BARBERVILLE, Fla. – Since winning the inaugural Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout finale last January, Tyler Clem has climbed back behind the wheel of his No. 14 sprint car roughly a dozen times.
However, despite his limited sprint car appearances, two of the races Clem ran were during Volusia Speedway Park’s Battle in Barberville 360 sprint car event in December.
Those two races are starts that Clem hopes give him an advantage over the full-time national drivers he’ll be up against during the second annual Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout, Jan. 25-27.
“It’s tough. I don’t race much with those guys either,” Clem said. “They race every weekend. I’m lucky to race once or twice a month in this thing. They’re the best in the world for a reason, obviously. They’ve won Outlaw races. They’ve won big races like that.
“Obviously, the confidence that we got from winning the race [last January] and having the speed that we do here helps us, for sure. I think we’ll be fine when that time comes and do what we do this year.”
While his overall track time in a sprint car might not match drivers like Austin McCarl, Justin Peck or Ryan Timms, Clem – a Florida native from St. Petersburg – considers Volusia a home track.
He has five wins at the half-mile dirt track, including three last year – his Southern Sprint Car Shootout win, a Top Gun Sprint Car Series win and a 604 late model victory.
Home-field advantage played a part in Clem’s Sprint Car Shootout win last year, but he acknowledged a bit of luck did too. After drawing the pole for the 30-lap race, he launched ahead of the field on the start and never looked back.
Because of that, Clem benefited from clean air all race, never struggling with the aerodynamics of having to pass another car. However, experience in traffic came during December’s Battle in Barberville. Clem finished third the first night and then second the next, having to race his way from sixth both nights.
“You’re at a half-mile here, so it is very aero dependent,” he explained. “Once you get racing with guys, you’re not in clean air and the car handles different.
“You’re going to get the best guys in the world coming for [the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout], kind of like there was this year,” Clem continued. “Definitely getting laps [during the Battle in Barberville] can build your notebook for that weekend.”
To Clem, his Southern Sprint Car Shootout victory ranks atop all other accomplishments.
“It’s the biggest win of my career,” he said in victory lane that night.
With nearly 50 cars set to tackle the 2024 edition of the event, which features three days of racing and the biggest purse in United Sprint Car Series history – including a $10,000-to-win finale – Clem is eager to put his notebook to work for another big night.
“Everybody is excited for that race,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest 360 race you’ll have around this area. I feel like the quality of cars that come here for this race in January are better than [what’s at East Bay]. You have Ryan Timms and [Ricky Stenhouse Jr.] and all these guys that are going to show up for that race, guys that run 410s.
“The quality of the field is going to be really good, and we’ll just try to do what we did [in 2023].”
For those unable to be at Volusia Speedway Park to take in the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout in person, every lap of all three days can be streamed on DIRTVision.
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