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Aussies Tackle the Hell Tour
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Highway to Hell: Aussies Tackle the Hell Tour

Originally Published in Dirt Empire Magazine – Issue 11

It’s without a doubt public knowledge that the decision to run the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, aptly called the “Hell Tour” is not for the weak. The 2022 schedule throws back to a more traditional format of its early years and has teams chasing 32 races in just 40 days. For most of the tour, that is racing six nights a week while maintaining both maintenance on the car, rigs, travel to and from the tracks, and obviously the best part, racing against some of the best of the best the Midwest has to offer. With drivers like Nick Hoffman and Bobby Pierce making race headlines nightly from being undefeated or coming from the back of the pack to win, it’s quite easy to get caught up in just the headlines and miss the rest of the incredible details that make up just how truly passionate race teams are about committing to surviving a grueling schedule during the hottest days of the Midwestern summer.

After two years, the tour has seen the return of the only Australian race team to compete on the Hell Tour, now finally free from border restrictions to continue with their love of the struggles and accomplishment that comes from the Hell Tour commitment. The Bar 31 late model isn’t hard to miss on any pit walk, accompanied by a young crew of Kye Blight, Joe Chalmers, and Jayke Malcom and piloted by veteran driver Paul Stubber, with the unique exception that on nights the team competes with the World of Outlaws (like the Eldora Million) Kye Blight takes the seat. Kye isn’t the only crew member to be familiar with piloting a late model, as Chalmers also races late models back home.

Spending time with the Bar 31 crew pit side will not just have you leaving with a smile from the jokes and personality that seems to ooze from the guys, but you will leave inspired and motivated from simple observation of how this well-oiled machine of men thrives under pressure. We caught up with Paul first and then chatted with crewmembers to get the full experience of planning and doing the Hell Tour as Australians.

Driver – Paul Stubber

Dirt Empire: You are the reason you’re all here, you are the primary driver for the Hell Tour, so what made you initially want to come to the states and run the Hell Tour?

Paul Stubber: Really just the amount of racing that gets condensed into six weeks.

DE: Do you feel like running the Hell Tour enables you to gain when you race back in Australia?

PS: Yes, plenty. We’ve run the Hell Tour three times, 2017, 2018, 2019, and the improvements that we got out of those years were phenomenal. We probably get to do about 15-20 races per summer back home, while we do 50 when we’re here, so it’s almost like combining three summers of racing when we come to America for four months. We get a phenomenal amount of racing, and when we go home, we’re lots and lots better.

DE: We asked the guys what track they thought was the closest here in the states to back home, but what track do you think is?

PS: To be perfectly honest, this one here [Spoon River]. The surface isn’t the same, but this is the closest to what we call the Perth Motorplex as far as shape goes.

DE: What struggles do you think you’ve had so far? Do you think they’ve been a result of not getting to get over here due to COVID?

PS: Yeah, most certainly. We honestly didn’t realize coming back here and just getting adjusted mentally and physically with the car and stuff on the small tracks. Back home, we really only run one track all the time, so you get pretty comfortable with your setup. You get pretty comfortable with how you’re driving it and it’s not a track where you get the car bent or anything like that. That’s been the thing, I tend to keep the car pretty straight in what I do and here we’ve gotta get that thing bent in the few first races. We were just not, I thought I was getting it bent, but the guys said compared to everyone else, not as much.

DE: What are some of your Hell Tour highlights?

PS: Without a doubt, the people that we race with. We are no superstars, and we are amongst some superstars and they treat us with respect on and off the track. We’ve made good friends. It’s just good fun. If the tour and series that DIRTcar puts together wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t come back, we’d just go race around the States anywhere, but this is just so much fun for anyone that hasn’t done it yet. Even if they come from let’s say Missouri, Georgia, or Pennsylvania, come and do at least one full week of the tour, get a taste for it.

DE: When you first started your Hell Tour experience, what do you think were the most intimidating aspects?

PS: I think the whole concept of racing every night, when we first did it, was like just the Monday night off, we had no concept of that and quite a number of people we knew had said by week three you’ll be dead. You might get through the second week, but you’ll die the third week. These guys here [his crew,] they’ve all been giving hundred percent. The whole concept of it was really quite intimidating, then just getting here, and the intensity of the racing was pretty intimidating, too. But we just rise above it, we race where we can and our whole outlook on this because of where we sort of sit and where our experiences are and the amount of racing we do, our goal is to qualify the best we can, and just transfer from the heats directly into the feature. If we can do that, we’ve had a 100% perfect night.

