Troy DeCaire. (David Sink photo)

Travelin’ Troy, Part I

“Travelin’ Troy” DeCaire. That’s a nickname DeCaire picked up in 2010 from then-Hoosier Outlaw Sprint Series and Must See Racing announcer Scott Stine.

The nickname is fitting, generally summing up a constant theme in the 34-year-old’s racing career. Maybe it was even more so in 2019, as DeCaire traveled to nearly every corner of the country to compete on the asphalt in winged sprint cars.

DeCaire had a banner year in 2019, capturing a total of 10 winged 360 asphalt sprint car victories. His 10 wins led the country, giving him the honor of being the year’s winningest pavement sprint car chauffeur.

In addition, he claimed the BG Products Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series championship, and also ranked 13th in the 2019 360 National Sprint Car Poll.

His 10 wins came in only 13 starts. Ten wins may not seem substantial, but when you put it into that context it is quite remarkable.

An asphalt sprint car driver only competes in about a third of the events that his dirt counterparts do, due to the fact that there aren’t as many asphalt sprint car events as what dirt drivers enjoy.

From his birth on Jan. 21, 1986 in Tampa, Fla., DeCaire was destined to be involved in the sport in some capacity. His father, Terry DeCaire, was a very successful dirt late model driver in the central Florida area, competing regularly at East Bay Raceway.

Meanwhile, his mother – Sandra Phillips DeCaire – was a former trophy girl at the now-defunct Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa.

DeCaire grew up at East Bay, where his father regularly raced each weekend. But it was the sprint cars that caught his attention.

“My father raced late models, but I liked the sprints cars because they were like bull riders,” Troy shared. “My uncle, Red Kunstbeck, was a sprint car racer. Late models would be out and I would be playing football or running under the bleachers. The second I heard a sprint car push off I was catching tear-offs at that point.

“I never missed a sprint car feature, ever.”

But it was on the asphalt that DeCaire would shine, although his asphalt debut was not by plan.

“We had this big kart race at Sam Rodriguez’s track (Dirt Devil Speedway) in Tampa. It was a big deal. It was called a Grand state race, which was just a state race. A lot of guys from North Carolina and Georgia were there. Trevor Bayne and a bunch of big names were there. Me and my sister Traci were both running,” DeCaire noted. “I sat on the pole in every class. We were the only locals doing good that weekend. I think I won three out of the four events; we took home a pretty decent amount of money that day.”

At the end of the day a gentleman approached DeCaire.

“This guy starts talking and introduces himself to me as Skeeter Faulconer. He asks me if I wanna drive a sprint car. I said of course I wanna drive a sprint car. After he got to talking to my dad and sister he was like, ‘Having a girl driver would be great,’ and offered the ride to her first. When he found out I had a sister, there was very little interest in me at that point.

“He then starts asking her to test at Citrus County Speedway and I’m listening to all this and thinking, ‘This is my sister’s deal and not even mine.’ I then said, ‘Citrus County is a pavement track,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I have pavement sprint cars.’ He told me to bring my helmet, too, because he would let me make some laps.”

When the family arrived at Citrus County Speedway for the test, DeCaire was caught off-guard by Faulconer’s sprinter.

“We came walking through the pit gate and it had a wing on it, and I said, ‘What the hell’s that’? I knew about the Tampa Bay Area Racing Ass’n (TBARA), but it never occurred to me that they ran winged sprint cars on pavement. I thought sprint cars on pavement were like USAC stuff. I was only focused on kart stuff.

“Traci goes out there and makes two or three rounds; she was doing alright and looked decent. They let me go out one time and I was pretty quick. I was a little out of control the first couple times I got on the gas. After the test, Skeeter says there was a race Saturday in Cordele, Ga. My dad said Traci’s not ready to race it because she’s got some go-kart stuff, so they asked me if I wanted to race it.”

DeCaire’s first sprint car start came on Oct. 18, 2003 at that TBARA event in Cordele. He started last, as TBARA rules dictated that drivers start at the tail throughout their rookie season.

“I stayed on the lead lap almost the whole race. I started 24th and finished 11th,” he remembered. “The next race, at Bronson, Fla., I finished second to Dave Steele in a heat race. I finished ninth in the feature and didn’t get lapped.”

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