De Caire Hopes to Maintain Torrid Pace as Wide-Open Winged Sprints Invade Five Flags  

De Caire Hopes to Maintain Torrid Pace as Wide-Open Winged Sprints Invade Five Flags  

 

By Chuck Corder 

Troy De Caire is fearless each time he climbs inside a winged sprint. 

The 35-year-old spends his Friday nights and weekends flying around dirt and asphalt racetracks across the country, careening at speeds of 150 mph and higher in the UFO-looking machines. De Caire’s devil-may-care attitude has made him one of the most respected winged sprints drivers in the sport. 

But when he returns to his native Tampa Bay, De Caire takes a backseat to all three of his sons—Beau, Emerson, and Tripp. 

It’s De Caire’s youngest, Tripp, giving him hell on this day. Not letting dear old dad get a word in edgewise, three-year-old Tripp is his father’s mirror image and is owning him as De Caire tries to answer each question thoughtfully. 

“People say that (Tripp) acts like me, but I’m not a huge fan of that,” De Caire teases. “He’s with me all day, every day, and always right in my face. He’s wide open.” 

In that respect, Tripp is exactly like his father when De Caire slides into a winged sprint. He only knows one speed and that’s full throttle.  

De Caire will be part of a blockbuster winged sprints field this Friday at Five Flags Speedway. The sprints will try to topple a seven-year-old track record in qualifying, battle in eight-lap heats, and then race 40 laps for a checkered. The Modifieds of Mayhem (50 laps) and the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks (25) complete Friday’s lineup. 

Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday and qualifying for the Mods and Pure Stocks starts at 7. The sprints will get their two qualifying laps and take their shots at the track record once racing festivities begin at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military, and students; and free for children ages 11-and-under. 

“Pensacola is the only track in Florida that I have not won at,” De Caire said. “I’ve been leading there, set the track record there, but I can’t seem to get one. Everything that could happen to me in Pensacola has happened—blown motors, wheels falling off, a flat tire while leading.” 

He wants to get the proverbial monkey off his back at the famed half-mile asphalt oval Friday. De Caire hopes the bright orange Statham Construction No. 36 will continue to yield checkered flags. 

Driving for Ken and Theresa Statham, De Caire is on a ridiculous stretch. He approximates that together the trio has won 23 of their last 30 races. 

“They don’t know what reality is,” De Caire said of the Stathams. “They don’t know that it can stink some time when you’re in a slump of not winning. 

“I’m bringing the best racecar I’ve ever taken (to Five Flags), and by far the best engine I’ve ever had because of the Stathams.” 

De Caire believes Brian Gerster’s track record of 13.046 seconds is in grave danger because of those factors and the Stathams. Gerster set that mark in April 2014. 

“I’m not a track record guy, but I’m coming to Five Flags with the intention to break it. Plus, if anybody should have it, it ought to be me,” De Caire joked. “I’ll be disappointed if I don’t knock it off. I think running in the high-12s is definitely doable. 

“That’s what gets the fans going. The race might stink, but people can always say, ‘I was there the first time the sprints got into the 12s at Pensacola.’ It gives something exciting to those fans who might come out for the sprints but decide to come back next time.” 

And each time De Caire comes to Pensacola’s high banks, he is impressed by the packed grandstands and the local division racing. De Caire has even returned as a fan several times to enjoy the pageantry and spectacle of the Snowball Derby thanks to invitations from the Long family and others. 

He is hopeful and focused on getting the winged sprints to participate in Derby week one of these years. 

“Five Flags is a marquee racetrack you want to win at,” De Caire said. “If you win a race there, people remember it. It’s one of the few places in Florida where the track has a following and fans aren’t necessarily there to see a specific driver. Why not come there and put on a show?” 

This week, though, he’s focused on two other things: a track record and another trip to Victory Lane. 

“I’m still chasing my first win there,” De Caire said. “It’s seven hours away, but it’s still ‘home-ish.’ Plus, there are a lot worse things I could be doing. It beats digging a ditch. And, when a kid runs up, I might as well be an astronaut. I can trick a 5-year-old thinking I’m cool for a minute.” 

He’s still working on convincing Tripp, though.