DE: So what keeps you coming back?

PS: The comaraderie and the intensity of the racing. It was pretty intimidating when we first started but we know what to expect now. I must admit, we didn’t realize we would be struggling, we didn’t even make a feature in the first week, we didn’t think that would be the case. We thought we’d be able to step up and pick up where we stopped but having two years out and all these guys are going a bit faster, we are little bit behind the eight ball. We keep coming back for enjoyment; it’s hard work, but we enjoy it.

The Crew – Kye Blight & Joe Chalmers

Dirt Empire: What was it like coming over to the United States and your first few races behind the wheel being Crown Jewels like the Eldora Million and qualifying for the Dream, was it intimidating at all?

Kye Blight: It was humbling, I have a massive ego [the guys laugh], no it was humbling. We ran really well in 2019, and we expected us to pick up right where we left off, and we didn’t.

DE: Do you feel that long period where the borders were closed and not being able to come over and race stunt your progress and momentum here?

KB: I’ve raced twelve times in two years, and I’ve broken a motor twice. So, it’s been sh@#.

DE: What made all of you want to come over and be a part of the Hell Tour and a few select World of Outlaws races?

KB: Well, Paul’s running the Hell Tour, and it’s really the only opportunity that we have to get over here and get paid to come do what we love. Besides, it’s cold back home.

DE: Obviously there’s a lot of preparation and likely paperwork that goes into you guys getting to come over here, how far out do you have to start planning for Hell Tour and being stateside for so long?

KB: Well, this season, we’ve been planning for two years. We bought the new truck and trailer, the home place in Greencastle [Indiana], we had to organize two new cars, and we had to get all of our motors refreshed. It was a lot of work, and it’s even harder, because you have to do it at midnight or later back home to speak to anyone over in the States.

DE: You’re the only team on the Hell Tour that is not American, do you feel like you’ve been welcomed by the Hell Tour being the only Aussies on the tour?

KB: We’ve met a bunch of good dudes, so definitely.

DE: What do you think you learn the most being on the tour that you can take back to Australia with you and benefit your racing careers there?

KB: Preparation. I mean the tracks back home are so different than over here. Back home it’s just walled up all the time and you can just run wide open the whole time.

DE: Speaking of the tracks back home, what do you think those of us in the US who haven’t experienced racing in Australia would be shocked to know about tracks there?

KB: They hook them [track surface] up all the time, they just love the water truck for whatever reason, they [tracks] are way too fast. The tire prices are ridiculous, $350 [AUS] a tire [that makes it about $240 a tire American].

DE: But you have more tire options available to you, unlike us, correct?

KB: We don’t have a tire rule at all back home, we can bolt on whatever we like. Plus, over here, you do a lot more racing than back home, if you raced every single night back home, you might race 20 nights.

DE: You’ve all gotten to come over quite a few seasons now, what are some of your favorite things about dirt track racing in America?

KB: The racing level, it’s more cut throat.

Joe Chalmers: If you make one mistake, it’s a sh#@ show.

KB: The ability to race a lot more.

JC: Yeah, Australia needs to adapt this format.

KB: We run a two heat race deal and then use passing points.

DE: What would you say have been some of your struggles on the tour?

KB: We’re not going to put that down in print. [he laughs]

DE: How do you feel that the tour betters you over all as a driver? Even though some of you are crewing, you all race back home in Australia, so there has to be some benefits regardless.

KB: The repetition; it’s a lot of different tracks.

JC: You’ve got to adapt.

KB: You have to adapt quickly, you have to qualify well, there’s not just getting into the groove, you learn a lot about your race car getting to race 30 times. If you muck it up one night you have to go again the next night.

JC: Back home, you have to wait two weeks to race again.

KB: If you run good one night, that means nothing the next night because you’ve got to qualify all over again.

JC: That’s why I like this format, you have to really be on top of your game.

DE: You’ve all obviously been coming over here for several years now, what makes you want to keep coming back to the Hell Tour?

JC: The repetition really. Yeah, the grind is hard work but it’s still enjoyable.

KB: Yeah, it’s not for the weak. I feel like you achieve something if you go do the whole thing. If you struggle, you have to grind it out, it’s tough.

JC: To make every race and not have your stuff fail is pretty bad ass, too.

KB: You can also earn a lot of money doing this, if you run up front each night, you can make a lot of money.

This article was originally published in Dirt Empire Magzine – Issue 11.
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