NORWAY — When the Oxford Acceleration Series was born in 1998, it was clear the group of entry-level classes within its ranks would cultivate talent for years to come.
Another fine example of that talent is 28-year-old Dustin Salley, of Norway. Now in his sixth season of competition, the 2013 Rebel class champion is enjoying another rock-solid season, one that might possibly result in a second title.
“I have a great group of guys that help me out,” Salley said. “I have Kyle Hewins, for one, who is second on the all-time list with 19 wins in the Rebels.
“Kyle knows these four-cylinder engines and Honda CRX cars like the back of his hand; probably better than anybody else. The combined experience and talent behind me is why we’re having such a strong run in 2015.”
“I also have Shaun Hinkley, who has a ton of knowledge and a great deal of success with this type of car.
Many race fans think that since Wednesday night teams have less money involved in their programs, they don’t have to put in as many hours to keep their cars competitive.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
“If you want to be consistent and fast every time out, you still have to do your work on the car during the week,” Salley added.
“I have some reliable crew members I can depend on, people like Scott Horne, for example, that are there every week without fail. It’s the guys around me who keep me headed in the right direction and contending for wins and a title.”
Salley hasn’t always been a Runnin’ Rebels man. In fact, on two occasions, he tested the waters in another division. The record books show he notched an Outlaw victory in 2011.
“Last year, I gave the Outlaw class another try for the second time since I began racing,” Salley said. “The first time I ran that division in 2011, I won Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
“I only ran five or six races in 2014; that whole rear-wheel-drive thing just catches me every time. “The front-wheel-drive Rebel is what I’m used to; it’s simply where I’m most comfortable.”
These days, the Rebel class is loaded with talent and carries a high car count. Recording wins and top five finishes is a challenge.
In his most recent outing last Wednesday night, Salley finished second. Another week, another top-three finish. It was the kind of consistent run he needed as the season begins to wind down.
“When you have guys like Jamie Heath running your class, winning is never going to be easy. That man has talent; he’s one of the top contenders. When you look in your mirror and see Jamie, you know he’s a threat to pass.
“Beyond him, you’ve got guys like Cody Childs, Nate Dubuc, Cam Childs and Shaun Hinkley, they’re all fast. “You have to get to the front before they do, or you’re out of contention.”
Throughout this season and throughout 2014, we’ve documented how many current drivers running Super Late Models or ACT-style Late Models graduated from Karts and Legends about the same time.
Now take a look at the alumni from Rebels and the Outlaw class and notice the trend. Yes, a lot of today’s winners spent their formative years learning how to race on Wednesday nights at Oxford.
“It’s amazing when I look around and see how many of those guys I either raced against or know from the Acceleration Series,” Salley said. “I’ve always felt the Rebels were full of talent, and the record books prove I’m right.
“A lot of drivers came out of the Wednesday night program and are doing well on Saturday nights. “I haven’t had the opportunity to move up like some guys have, but I’m thankful to be running a competitive program. we have a great group of guys in this class. They run hard, yet they respect each other enough to keep it clean. It’s still a blast here.”
It’s refreshing to hear a racer that is content where he or she is at the moment; giving their best in whatever class they’re in.
Salley is kind of like a big fish in a busy pond; hoping to come out on top.
“I’d like to think we can maintain this level of performance for the balance of 2015 and earn another championship,” Salley said. “I’ve got the support behind me to do it; and a big group of fans who cheer me on every week. I always strive to do well for my team and those loyal fans. I’m hoping we can stay on track and secure that title.”