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Local talent makes race track return

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Matt Arrington was once “the next big thing” in local auto racing.

The Columbus native won multiple championships at Columbus Kart Club, was the 1997 ADCC Junior Super Car USA champion and the 1998 UMRA Rookie of the Year. He won more than 70 feature races by the time he was 13 years old and more than 200 by the time he walked away from racing at age 22.

Now, after eight years on the sidelines, Arrington, 32, is in his second year back on the track. He currently ranks fifth in the Midwest TQ Racing League point standings.

“He was tough back in the day,” said points leader Ronnie Combs, who drives a TQ Midget owned by Tony Stewart.

“He hasn’t drove for a couple of years, so he’s trying to get back into the swing of things. He has a new car, so he’s doing pretty good for what he’s starting out.”

Arrington is trying to duplicate or better his second-place finish from 2003.

“I feel like the way we’ve been running lately is just as good as that year, if not a little better,” Arrington said.

“We’re having a good year this year,” he said. “We’ve been real consistent since we got the new car going. We still haven’t broke through with a win yet, but I feel like we’re getting ready to. If we keep doing what we’re doing, I think we’re going to be right there at the end.”

Arrington began running go-karts at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds when he was 6 years old. He started racing in national karting events, then shifter karts at age 15 and TQ midgets at age 16.

He hoped to follow in the footsteps of Stewart, the Columbus native who ran on the IndyCar circuit before finding a home in NASCAR.

“It started off as something I wanted to do for a career, but it didn’t pan out that way,” Arrington said. “We didn’t get the breaks that we were looking for, so now, it’s just a hobby.

“We’re pretty content with what we’re doing right now,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always loved racing.”

Three years ago, Arrington married his wife, Leah, and had his second child. They’re big supporters, as is his brother, John, 18, who was too young to help Matt before his hiatus.

“My brother has been a real big help throughout all this,” Matt Arrington said. “That’s one reason we got back into it. I wanted to take him racing. He missed out on a lot of it, and this is kind of something that we’ve done together.”

Matt Arrington, who works as a procurement specialist at CLAAS of America in Walesboro, is happy that racing is part of his life again.

“Every evening, we come home from work and go out in the garage and clean the race car and get it ready for the next race,” Arrington said. “It’s pretty much a full-time job, almost, or a second part-time job, at least.”

“He’s doing this on his own now, so I’m real proud of him for that,” said his father, Tim Arrington.

Now that he’s fully engrossed back in the racing world, Matt Arrington doesn’t see himself stepping away again for awhile.

“I haven’t got a timetable or anything, but I could see us doing it for another 10 years or so,” Arrington said.

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