Tearing Apart the Trucks · Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday July 14, 2011
Last April, a high school student by the name of Dakoda Armstrong made a thrilling last-lap pass to head to victory lane after starting on the pole for the ARCA 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. He also took home the “Rookie of the Year” honors for the 2010 ARCA season. But it didn’t stop there—in just 32 starts, the young driver has three wins and 18 top-10 finishes in ARCA, including a victory at Winchester Speedway this June.
Born in New Castle, Indiana, Armstrong began racing go-karts at the age of six, where he scored the World Karting Association (WKA) Championship in his first season of competition. Since then, he’s scored more than 200 victories combined in go-karts, Quarter Midgets, Bandoleros, Micro / Mini Sprint, Kenyon Midgets, 410 Non-Wing Sprint Cars and Midgets. But perhaps the biggest achievement in his young career came at age 13 when he became the youngest driver to win the USAC National Championship.
Back in March, Armstrong and ThorSport Racing announced their newest partnership with his debut set for this weekend at Iowa Speedway. He’ll pilot the No. 98 Ferrellgas / Agrisure Viptera Chevrolet alongside new teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton who have shared their own advice with the newest addition to the team.
“The biggest thing they (Crafton and Sauter) told me is these cars handle a little different in traffic,” he said. “Iowa won’t be as bad because it’s still a little smaller track, but just when people get around you how different the truck handles.”
In what has been an exciting last couple of months for ThorSport—their brand new facility to house all three teams is slated to open in August—the team is proud to welcome the newest driver to their stable.
“We’re excited to add Dakoda Armstrong, such a fresh talent and unique ‘voice’ in the agricultural, entrepreneurial and alternative energy world, to our growing NASCAR Camping World Truck Series program in 2011,” ThorSport Racing’s Vice President of Motorsports Partnerships Matt LaNeve said. “Dakoda is a very inspirational young driver who has had a lot of success in every series he’s competed in, and he’s part of the next generation of NASCAR drivers.”
Throughout the week leading up to his debut, Armstrong has spent a lot of time at the ThorSport shop in Sandusky, OH, and he also spent most of Wednesday running laps at Sandusky Speedway to get a handle on the truck before heading off to Iowa.
“Since I haven’t been in the truck at all, it’s just going to be feeling out the differences that it has,” Armstrong said. “It is a smaller track, so there’s definitely going to be a lot to learn when I go to Iowa still. Just getting the feel for the car, getting comfortable and just going to have some fun.”
At this point, Armstrong is scheduled to run five other races for ThorSport this season—Lucas Oil Raceway, Michigan International Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway—though the team does hope to make a full-time run at the Rookie of the Year next season.
“We talked about it for next year. We’ll hopefully go full bore next year and go for Rookie of the Year. I’m really excited—just gotta thank ThorSport for this opportunity.”
Armstrong’s fourth-generation family-owned farm has become one of the largest producers in the Midwest for corn, and every bit goes to the production of ethanol. Armstrong Farms provides 700,000 bushels of corn to Cardinal Ethanol and Anderson Ethanol each year for production, amounting to approximately 1.9 million gallons annually.
“Add to the fact that he’s one of many corn growers who are helping to feed and fuel America, it’s a winning combination with the effort of our series to use Sunoco Green E15 fuel,” LaNeve said. “What better than a potential Sunoco Rookie of the Year who helps produce ethanol fuel from home? We think he’s such a compelling NASCAR story.”
Off the track, the 19-year-old loves to mentor his younger siblings to help further their racing careers and has a big piece of advice for anyone who hopes to make a future in NASCAR.
“The biggest thing is you gotta make the most of every opportunity. I’ve had some races where I’ve won that I didn’t think were that big of a deal, but you grow up and people watch that stuff. You’ve gotta make a name for yourself and try not to tear up stuff and just make the most of every opportunity you get.”
In addition to mentoring his younger siblings, Armstrong enjoys working out, playing video games with his friends and watching football—namely the Indianapolis Colts.
“I think you have to be a Colts fan if you’re in Indianapolis. I think it’s against the law to not be. I’ve always watched the Colts, so I’m a big fan of theirs. They play really well every year so it’s hard not to be a fan of them.”
The Coca-Cola 200 presented by Hy-Vee also happens to fall on Armstrong’s 20th birthday, and he hopes for a solid run while gaining experience behind the wheel.
“Hopefully we can go out and run in the top 10 all day and come home with a top 10 finish. ThorSport gives me the opportunity to do that. I’m pretty confident that we can go out and have a good run.”
And judging by his past performance at Iowa—a sixth and a fourth in two starts—it’s likely he’ll manage a solid top-10 finish, especially with a little help from his teammates.
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