On June 25 of this year, J.J. Hughes recorded his first career feature win in a sprint car, topping the field at Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon.

The win was six years in the making and was the highlight of his 2016 racing season. Hughes finished the season third in points at Twin Cities and fifth at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville.

“It was fantastic to get our first win in a sprint car. We used to dominate when we were in the lower ranks as when we moved to sprint cars in 2010 it was hard to readjust our goals. We had been very fast throughout the past year,” Hughes said.

“We struggled the last half this season. We were fast. We just couldn’t put a race together like we did at Twin Cities. We kept drawing bad numbers and starting in the back of a heat race. It’s hard to put it up front in a heat race when you start eighth or ninth all the time. If you finish fourth in a heat race you could start anywhere from 12th to 16th in the feature. Against the guys around here, it’s tough.”

“We steadily improved though as the season progressed. We didn’t run as much this year as we would have liked to. With the rainouts and my job commitments, plus we built a new house, we were only able to run a handful of races. Hopefully next year, we will be running a lot more events.”

Hughes began racing at a young age. He grew up around sprint-car racing every Saturday in Southern California. His dad (John), was a crew chief for a few names such as Rodney Argo and Ron DiDonato. As Hughes became older, he decided he wanted to race and started racing quarter midgets at the age of 6. He immediately showed he had the talent as he set a new track record in his first race.

As Hughes got older he progressed and obviously wanted to pursue a career in racing, and had started to take racing as a serious matter. In the summer of 2006, the family moved from Southern California to Columbus looking to settle down and can let him pursue his career in racing. At the beginning of 2007, he learned how to race on dirt and got accustomed to the car being sideways all the time in a micro sprint.

He raced micro sprints for two years, allowing him to acquire what it takes to run well in a micro.

His second year of racing the micro, he got second in points and most improved driver of the year. Feeling convinced that it was time to move on, the family decided to go sprint car racing for the 2010 racing season.

His first full season behind the wheel of a 410 sprint car turned out to be an experience-gaining year as Hughes competed at several local race tracks and participated at many USAC national events, as well. He ran 12 times with USAC in 2010 and 14 times in 2011.

In 2011, he graduated from Columbus East High School before heading off to Indiana State University, where he graduated in 2015 with a mechanical engineering degree.

His plans for 2017 are like this year with planned visits to Twin Cities, Lawrenceburg and Lincoln Park Speedway.

“We really like running at Lawrenceburg. We were very fast there this year and want to get back there to gain more experience,” said the now 23-year-old.

J.J.’s crew consists of his parents John and Kim Hughes of Columbus, crew member Dale Moriarty of Columbus and his wife, Angi Hughes.

His sponsors include Manvel Motorsports, DJ Safety, Weichert Realty, Jockish Flowers, Columbus Hose and Fittings, American Racer Tires, Spin Tech Mufflers and Williams Performance Engines. His chassis is a Triple X Chassis.

USAC sprints wrap up season

The USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series wrapped up its 2016 racing season a few weeks ago, with three shows at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California. In the three races held, there were three different winners in the 21st Annual Budweiser “Oval Nationals” which was cosanctioned by the CRA Sprint Cars.

On Nov. 10, Chad Boespflug was victorious in the west coast opener over Chris Windom, Brady Bacon, Damion Gardner and Austin Williams.

The next night on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, it was Dave Darland taking the win over Richard Vander Weerd, Bacon, Windom and Brody Roa.

Gardner took top honors in the season finale on November 12 over Windom, Vander Weerd, Roa and Bacon.

Final USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Championship Points: 1. Brady Bacon 2,676; 2. Chase Stockon 2,362; 3. Dave Darland 2251; 4. Chris Windom 2,226; 5. Thomas Meseraull 2,166; 6. Chad Boespflug 2,158; 7. C.J. Leary 2,038; 9. Kevin Thomas Jr. 1,419; 10. Aaron Farney 1,383.