

He will travel to the States with wife Zoe, and their two year old son Mav.

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