Two Development Drivers Hit Gold in the 2023-24 Seasons

Madi Turley won her first race in this Dodge Challenger R/T - Stephanie Phillips photo
Madi Turley won her first race in this Dodge Challenger R/T – Stephanie Phillips photo

Nearly every aspiring race car driver needs an “angel” of some sort to assist them on the tough climb to professional status. Going through racing schools and getting into youth racing sports like Jr Dragsters and racing karts in a variety of formulae are normally the way to get started.

David H. Davies takes the next generation of racers seriously. In 2022, he began David H Davies Racing Developmental Driver program, concentrating on 16-year-old Madi Turley. Turley won her first race since joining the program on Saturday, August 12 at Bristol Dragway. Competing in the Street Car Takeover, she drove her Dodge Challenger R/T to the win after two qualifying sessions and three rounds of eliminations in the Women & Wheels category.

The high school student from Rutledge, Tennessee almost missed the event. “We had the car getting tuned up in North Carolina and had just gotten it back right before the Bristol race,” Turley said. She and her family had canceled plans to compete in this race but changed their minds: “We decided to just see what could happen.”

Bristol is the young driver’s home track. “I love racing at Bristol Dragway. I got my NHRA license there and we were just at the Thunder Valley Nationals earlier this year… so we took a chance” and brought the Challenger out to compete. Turley races with support from her father Mark and mother Kennetha. She was joined at this event by brother Josh and sister-in-law Leva, allowing the family to celebrate in the winner’s circle.

Turley and dad Mark embrace after her win – Turley family photo

“It was amazing to have so much of my family at the track. My brother and his wife work a lot, so that was really special,” she confirmed. “My dad and mom have been so supportive, just seeing their reaction when I got that trophy was almost better than seeing that win light in the final round. I have to thank all our sponsors and also David Davies. I don’t think I would have gotten to a winner’s circle this quickly without his support.”

Of course Davies gave her a congratulatory phone call. The Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown competitor and driving force behind the DHDR Developmental Driver program reached out to Turley earlier this season, wanting to provide assistance and direction to the young MOPAR driver. This is the first win for the DHDR program and Davies sees many more in the future, as well as the addition of new drivers to the program.

“Madi showed me that she has the determination and the drive to be a really good racer. Her program just needed some assistance,” Davies said. “We helped her make some connections, but also gave her some encouragement off the track and introduced her to other drivers. I think helping her build her own network, assisting her with some sponsor connections we had, and really giving her the confidence to just go out there and race helped make this happen. I could not be more proud of her and I know there are more wins down the road.”

To gain her first class victory, Turley had to overcome some tough competition. She outran three worthy competitors in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and, in the final round was up against a supercharged Holden. Her consistent quickness on the tree overcame some tune-up issues to race for the victory. “With the new tune-up, Madi’s shift points changed, so she was a little off on her burnouts. Still, she was consistently off which is kind of funny,” her mom Kennetha noted. “The car ran consistent numbers on the track and Madi just kept doing her thing. We could not be more proud and we are very thankful to David Davies and to all our sponsors.”

Turley’s next outing takes place September 15-17, when she competes in the fourth annual MoParty at Beech Bend Raceway in Richardsville, Kentucky.

Sebastian Wheldon is working his way up the racing ladder – Skip Barber Race School photo

Madi Turley wasn’t the only young driver to find success over the weekend. Sebastian Wheldon is currently racing as a development driver with the Andretti Autosport team his late father was scheduled to rejoin before his premature death in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dan Wheldon won his first Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport in 2005; his second, in 2011, came with Bryan Herta Autosport. Sebastian Wheldon won two Skip Barber Formula Race Series contests over the weekend – his second and third victories – since joining the series.

The 14-year-old elder son of the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner claimed victory in two races on the historic, recently repaved Road America road course over the weekend of August 11-13, making the championship battle in the Skip Barber Race Series even closer. “All sixteen drivers in the field deserve credit,” the series remarked, “as the Skip Barber Race Series was the only series to not bring out a full-course yellow in any session of the weekend.”

Michael Andretti announced Sebastian and his younger brother Oliver as development drivers in 2021; they have raced karts and this is Sebastian’ first season in a race car. At the time Michael Andretti noted, “Dan was family to us, and we had a lot of on-track success together. We see a lot of Dan in both Sebastian and Oliver, and are very proud to officially welcome them into our racing family.”

When he won his second Indianapolis 500 in 2011, Dan Wheldon quipped that he needed two victories so that both of his sons could have their own “Baby Borg” BorgWarner replica trophies. It looks like both of his sons are working their ways towards earning their own “Baby Borg” trophies in the next decade.

About Anne Proffit 1174 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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