By James Essex
For nearly the past 40 years, a handful of American dirt late-model drivers have been invited annually to Australia to compete with drivers from the land down under for a mini-series of racing events.
One of those honored to represent the United States this year is Edinburgh’s Joe Godsey, the 2016 late-model track champion at Brownstown Speedway and grandson of Hall-of-Fame driver Ray Godsey of Bedford.
Last year, instead of racing locally, Joe Godsey teamed up with Jeff and Randy Roth of Bentonville, Arkansas. They gave the 38-year-old an opportunity to travel and follow the Mid-American Auto Racing Series (MARS) West Series, where he earned Rookie of the Year honors for 2017 and finished second in the series points standings.
While away for the first time in his racing career, Godsey gained valuable experience racing at tracks he had never been to before. For the 2018 racing season, the team plans to run the Lucas Oil MLRA Series based in Missouri.
While Godsey missed competing in front of his family and friends this past season, he was thrilled to be recognized as a driver chosen to participate in the USA vs. Australia event starting this weekend in Perth, Western Australia.
Godsey was able to race with his Hall-of-Fame grandfather some 20 years ago in Australia and considers it one of the highlights of racing career. The younger Godsey has been in Australia since December preparing for the next two weeks of racing action.
“I got to run one night in December,” he said. “It was called ‘Boxing Night.’ The first time on the track, we won the heat race. We started fifth in the A-main, but our night was ended early when I knocked the spoiler off the right side of the car. I came over early to use that night as a test for Team Roth. I hadn’t been here in nearly 20 years.”
“We have our first points race at Perth Motorplex on the 13th. We race again the next night at Perth, as well. Jeff (Roth) will race seven times, and I will race eight times over here. We will be staying and racing for the Australian National title. It is the race everyone wants to win, biggest race meeting in Australia for late models and, as far as I know, we will be the only drivers from the states racing this race. It will be a short 29-hour drive across the outback.”
“It’s just really cool to get this kind of opportunity. My grandparents paved this road for us. I’m over here with the Team Roth owners and my wife Abby. Simon McNabb gave us the invite and has opened his doors to Team Roth. Simon and Allen Nylander are the guys my grandpa and myself drove for the last time we were here. As far as the racing goes, it’s hard to believe how happy the drivers, crew and fans are to have us here.”
“The Motorplex is an amazing place. I heard it cost 28 million dollars to build it. I think the racing will be great. Thirty-eight cars signed up for the first night — five from the states; like six from Sydney. They have closed the gap up as far as equipment differences go from here to the states. They now have motors from the states and Rocket XR1 cars, as well as some Longhorn cars
Other American drivers who will be participating in Australia will be Madison’s Cody Mahoney, along with Devin Moran and Tyler Erb.
One of the top competitors from Western Australia will be Craig Vosbergen of Perth. Vosbergen, for the past few years, has ventured to race in the United States during the months of July and August. He is well aware of how tough the series has and will be.
“In Australia in the 1980s, we had what they called Grand American Sedans that we based on the American wedge cars,” Vosbergen said. “Drivers like Ray Godsey, Charlie Swartz, Donnie Moran and Rodney Combs used to come over here with those cars that had the big wings on the back. So that’s what we raced here. That was the sedan class. They were left-hand driven.”
“In the 1990s, we went to what we called a Super Sedan, which is a right-hand drive, because in Australia, we drive on the right-side of the car,” he continued. “Those cars more resembled something on the road. People then started switching back after seeing what was going in the states and importing a few of those.”
“I guess it was the late ’90s when we started a dirt late-model division, and it’s just grown from there. It started off with guys building their own cars over here then a few got imported. I would say now 95 percent of the cars that race here are imported.”
Perth Motorplex Speedway Manager Gavin Migro is equally impressed that Godsey is in town and ready to take on Western Australia’s best.
“It is such a thrill to have Joe here,” he said. “The son-of- a-gun was great addition to an already strong field for the Boxing Day show, and we look forward to having him and the rest of his fellow countrymen here for the Di Candilo Steel City Late Model Nationals starting this weekend.”
Larson wins opener at Chili Bowl
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup regular Kyle Larson won the opening night of the 32nd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Presented by General Tire on Tuesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Larson was driving for the Columbus-based Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian Team. He will start sixth in tonight’s finale.
Brad Sweet finished second to Larson on Tuesday night, with Tyler Courtney, Tom Harris and KKM driver Logan Seavey completing the top five.
Tonight’s finale will be broadcast live in high-definition on MAV-TV and LucasOilRacingTV.
James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Republic. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.