IndyCar Veteran Davey Hamilton Brings King of the Wing Sprints to Five Flagsadmin
Davey Hamilton has been to Five Flags Speedway before.
It was two seasons ago when the former Indy Racing League IndyCar Series stalwart helped ring in Opening Night in Pensacola with a host of winged pavement sprints.
It was a milestone night for the veteran driver who qualified and competed in 11 Indianapolis 500s, his highest finish coming in 1998 when he came home fourth as Eddie Cheever enjoyed a milk-soaked victory.
Hamilton, 52, returns to the famed half-mile asphalt oval this Friday for another opening night, as Five Flags gets its 2015 schedule started with a bang.
This time, though, the Jamestown, Ind., resident will be running the show as Hamilton brings his fledgling “King of the Wing” series and the nation’s top winged sprints drivers back to Pensacola.
“It was one of our goals to compete at quality racetracks,” Hamilton said of the series in just its second year. “We’re really trying to make sure we can be at tracks where we can perform well for fans, and Five Flags is the perfect spot.”
King of the Wing holds the distinction as being the only pavement national touring series currently competing.
After an inaugural run throughout California and the midwest, Hamilton has expanded his circuit to include the southeast and the northeast.
Thanks to several years of research and development, studying precisely what type of restrictor would be needed to even the 410 cubic-inch (ci) engines and the 360 ci engines, Hamilton believes he has established a fair package of rules that levels the playing field.
“You have to make sure to treat everyone fairly,” said Hamilton, who said some drivers Friday will run only 410s, some only 360s while some will challenge each other. “We’ve got drivers from West Canada, California, Washington, Florida, Idaho — no matter where you’re from, our rules are the same for everybody. That’s the key.
“The best-of-the-best have an opportunity to compete with this series.”
The sprints will be joined Friday by three local classes — Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bombers — which will ring in the new season at Five Flags after a practice session last month.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with racing begin promptly at 8 following qualifying sessions for the sprints and Super Stocks.
Admissions is as follows: $20 for adults; $15 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; free for kids 5 and under.
Hamilton’s short-track roots run deep. The Idaho native still occasionally competes in super modified events, and he takes tremendous pride in a career that saw him make 56 IndyCar starts.
Hamilton is also a walking miracle. At an IndyCar race in 2001 at Texas Motor Speedway, he was involved in one of his sport’s most gruesome accidents.
The subsequent injuries left his lower extremities mangled and doctors feared amputation might be needed. Instead, a series of 23 surgeries helped reconstruct Hamilton’s legs and feet and five months following the crash he was standing.
“Making it to IndyCar was the ultimate for me. It’s where I wanted to end up,” he said. “I was fortunate to do it. I had ups and downs, but there are no regrets. I loved every minute of it, and I still do.”
As founder and promoter of King of the Wing, Hamilton won’t drive this Friday or at any of the series’ races.
But his 18-year-old son, Davey Jr., is ready to light up the track, along with other familiar national and local sprint drivers, such as Troy DeCaire, Bobby Santos, Todd Fayard and female driver Sierra Jackson.
“No matter what kinda car you have, there’s an opportunity to win,” said Hamilton, who expects 13 out-of-state cars and 12 Florida sprints to compete Friday night. “Most of our guys come from cold places, so they’re excited to be going. But that might give those Florida drivers a head start.”
In past seasons, as the sprints from other series descended upon Five Flags, much of the interest was topping the track record, an emphasis that often overshadowed the feature itself.
While Hamilton ensures his class of cars will be fast, the King of the Wing sprints will entertain fans from start to finish.
“We want to put on a good race rather than a fast lap,” Hamilton said. “We’ll still be super-fast, but our program tries to focus on good racing.”
The hometown crowd wouldn’t have it any other way.