For 39-year-old Oakdale resident, Austin Sprague, Las Vegas has been a major roadblock in his dirt racing career. The 2002 Oakdale High School graduate and former Mustang wrestler has been racing for four years now and is now considered one of the top racers in the sport. In order to achieve such praise, he had to gain the upper hand at a track that has not been kind to him in the past: Las Vegas.
Recently, Sprague traveled to Vegas to compete in the three-day event known as the Duel In The Desert for Sport Compact Division racing. He claimed first place all three nights to become champion at this 26th annual duel.
“It was a special moment for me. On Friday night following the race I felt like I finally did it, but knew I had to win on Saturday to close it out,” Sprague explained.
He finished first in the 15-lap race.
The track, which is dirt, is a half mile long, the longest track in the region. Usually, the track is a quarter mile long.
Sprague said Las Vegas is his favorite track but has also been his nemesis in recent history.
“In 2022 I rolled the car on the first lap. It rolled nine times going 88 miles per hour and luckily I escaped with no injuries. The year before I went and on race day I got very sick and could not compete. This year, I knew I wanted to win and that I was determined to do it,” Sprague said.
When he was seven years old, he attended his first race. He was hooked ever since and grew up a ‘car guy.
“After that race I became a car guy. I became fascinated with cars and speed and how they worked,” he said.
Four years ago, he bought a car and decided to fulfill his dream and compete.
“I bought a car and attended a race and I paid my entry fee and competed. I had no experience or real knowledge of what I was doing. But I haven’t looked back since.”
Today he drives a 2004 Accura RXX to race in.
“We go about 80 to 85 miles per hour in dirt. It is a challenge. It is much more of a challenge than asphalt racing,” Sprague said. “The big difference is that in asphalt the track is consistent and after a lap or so you can adjust. In dirt it changes every second. New divots in the track, potholes and other debris.”
He encourages anyone who wants to join the sport to do so.
“It is not that expensive to compete. Many drivers use a car that is not too expensive and the entry fee to compete is $50 a race.”
First place is typically a $1,000 payout, he added.
Sprague would also like to encourage racing fans to attend events again, getting back to the level of a few years ago.
“Prior to COVID, fans would pack the stands. However, I do not feel like racing fans know that the sport is around and that we do compete locally on a regular basis,” Sprague said. “It is only about $10 to $15 to attend on average and we race in Merced and Manteca along with other surrounding areas. It is a great, inexpensive way to be entertained.”
The next season starts in March of 2024 but for Sprague the preparation for next season starts now.
“I do not take time off to be honest. I work on my car, try and prep as much as I can. The racing season starts up in the spring but I want to make 2024 my best year yet.”
Sprague’s primary sponsor is Ability Ambeck Mortgage. He also wanted to thank his family and his pit crew for all of the support and for helping him be successful on the track.