ST. LOUIS – Karter Sarff will return to the driver’s seat this weekend after landing a potent ride for the Gateway Dirt Nationals, Dec. 19-21 inside The Dome at America’s Center.
Sarff will team up with fellow teenager Cannon McIntosh as part of a two-car Dave Mac Motorsports assault during the final national midget event of the year on American soil.
The 16-year-old from Mason City, Ill., made nine appearances with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League this season, with a best finish of sixth at Belle-Clair Speedway in seven feature starts, but hasn’t been behind the wheel since mid-September thanks to a trying season.
His recent absence from competition has left Sarff eager to end the off streak and get back to what he knows best – driving race cars – this weekend on Gateway’s temporary indoor dirt track.
“Man, I still can’t believe it, to be honest,” Sarff admitted in advance of the Gateway Dirt Nationals. “I can’t thank Dave, Cannon and the whole McIntosh family for giving me this opportunity and allowing me a chance to drive for them this weekend. It’s really a dream come true for me, because I have been nervous about how my future is going to go and what direction it’s going to take. Racing is my dream, though, and a shot like this is just one step that helps me get closer to achieving that dream.
“To be honest, I’m not sure exactly when it was, but it was probably about a month ago or a month and a half ago that Dave texted me and asked me what my plans were for the Dome,” Sarff recalled. “At that point I told him I didn’t really have anything and that I was still looking. And then he just said, ‘would you want to drive one of my cars?’ And I knew right away to say yes; you can’t turn down a chance like that.”
When he’s not been behind the wheel, Sarff has spent a fair amount of time working with Justin Grant at Rick Young and Jeff Taylor’s RAMS Racing operation, learning the ropes as a crew member while waiting patiently for his next opportunity.
The skills that he’s learned off the race track and behind the wrenches are ones that Sarff considers “valuable” as he straps back in himself this week.
“As hard as it has been to have to sit out and watch and work from the sidelines, I have to consider myself fortunate,” Sarff noted. “I’ve worked with some of the best teams in midget racing, specifically with Justin Grant, and I ran with A.J. (Felker) for a while this summer as well to where A.J. and I talked about a lot of stuff. His equipment’s a bit different than the RAMS cars, so I learned a lot about his stuff.
“I definitely learned the most from Justin Grant, though; he helped me out a lot and has been a big resource and help to me,” Sarff added. “Just to be a part of that team and understand how everything works with a race-winning operation like that gives me confidence going back to driving myself now.”
Though he hasn’t had the same amount of track time that some of the stars of national midget racing have enjoyed this season, Sarff is confident he won’t have much – if any – rust to shake off through the week.
“I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I’m not that worried (about being rusty),” Sarff said. “I should be able to figure it out pretty quick. Everyone’s going to be a little rusty on this new track. Usually it’s different every year from what I’ve seen, even with the late models, so we’ll see what it’s like this year.”
“That inside wall they’ve added should help out a lot and give a little more room for mistakes,” Sarff continued. “Those inside tires just rip your front end off if you hit them.”
While Thursday will mark several new horizons for Sarff, with a new team and new equipment, the teenager is looking forward to getting back up to speed and hopeful he can put together a positive showing.
“I’ve never ran a Toyota before, or a Spike Chassis, but I have a lot of confidence going into the Dome thanks to Dave and Cannon believing in me to take this on,” Sarff said. “Cannon’s proven that they have super good equipment, so I’m excited.
“My number one goal is to use this as a springboard (to bigger things), and I think that’s what Dave is thinking too,” he added. “He just wants to help me out to get me back out there and prove that I have what it takes to get other opportunities. Hopefully this will lead in that direction and open some more doors.”