Story By: JUSTIN SNYDER / RPW – DOVER, PA – In October of 2016, Austin Hogue sent shockwaves through the Central Pennsylvania pit area when he announced that at the age of 25 he was walking away from the sport of sprint car racing.
After nearly 16 years of running go-carts, Allison Legacy Series asphalt cars, 358 Sprint Cars and 410 Sprint Cars, Hogue and his family owned team were burned out from the weekly grind the sport presented.
“I remember sitting on the front porch with my family making the decision on what we were going to do for 2017,” said Hogue, a 2-time 410 winner at Lincoln Speedway and 1-time 410 winner at Williams Grove Speedway. “I remember thinking that I still have the passion and love for racing but I was being drawn in two directions.”
“I am a very competitive person and want to perform at the top level and have success in racing, but trying to juggle racing and growing in our family business was too much to do both at the level I wanted,” continued Hogue.
He put all of his equipment up for sale and focused on working for his family business as the Operation Support Manager at BAPS Auto Paints & Supply. Continuing to attend races at various local speedways and through the various sponsorships BAPS provided to different race teams and tracks, Hogue stayed close to the sport though.
“I have always had a passion for driving racecars and it is as strong today as it has ever been,” said Hogue. “I remember saying to my family that if I could find the right owner like Jerry (Parish) that would allow me to focus on just driving hard and getting the most out of the car, I would jump at the opportunity. Never actually thinking it would come”
Nearly a year to the day he announced the end of his driving career, the opportunity would pop up that would bring him back to the drivers seat.
“My uncle Dean came into a meeting I was in and mentioned to me that he had just finished a conversation with Jerry Parrish and that he had casually inquired about what I was doing these days and if maybe I’d be interested in running a few shows,” said Hogue, referring to the owner of the Premier Racing Team piloted by Brian Montieth. “Once he said that I was pretty much worthless in terms of productivity in that meeting. I wasn’t sure if he was messing with me or something, but all I was thinking about was calling Jerry.”
After a few conversations back and forth, the duo put a plan in place for Hogue to pilot a second #21 car for seven races in 2018 at Lincoln Speedway. Hogue chose the Abbotstown speedway for his return to the sport due to his familiarity with the track and the teams past success there with Montieth.
“If I’m going to get the opportunity to drive one of the champions cars, I might as well run it at a track where I know we can have success, “referring to Montieth, who is the defending track champion at Lincoln and has won a total of 55 races there. “Jerry, Brian and that whole team are extremely professional and have been winning and performing for years at Lincoln, so I can’t wait to get started and have the opportunity to drive that car.”
The current plan is to run the 7 races and to re-evaluate where things are. Depending on performance, how the team gels, and where the team sits in terms of equipment there is the possibility the deal could extend throughout the 2018 racing season for more races.
However even if it’s only for a few races and nothing more, it’s the opportunity to drive alongside of his racing hero Montieth as a teammate in a 21 car that has Hogue most excited.
“I probably have just about every shirt he’s ever put out hanging in my closet and I’ve always really admired his driving style and just him as a competitor,” said Hogue of Montieth. “I’ve gotten to race alongside of him for a few years now, but to have the chance to learn from him and drive that 21 car is really surreal. I keep pinching myself knowing that this isn’t a dream.”
While he’s not sure if his plans going forward will have him behind the wheel of a sprint car or not after this season, he’s planning to take advantage of what he considers an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m really honored and thankful that Jerry thought of me and is giving me this opportunity,” said Hogue. “I’m just going to soak this all in and take it one race at a time. If we can have some fun and run well, it’ll be amazing no matter how many races we run. I’m really pumped up about this deal and I can’t wait to get 2018 started.”