Teenage phenomenon and 2002 Sunoco Super Series Champion Joel Kauffman is heading to the land of USAR Pro Cup Racing, a surprising announcement after being groomed for ASA by no other than Scott Hansen. Kauffman and Team LA West will battle it out for Rookie of the Year honors in the Northern Division of the Pro Cup Series in 2003.
The decision was made for the future and centers more about cars than just exposure time.
"My dad and I sat down and talked about it last season after we ran those few ASA races," said Kauffman. "The way we see it is we want to move up
In the battle for tomorrow's racing superstars, chalk one up for USAR.
as fast as we can in the racing world, so we were trying to decide if it would be ASA or Hooters next, because when we move past one of those series, the next step would be to an ARCA car or Craftsman truck or Busch car and that would be a lot closer to a Hooters car than an ASA car.
"We looked at the ASA Series as being a step higher than the Hooters Series, with the television package and the exposure they get, but at the same time, with the three races I ran in ASA, I just didn't think that car was the right direction to go. Going to a narrower wheel base and less horsepower wasn't as fun as a late model, and it was drastically different than the next level up.
"If we were able to put together something with a Busch, Truck or ARCA team, we feel that we would be better prepared after spending some time in Hooters cars rather than the ASA route."
The 17-year-old Kauffman will try to follow Brian Ross' run from SSS Champ to Pro Cup rookie.
For Kauffman, it wasn't as much of a tough choice, but he wanted to run it by the man footing the bill, his father Vern. In the racing business, how well you can drive can be just as important as how often people see you.
"I asked my dad if the exposure difference between the two concerned him and he said the way he looked at it was if someone at a higher level was looking to fill a ride, they are going to do more research into it than just what they see on TV. So it was an easy choice to go this route because of the closeness between these cars and an ARCA or Busch car.
"If we kept moving up, we would have to keep relearning things about these racecars and we don't need to be doing that."
But the move to the Pro Cup Series won't keep Kauffman out of the ASA or the SSS series in 2003. The team still has their ASA and SSS cars and will be running any of the three series whenever they can.
"The Sunoco Series is trying to put some races together to be a support series to ASA, so we would like to try to do some of those races. We would like to try to do Nashville, Salem and maybe Toledo."
For now, the 17-year-old Kauffman will try to follow the footsteps of former SSS Champion Brian Ross. Ross was believed to be heading to ASA after his 2001 SSS Championship, but changed directions and headed to the Pro Cup Series, where he captured the Series' Rookie of the Year title and the Northern Division Championship.
Kauffman hopes to rely on Brian for guidance since the situations are so similar.
"I have talked to Brian Ross a lot. I was able to see what he was able to do; now I hope to be able to do the same thing, but I am not going to judge my season off of his. I just want to use Brian as a guide and a mentor of sorts. I will rely on him a lot. He was always willing to take time and talk to me and help me out.
Kauffman will hopefully make his Pro Cup debut in just over a month at Lakeland (FL). Kauffman will run the entire Northern Series schedule and some select races on the South schedule, specifically those that host Championship Series races later in the year.
"If we can get the cars together and get some tests in there, we are gong to try and make the Lakeland opener. If not, we will run Pensacola. We will try to run at Peach State and Myrtle Beach as well."
It should be interesting and we wish Joel the best of luck.
Kauffman (#44) hopes to still tackle ASA and Late Model events whenever possible.