Fresh from success in his debut season in IRA Sprint Cars, we caught up with rookie of the year, Sean Rayhall, on a stopover at Atlanta Motorsports Park.
Rayhall is a senior instructor with Primal Racing, boasting an incredible 81 wins across several series in his racing career.
Relieved to know that the interview isn’t being filmed, Rayhall visibly relaxes and his enthusiasm for his new ‘favorite racing series to date’ is palpable. “Until you go to a sprint car race you can’t really understand the camaraderie. Everything is so different from road racing. You can’t outspin people, or have a better car than the rest. A lot of it is just down to driving and reading the track.”
It’s surprising to learn that Sprint Car Racing ranks so highly for Rayhall considering he’s competed in European Le Mans, IMSA, and even a couple of Indycar tests at such a young age.
Rayhall’s season began with two unfortunate events that were completely out of his control, forcing him to play catch up in the standings for the remainder of the year. He praised his team’s attitude as well and before they knew it they were running with the leaders again.
“Early in the year we blew up two motors in a week and they were our only two motors. I’m thankful for our partners who helped us out during that time. I was forced to race a motor that had 400 horsepower less than my old motor which forced me to figure out how to even make the race so that I could score points. We still attacked those races despite knowing that we were showing up with a butter knife to a gunfight. We went at it as hard as we could with that butter knife. We fixed the two motors and a month and a half later we qualify on pole.”
“My high of the season was definitely being able to run in the top ten. 15 of the other drivers are experienced professional sprint car drivers so running top ten and beating some of those other guys was an accomplishment. We got a couple of poles and getting the rookie of the year award was awesome. Being able to beat other drivers who have been on dirt in the past is what made that achievement even more rewarding. It wasn’t like it was just me against a nobody.”
Despite his seemingly instant success in IRA, Rayhall had to work relentlessly on and off the track to achieve rookie of the year in between the relentless travel and race schedule. There were several other rookies who already had years of experience in other dirt racing series who he was able to beat out to the end of season award.
“It definitely took a lot more work on myself than I thought it was going to take and I think that’s just because on dirt it’s so much more technical than you would think. I had to figure out what tricks to use and teach myself on the fly behind the wheel.”
Rayhall also explained how his experience on dirt in sprint cars has helped him become a better instructor when he spends his off time with Primal.
“I think the diversity across all of the series and cars that I have raced helps me instruct better. When you have a racing school as great as Primal having a wide variety of experience from European LeMans to IMSA to IndyCar and all the other instructors who have their plethora of experience makes Primal a special place to come. It doesn’t matter which instructor you have because we are all able to tie in a special piece of knowledge thanks to our diverse racing background. I think that makes us more flexible in regards to how we can coach someone and tailor the instruction in a way that they will understand.”
With his first season in IRA done Rayhall is keen to fight for the championship next season as well as continuing to instruct at Primal in his off time.
“I’ll be doing full time in sprint cars next year and it should be a 90 race schedule. Every off day I plan on helping Primal as much as I can. Going for the IRA championship is our main priority next season but we’re also trying to get as many races under our belt to help me get up to speed with the frontrunners.”