DILLON, S.C. – Eighteen-year-old Alex Murray may not have been in the seat of a race car for more than a year, but that didn’t stop him from turning some heads during his USAC Speed2 Midget debut on Saturday at Dillon Motor Speedway.

Murray, who spent much of his early career in Legend cars at the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout before transitioning briefly into late models locally in the Southeast, piloted a car from the Butch Lamb-owned Radical Race Gear stable at the four-tenths-mile, egg-shaped oval.


He wasted no time in getting up to speed in practice, putting himself within a quarter-second of the leading times in his first session in the car, then surprised himself with a huge qualifying lap that placed him third overall, ahead of defending series champion Jessica Bean.

“That was the point in the day when it really started to sink in that we had something,” admitted Murray. “It really built up my confidence and reminded me that the rust was coming off.”

He showed no signs of rust in the night’s 35-lap feature, starting from the outside of the second row and settling into fifth place, just behind long-time family friend Connor Gross, who raced quarter midgets around the same time Murray did in his early years.

Murray spent the entire distance chasing Gross’ orange No. 14, but couldn’t quite muster enough speed to get alongside and contend for fourth in the closing stages.

Even still, Murray climbed from the car afterwards with a huge smile on his face.

“This was a great day. We started off just getting acclimated to the track, learning a new car and learning a completely new style of racing for me. I’d never driven one of these things until today, other than testing it once,” said Murray. “We figured everything out, qualified third and finished fifth, which is way more than I ever expected when I came in here to start the weekend.

“I had fun racing with Connor at the end. I should have had him, but the experience I gained from chasing him down will help me in the future,” Murray added. “I just couldn’t get through the center very well. When I would arc the corner, I could get in and get off it pretty well, but it would mess up my entry for the next one because I was underneath him. I just couldn’t make it stick like that, and I didn’t want to force anything and wreck us both.” Murray
  Alex Murray at speed at Dillon Motor Speedway.(Jacob Seelman photo)

Gross shook hands with his on-track rival after the feature, grinning when asked if he knew how tight the battle was between himself and Murray.

“Oh, I knew,” Gross said. “I wasn’t just going to give it to him, though. I was going to make him earn it, and I enjoyed racing him. It was a lot of fun to see him get up to speed and adapt to the car.”

The car Murray was driving went to victory lane earlier in the season with Sam Hatfield at Shenandoah (Va.) Speedway on May 12, but Murray said it taught him a lot about his driving style compared to what he’s been used to in the past in Legend cars and late models.

“These things are just a handful. They’re so different from lap to lap because of the stagger; the air pressures (in the tires) rise and fall depending on how hard you push the car,” explained Murray. “You just have to rely on your instinct and go with your gut feeling … and then whatever happens from there happens. I was sawing at the wheel every lap but I was having a blast making it work.

“I hadn’t had any track time in over a year, but came back and finished on a good note, so that’s really positive and lets me leave here with a smile on my face. Now I’m looking forward to the next one, whenever that happens to be.”

What does Murray want to do in the future with his racing career?

If he has his say, he’d like to return to the series that gave him his first taste of open-wheel racing sooner, rather than later.

“I’m hoping we can get one of these (Speed2 Midgets) and we can run a bunch of the races next year,” Murray noted. “I love these things. I want to come back and run with them some more.”

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