Deming Speedway driver Austin Sheridan was one night away from a 600 open-class season title. But on the final race with eight laps remaining, Sheridan made his move up the field — well, he tried to.
Instead of sliding up enough positions to secure the championship, his clutch blew and Sheridan had to exit the race. He ended two points short of Chance Crum, who won the 600 class.
“It wasn’t hard to begin with,” Sheridan said in a phone interview of the emotion after that night. “It was a bit of pure luck. I didn’t take it as hard as I would have if it was something we did.”
While Sheridan does have a 600 restricted championship to his name — he won in 2012 — last season was likely his final shot at a points title.
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This season, which starts on Friday, April 3, Sheridan will miss the final nine events of the 25-event season, as he is joining the United States Air Force on July 28.
“I’m just looking to have fun this year since it’s almost going to be my last year racing. Life is starting for me,” Sheridan said. “I’m looking to have fun, not make it a points competition.”
Sheridan, 18, has been a familiar face at the small Deming track for the past 11 years. He started in junior sprints when he was just 7 years old.
His dad took Sheridan out to the track one day and asked if he wanted a junior sprint car. Of course the young kid accepted the offer, and the next week when Sheridan’s mom was out of town his dad bought him one.
“It was definitely very unexpected when she got back the next week,” Sheridan said with a laugh.
Since then, Sheridan has become a fixture among the top names every week at Deming and his love of the sport continues to grow.
“Just the pure thrill and adrenaline of stepping on the throttle every time,” Sheridan said of why he enjoys racing so much. “It’s so exciting and something you can’t find in any other sport.”
But the thing about Deming, Sheridan will miss more than racing is the community and family aspect of the track.
It’s a way to connect and spend time with his dad as they both work on the car, and his grandpa and mom rarely miss a race, if ever.
“I’m very thankful of everyone that supported me through my years of racing,” Sheridan said. “The fans, my sponsors and my dad and my mom the most. ... They’ve given me so much support.”
Sheridan’s choice to join the Air Force, however, was something he very much desired. He plans to be a pararescueman with the Air Force.
“I just wanted to do my part as a citizen,” Sheridan said. “I wanted to do something bigger than myself.”
Racing won’t be completely forgotten, though. After Sheridan completes his time with the Air Force, he said he plans to return, become a firefighter and buy a sprint car.
For now, he’ll just keep racing and enjoying himself as he awaits a new chapter of his life.