For the second consecutive year, Michael Waltrip Racing and Peak Performance teamed up to find what they hope to be the next best driver. In last year’s contest, Patrick Staropoli, a man that is attempting to finish medical school after graduating from Harvard University, won it all and earned a chance at racing for Bill McAnally Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
This year’s story is a little different.
Christian PaHud, 21, took home the crown in the competition. PaHud, a rather unknown Late Model racer from Ohio is set to race for McAnally with sponsorship from Peak in a K&N Pro Series West race on Oct. 11 at All American Speedway as a teammate to MWR co-owner Michael Waltrip. Edging out 17 other drivers in the competition, he used his experience on and off the track to show he deserves a chance just like Staropoli.
Since he was a child, the Dayton-native has always been racing. With a family history of competition for wins in a race car, it was only natural for PaHud to get into the seat of one. Throughout the three-day competition, all 18 contestants work on a short track, a road course, a speedway, car control, a dirt track, endurance racing along with marketability.
In an exclusive interview with Speedway Digest, PaHud walks us through his journey in the contest, what the future is like for him, how he got to this point and more.
- What was running through your mind when they told you that you had won the contest?
At first, there wasn’t really much going through my mind. There wasn’t much really to think until I look at my parent’s faces and saw the reaction on their faces. It was just kind of a blank mind. Everything we worked for and have done over the past few years has finally come together. It is working out for the best and hopefully I can use this opportunity to prove that I deserve to be here and I can do what I can do.
- What did it mean for them to see you win the whole thing?
It meant the world to them. We put so much into it. We have taken food off of the table just to get race track at times just so we have that shot to do better on a weekend. It just means so much to me that they have followed me and backed me to this point. They give me a drive to show what I can do and show I have what it takes and show what we have done when we come together.
- What did you learn while working with Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton and Danica Patrick?
All the contestants and everybody talked about how much fun it was for everybody around to have Clint and everybody else around to help out as much as possible, as much as they could. Learning from them was definitely an experience; learning from Danica during the whole press releases and commercial shoots and Clint helping me out on my line. Everything on and off the track; it was just really cool to have that experience to be able to move on to do other racing stuff knowing that they were there to help you and give you what they could
- How did you first find out about the contest?
My cousin gave me a call when he heard about it on the internet. I actually watched it last year and saw they were doing it again this year, and I thought, whether we made it or not, it would be a good opportunity to put my name out there. Making it into the show was accomplishment alone, let alone winning it.
- Going into it, did you think you were going to win it?
At first, it was mainly an exposure thing. There were some great names in the competition, and the more I thought of it and the closer it came time to do it – I thought: why just go into it with the thought of that it’s good exposure? Let’s go out and win this. It worked out for the better. Somehow, we ended up winning it.
- If you didn’t win the contest, what were you going to do?
This wasn’t really a make or break opportunity for me. We were doing all of the stuff on our own and racing as a family. I wasn’t going to end my racing career just because I didn’t win, but it helps me in my racing career either way. It shows millions (of people) that I have what it takes. Even if nothing comes of it past this one race, I’ll still go back to racing as a family and do my own thing.
- Has all of this attention been over whelming for you?
Not necessarily. I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to sit still for very long and I don’t like to hang around and do nothing. Now I actually have a reason to get up and do stuff. I like doing press conferences, radio interviews and phone calls. That kind of keeps me calm and relaxed; getting me ready for the next race to come. It is helping the time pass before my first K&N race, so that way it won’t seem like it takes forever to get here.
- Do you feel like without this chance, you might not have received a chance to race in a NASCAR sanctioned division?
It is kind of debatable. You don’t know what may come and what might not come. At the point in my life that I’m at now, it probably wouldn’t have come in the near future. It definitely helps me to run a NASCAR sanctioned event and get the chance to race in the K&N Series to show what I can do.
- How does your background in racing help prepare you for the next step in your career?
I have raced a little bit of everything. I raced go-karts for 11 years and Legends cars and Late Models. Going from one car to another is hard to do. I guess you can say that going back and forth from car to car is a big step either way. It will help me when it gets time to get into a K&N car. I’ve gone from car to car so much that I’ll be able to pick it up and take over to do what I need to do to get the most out of the car as possible.
- What do you feel like you need to prove when you go out on track?
I really don’t think I have to prove a lot. I don’t know if there are things that really need to be proved. Patrick already showed that this competition really isn’t a joke. This is a racing competition; it’s not just a TV show. He kind of made a little impression on me to do well. Again, I don’t feel that I have to prove that I can do it. Everything will work out sooner or later.
- You see what this contest has done for Patrick Staropoli with the win earlier this year. What can you learn from what he has done on the track?
We have talked quite a bit about what is going to happen in the future and what is going to happen out in California before the race. It is good knowing that I can call him when I need to and talk to him about what is going to happen.
- What’s your ultimate goal for the foreseeable future?
It would be nice to go out and win this race and then maybe make a few more K&N starts here and there if we can. If not, I’d be perfectly fine coming back home and racing with my family.