First, let’s take a look back at his 2017 racing results. Well, actually there’s nothing to find. The 2016 Pure Stock rookie of the year was put on double parental probation for a dirt road incident in his mother’s minivan. They revoked his privilege to race in 2017. All he could do was stand on the sidelines, atone for his mistake and build a hunger to race.
The layoff didn’t hurt the home-schooled youngster a bit, though. He finished the 2018 season with two wins, eight top 5s, never finished out of the top 10 and wound up third in points, just four points out of second.
“Last year was a learning year for me. There was a lot of learning the race track after the repave (he was idle the first season after South Boston’s repave). Everybody else had a year’s head start on that,” said the son of Mark and Marie Pickrel of Keeling. “I feel like I caught on pretty quick and it catered to my driving style. I learned a lot about the car, the track and kept getting better.”
The 19-year-old Pickrel believes last year’s learning experience should put him in good position for the 2019 season.
“I think I kind of figured out how to run for a championship,” said Pickrel, who receives sponsorship help from Commonwealth Driver Improvement and Midnight Performance. “Hopefully this is the year we will be able to challenge for a championship. I told my dad I want to go in to the season with the idea of winning every practice, every pole and every race.”
Pickrel is in a bit of unique position to learn almost as much off the track as on. He’s in his fifth year of working at Sellers Racing, a job he had on a part time basis throughout high school and became fulltime after graduation last summer.
“Working with Peyton (Sellers) and H.C. (Sellers) helps me so much. (Because of work) I’ve had the privilege to hang out with some pretty awesome drivers like Peyton and Matt (Bowling) and Lee (Pulliam) and Philip (Morris) at the track a lot and you pick up a lot of things,” said Pickrel. “When you are around people like that, you can ask them a lot of questions and you pick up some stuff subconsciously.”
It could be another learning season for Pickrel. While he intends to chase the Pure Stock points championship, he could wind up behind the wheel of a Late Model Stock car a couple of times.
“(Late Model owner) Eric Winslow is looking for me to make a couple of starts in one of his late models here when he’s racing somewhere else,” said Pickrel. “I look forward to getting my feet wet in Late Models. I don’t see ourselves contending or being in the middle of things, but just trying to get comfortable.”
The 2019 South Boston Speedway season will kick off on Saturday, March 16 with the Danville Toyota NASCAR Twin Late Model 100s, an afternoon of racing featuring twin 100-lap Late Model races, a 50-lap Limited Sportsman race, a 30-lap Pure Stock race and a 15-lap Hornets race.
Tickets are $10 for adults with children 12-and-under admitted free with a paying adult.