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By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Speedway, Indiana (August 29, 2023)………During last weekend’s Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway, perhaps no other driver gained a larger legion of fans, admirers and curious onlookers than 20-year-old Trey Osborne.
Osborne, of Columbus, Ohio, and his newfound renown in addition to the respect among his fellow competitors, have helped land him a USAC Silver Crown ride in Sammy Fetter’s No. 88 for this Saturday’s 69th running of the Ted Horn 100 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in southern Illinois.
Standing a towering 6’8” in height and regularly sporting a sun visor on his sprint car that simply states “Tall,” Osborne has won three times in Indiana Sprint Car circles this season, twice at Paragon Speedway and once at Gas City I-69 Speedway, then won his first heat race in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition this past weekend at Kokomo.
It’s been a meteoric rise for Osborne who turned his first laps in a dirt sprint car only one year ago. Although a relative unknown commodity on the local Indiana racing scene entering the 2023 season, Osborne is certainly hard to ignore when meeting him and while watching him on the track.
“It’s been pretty humbling,” Osborne admitted. “I went from not anyone really knowing me to where it seemed like everyone was standing around my pit after the feature. I didn’t get out of Kokomo until 3am.”
The love affair with Osborne regularly begins as soon as he pulls into the pit area. He rolls in on an open trailer, then proceeds to compete alongside and regularly exceed his peers with just a fraction of the budget of those around him. Osborne contends that the essential pieces he owns are very nice but has proven the old adage of “trailers don’t win races” to be true, even though the trailer isn’t his own.
“I bought the truck for $1200 three years ago and I start it with a screwdriver,” Osborne explained. “The windows don’t go up or down unless you do it with pliers. The speedometer doesn’t work; the odometer doesn’t work; the gas gauge doesn’t work. It’s pretty low buck in some ways to be able to make it happen, but the stuff that matters is all right. Plus, I don’t mind having an open trailer because I don’t hit my forehead on the trailer door every single time I run in and out.”
Osborne came of age in his racing career at the wheel of a USSA Kenyon Midget for none other than USAC Hall of Famers Mel and Don Kenyon. The winningest duo in the history of USAC National Midget racing fielded an entry for Osborne as a teenager as he racked up several feature wins and a series championship in 2018.
However, by mid-2022, Osborne sold his own Kenyon Cars and decided to set forth on a path toward sprint car racing. In February of 2023, he made the move to Indianapolis, and with the help of friend and fellow racer Oz Ozborne (no relation), he was provided a place to live and landed a job at McCallister Caterpillar, located a stone’s throw away from Circle City Raceway.
Naturally confident, this is what Osborne expected of himself. And if it hadn’t, he’d most likely would’ve found another line of work.
“Honestly, it’s kind of what I expected out of myself,” Osborne stated. “If I wasn’t winning at this point or if I was still running 10th at local shows, I think I probably would’ve sold out and been done. I was pretty serious that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it as right as I could do it.”
On the big stage of Sprint Car Smackdown, financial prizes are aplenty, and bonuses are in abundance, and many common race folks become even more charitable than customary. His success thus far hasn’t taken him by surprise one bit, but the amount of support he’s gained from the racing crowd has been a welcome addition to his program.
“My goal was to win three races, and I really thought I could do that,” Osborne said. “Winning three races didn’t surprise me but the amount of support I’ve gotten just from people congratulating me to helping me out, whether it’s money or parts or tires or whatever it is, it’s been pretty crazy how much help I’ve gotten from the racing community. I didn’t expect that going into the week.”
With success, those invested in the sport want to know your name and your phone number, and suddenly, you might find yourself as a hired gun. Osborne felt the reality of that this week just as he was sitting down for lunch at his day job when he received a call from Fetter asking him if he was available to wheel his car at Du Quoin. Without hesitation, the answer was a resounding “yes,” although it was definitely not something he was expecting at that moment.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” Osborne acknowledged. “I’m excited to do this as I’ve always wanted to run a crown car, especially on a dirt mile. It’s going to be pretty awesome and it’s really different from anything I’ve ever done.”
Despite this Saturday’s 100-miler being different from any other task he’s faced, he is no stranger to long-distance races. He competed in the Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway for car owner Mike Blake in 2019 and has captured victory in a 75-lap midget race. But there are some stark contrasts he’ll be facing no doubt.
“Just the speed from it is going to be really cool,” Osborne pined. “You run the car really straight, and I’ve always been one to hang it really far out. It’s a whole different driving style is needed to be successful in it.”
Even before getting behind the wheel of a champ car for the first time, Osborne has been and is a fan of the series, first and foremost.
“I always make a point to – even if I can watch them live – to watch the replay of the Silver Crown races just because they’re so cool. They’re different and there’s not a lot of them, especially the miles. It’s super cool to me personally.”
Now, Osborne gets to take a ride in one of those very USAC Silver Crown machines himself. A dream come true and another step up on the trajectory of his burgeoning racing career.
The 69th running of the Ted Horn 100 features the USAC Silver Crown National Championship along with the 29th Annual Bill Oldani Memorial Prelims for DIRTcar Modifieds.
Registration and pit gates open at 7am Central. Grandstands and ticket office open at 9am. USAC Silver Crown practice is slated to run from 10-11:10am. USAC Silver Crown qualifying is scheduled for 11:30am followed by DIRTcar Modified hot laps and qualifying at 12:15pm and the USAC Silver Crown qualifying race at 12:30pm. DIRTcar Modified heats are on tap at 1pm followed by the USAC Ted Horn 100 feature at 2pm.
Tickets will be available on race day or by calling the Du Quoin Fair office at 618-542-1535. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200. Advance tickets are $25 for ages 12 and up and $10 for children age 11 and under. Race day tickets at the gate are $30 for ages 12 and up and $10 for children 11 and under. Pit passes are $35 for members and $40 for non-members ages 12 and up. Pit passes for children age 11 and under are $20.