Burchard is National Point Leader in Wake of Mathis-Stroupe Battle
It’s an age-old story. Veterans don’t like new kids on the block and young kids don’t feel they get the respect they deserve. And while this matter is not as cut and dry as it looks on paper, a battle of the ages is shaping up for the 2006 Aaron’s Pro Challenge Series.
Jason Burchard, the 31-year-old chiropractor, is the National Tour point leader after finishing eighth and second in the first two events of the season, held during “Florida Speedweeks” at Orlando Speedworld. Yet, it was the attention given to 52-year-old and three-time Pro Challenge National Champion Terry Mathis and 13-year-old rookie Zach Stroupe that stole the spotlight.
Mathis struggled in the season-opening event and finished 17th, while Stroupe took the lead halfway through the race and appeared to be on his way to his first victory when he ran out of fuel on the final lap and finished second.
The drama hit its peak on the next night. Stroupe won the pole and led the first 33 laps of the 50-lap event. On a restart, the three-time champ was on the back bumper of the 51-Designs car for the 13-year-old. There was contact and the emotion stemming from that contact was felt far after the race.
“We got run into the back by Terry Mathis and it cut the left-rear tire,” said Stroupe, who is now second in the standings, eight points behind Burchard. “We had to sit in the infield for the rest of the race and watch Mathis win it.”
“They only pay for one lap and that’s the last lap,” explained Mathis. “I hate getting into the 51, but he started blocking and you can’t do that in this racing. He cut down to block me and I tried to stay off of him, but the car behind me picked me up and we got together.”
“Our car would take a couple laps to get going, but that was the first time he had been near me,” continued Stroupe. “He got his nose up under my bumper and he turned me right around. I ended up saving it, but it cut the left rear tire and we were done. I think somebody is getting mad because a little kid was beating him.”
Stroupe and Mathis do have some history. During a regional Pro Challenge event at Friendship Speedway last November, Stroupe led 47 circuits of the 50-lap event before contact with Mathis. The national champ went on to win the race and Stroupe finished third.
“We had something similar happen at Friendship. It took me 47 laps to get around him there,” commented Mathis, who is third in national championship points. “Sometimes you gotta learn, you can’t win ‘em all, sometimes you gotta get second. When a faster car is behind ya, sometimes you gotta let him go.
Mathis' #71 machine ready to race
“He’s a great driver. He’s gonna do real well. He’s just young and has a few things to learn. I enjoy racing with him, but I’m just glad I could take the win (at Orlando).”
“I won’t do anything different on the racetrack, but that gives me more incentive to try to beat him,” said Stroupe. “He was nice to me in the couple races I ran last year, but once he saw I could beat him, I guess he got mad. It’s competitive between us, but it’s also a fun rivalry.”
Both Stroupe and Mathis plan on competing for the Aaron’s Pro Challenge National Championship, but right now they have something in common; both are chasing Burchard for the title after two events.
“From my perspective, being right there in the middle of the age range, I find it very interesting and challenging to race against guys like Terry and Zach,” Burchard explained. “It’s not Terry’s first rodeo; he’s been there and done that in the racing world. Zach has done a lot and raced very well for his age. You’ve got a lot of kids out there that are young and energetic.
"I think the young kids do have some things in their favor. Even though they may not have the wisdom that an older guy may have, they have that ‘no fear’ attitude. There’s something to be said for that. That’s not saying that they’re not smart about it, but they have the attitude that this is their life right now and this is what charges their batteries and gets them out of bed everyday.”
The next Pro Challenge Series National event is the Aaron’s Dixie Challenge, March 11th, at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, GA.
Burchard hasn't been a part of the Mathis-Stroupe battles and it has paid off with the point lead