Nascars Launching Pad

If you’re looking for a future NASCAR star, take a good look around the Midwest, specifically on the RE/MAX Challenge Series. This late model stock car touring circuit has consistently pumped out driver after driver who has made it up the ranks of big league stock car racing.

The RE/MAX Series was born in 1975 as the ARTGO Challenge Series and grew into one of the most popular and successful late model tours in the country. Started by a racing entrepreneur by the name of Art Frigo (who combined his first and last names to create the circuit’s title), ARTGO really hit its stride under the guidance of John and Sue McKarns. Their hard work, dedication and true understanding of what both competitors and fans alike want in a racing series brought ARTGO out of the shadows of its Midwestern roots and into the national spotlight.

The folks at NASCAR headquarters took notice and purchased ARTGO in 1998, re-christening it as the RE/MAX Challenge Series. The circuit became one of its nine regional touring circuits around the country and its rules were modified to parallel the Slim Jim All-Pro Series, Raybestos Northwest Tour and Featherlite Southwest Tour.

The Series schedule was also given a makeover. In addition to its traditional stops at such historic tracks as Illinois’ Rockford Speedway and Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway and Lake Geneva Raceway, NASCAR brought the series to more prominent facilities. Suddenly the RE/MAX tour was competing as an under card to the Craftsman Trucks and even the Busch Series at places like Gateway Int’l Raceway, Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway and the new Chicago Motor Speedway.

Some of the circuit’s stars in its early days have gone on to become household names; Dick Trickle, Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin all cut their teeth in the series before moving on to Winston Cup fame and stardom. In the 1980s and early 90s, another new crop of drivers including Ted Musgrave, Rich Bickle and Bryan Reffner came through on their way to competing in the Busch Series, Winston Cup and Craftsman Trucks.

Now the latest group of young guns is ready for the chance at making it in the big-time. Nathan Haseleu has been tabbed by Jack Roush to fill one of his vacated Craftsman Truck seats and will team up with modified pilot Chuck Hossfeld in 2001. Travis Kvapil is also making the move to the truck series and will take over the No. 60 entry from Winston Cup-bound Andy Houston. And Jamie McMurray is the choice to replace the departing Casey Atwood in the Brewco Motorsports No. 27 Busch Series ride next season.

Time will tell if this trio reaches the same heights as its famous predecessors. But should any of them make it, they’ll owe a bit of thanks to the foresight and devotion of the Frigo and McKarns families.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000

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