2006 99 Schedule
Peyton Sellers grew up fast. Literally.
"I've been racing 15 years," said the soft-spoken 22-year-old driver, who first competed in go-karts at age 7. "I started racing stock cars at 15, and it's been pretty steady on up."
Sellers arrived in Sacramento on New Year's Day, 3,000 miles from home and primed for a future in NASCAR.
"This is my first time in California, my first time away from home, my first time for a lot of things," he said. "So far, life is good."
A native Virginian, Sellers already has made his mark in stock car racing's heartland. Winner of 15 of 28 races in 2005, Sellers is the youngest driver to win NASCAR's Dodge Weekly Series national championship. He mostly competed at South Boston Speedway in Virginia.
"NASCAR definitely is the big sport where I come from," said Sellers, who grew up 30 miles from Martinsville Speedway. "We have 13 tracks within three hours of home. Everybody is really into racing."
In that talent hotbed, Sellers caught the attention of Richard Childress Racing, which signed the driver to a multi-year contract and placed Sellers in its developmental program.
"Peyton has a history of winning and is already a national champion," Childress said when the signing was announced in November. "We really liked what we saw when we tested him."
Partnered with Antelope-based Bill McAnally Racing, RCR sent Sellers to California and a tougher series. On the West Coast, Sellers will drive McAnally's NAPA Auto Parts No. 16 Chevrolet in the Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series.
"He's a good Virginia boy, real wholesome," McAnally said. "We're going to work real hard to get him a Grand National title, too."
McAnally's team will field two more Grand National rookies in 2006: Anaheim's Eric Hardin in the No. 18 and San Diego's Brian Ickler in the No. 20.
A gateway to NASCAR's top circuits, the Grand National West kicks off Sunday with the Copper World Classic's United Rentals 125 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"You've got to be quick about learning," Sellers said of the West's 12-race schedule. "There's not that many races. You can't make the same mistake twice."
Sellers and his new crew visited Phoenix's mile-long oval for the first time last week for testing in the Grand National cars, which are similar to those used in Nextel Cup.
"It was the biggest track I've ever been on with a stock car," Sellers said, noting that he tried Daytona Prototypes at Florida's Daytona International Speedway. "The hardest part (of this transition) definitely is the car. It's a challenge for me. You learn to go fast and hopefully not rip it up."
On April 29, the Grand National cars will compete for what could be the last time at Stockton 99 Speedway, which is expected to close after the 2006 season.
As part of its new schedule, the Grand National series will return to Infineon Raceway on June 24 for the first time in eight years. The Blue Lizard Suncream 200 replaces the Southwest Series race during the Sonoma track's Nextel Cup weekend.
Sellers plans to split time between coasts, getting home as often as possible to drive at South Boston and other familiar tracks. "The more experience, the better," he said.
When he's not driving, Sellers enjoys soccer. He played sweeper for Averett University, a small college in his hometown of Danville, while working on his business degree.
So far, Sacramento reminds Sellers a lot of home. "I really like it here," he said. "The people here are nice and friendly. Bill and his people have really taken me in like one of their own. I couldn't ask for anything more."