INDIAN TRAIL – Brandon McLain is going to have to strap his racing helmet on a little tighter April 7 in Lancaster, S.C.
Brandon McLain is part of the McLain Motorsports family of winged sprint car racers, based in Hemby Ridge. The family’s racing roots go all the way back to Brandon’s grandfather, Joe McLain. Brandon McLain grew up watching his grandfather and his father, Doug, participate in the sport.
Brandon’s brother, Jake, also takes part in the family business of racing.
And that makes them local legends in the sport.
John Karklin, of Monroe, rents space from the McLain’s for his son, Jake, who is set to begin his rookie season racing a smaller winged sprint car called a 305. John Karklin raced sprint cars for over 20 years, including nine years fulltime.
“They are the greatest group of people,” John Karklin said. “They really promote the sport. They are really the pioneers of sprint car racing in this area.”
Brandon McLain will be racing close to home April 6-7 as he will first race at the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia on April 6 before making the trip to Lancaster April 7. Both races are part of the Outlaw Thunder Tour and will feature 360 winged sprint cars from the United Sprint Car Series (USCS) and the United Racing Club (URC). Some of the fastest cars and best drivers from the Northeast and Southeast will compete in the two races.
Racing back-to-back nights is tough on cars and drivers but having a two-race weekend attracts racing teams from a wide geographical area.
“We have a lot of people coming from New York, the New England area and some from Arkansas and all the way down to Florida,” Brandon McLain said. “If it was just one race, it would just be the Carolina boys.”
The Lancaster Speedway track is arguably the fastest dirt track in the country and the half-mile layout will see the winged sprint cars approach speeds of 150 miles-per-hour.
“The Carolina Speedway track is probably the most popular sprint track in the Carolinas,” Brandon McLain said. “They have been hosting us for a long, long time now and they give us two or three shows a year. They put on a great show, 3/8 of mile that is really, really fast. It’s a wide track where you can pass a lot of cars. It’s fun there.”
But the speeds will be notched up a bit more on the dirt in Lancaster.
“I think it is the fastest track in the country,” Brandon McLain said. “We have so many that have raced all over the world and when they come to Lancaster, they say they have never seen anything like this. You literally have to hold on to your helmet going down the straightaways because it is trying to rip your helmet off. It’s insane. You have to tighten your helmet up a whole lot more.”
One of the benefits of racing locally for Brandon McLain is he will have no shortage of help in the pit, including his father who started sprint racing back in the 1970s. The McLains will enter close to 30 races this season and they buy their cars from NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne. They currently have five cars.
“I drove all the way to Nashville by myself for a race last year,” Brandon McLain said. “The closer you are to home, the more help you get because they get a free pit pass to get into the track.”
And Doug McLain’s role this weekend.
“I’ll mostly just pray,” Doug McLain said with a laugh. “It’s a family thing and I do a little bit of everything. I just love it. You do all the important stuff here in the shop. At the track, you just tweak it a little.”
Jake McLain won’t be able to start the season this weekend as his winged sprint car isn’t yet ready for action.
“My brother is not going to have his motor done by this weekend, unfortunately,” Brandon McLain said. “It was a whole lot more torn up than we thought it would be. He ended up going out with a bang last year. He won three out of the last five races. When we took the motor apart, it was on its last leg. It probably wouldn’t have made it one or two more laps.”
There is prize money on the line each weekend but for the McLains, racing is more of a passionate hobby. On most nights, Brandon McLain will spend two to three hours prepping his race car.
“They always say, to make a small fortune in racing, you have to start out with a large fortune,” Brandon McLain said. “There is no making money in this unless someone else is fronting the bills.”
Lancaster Speedway Facts
• Where: 223 Shiloh Unity Road, Lancaster, S.C.
• Website: www.lancastersuperspeedway.com
• Track Size: Half-mile
• Banking: High Banked
• Pitting: Infield and Outside (Paved)
• Weekly Admission Prices: Adults $12; Kids 12-under free with a paying adult; All Pit Admission $25*Prices may vary on special events.
There are on site concession and souvenir vendors and there is a Kids Play Area.