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(Cypress, CA, February 12, 2024) Inland Rigging Sprint Car team owners Tom and Christy Dunkel are pleased to announce that star sprint car drivers Austin Williams and Eddie Tafoya Jr. will drive for the Menifee, California-based team during the 2024 season. Williams, who ranks seventh on the all-time USAC/CRA victory list with 11 triumphs, has his eyes firmly affixed on the 2024 title in the series. Tafoya, who was the 2018 Perris Auto Speedway Young Guns Sprint Car champion and the 2019 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year, will run an Inland Rigging car full-time in the new USCS Series. One of his competitors for that crown will be Dunkel who will race in all of the USCS events and run a partial schedule in USAC/CRA.

The shake-up in the team roster came about when 2023 USAC/CRA Series champion Brody Roa vacated the #17R to spend more time with his family. While the split was amicable and they remain great friends, it piqued curiosity on the West Coast with some pit siders speculating that the Dunkels were stepping out of racing. Quite the contrary. Going into the year, six DRC chassis' and four Shaver engines are in the team's stable. In addition, the team will also be taking delivery of a new One Way and Kistler engine shortly.

"We are pleased to have these two guys on board for 2024," Tom Dunkel said. "They are top drivers who can win races and will be contending for the championships. I'd like to thank the Roas for an amazing year racing together. Christy and I wish Brody and family nothing but the best and hopefully we will see him in a #17 car sometime in the future."

Whispers about the change in the USAC/CRA team surfaced a couple of weeks ago. When some heard there may be some changes, questions began popping up and there was speculation on who may end up in the open USAC/CRA seat. One who heard the whispers was Williams. The driver who is getting married on May 18th decided to look into the situation and made some calls.

"I think Austin kind of caught wind that Brody and I were going our own ways," Dunkel stated. "He spoke with Malyssa Perkins and she kind of filled him in on what was going on. We exchanged phone numbers and got on a call a few weeks back. I brought him out to the house and showed him what we had equipment-wise. He was impressed by what we had to offer. I know he can go out there and get it done. He made the most sense for us to go chase the CRA championship and run full-time in that deal. I also spoke with a few USAC National guys. Those guys have full-blown schedules. We will probably do something with some National drivers at a few select races."

In his career, Williams has sat in some very nice equipment. In his early days racing in USAC/CRA, he was teammates with his Hall of Fame father Rip Williams, his older brother Cody and his younger sibling Logan on the Jack and Sharon Jory-owned sprint car team. When Jack passed away, Williams ended up steering the famous Moose Racing #92 owned by Tom and Lauri Sertich. When they decided to move to Indiana, the driver known as "The Big Game Hunter" ended up racing one of the Jory-owned cars that his father then owned.

When the elder Williams ended up owning the three cars from the Jory stable, the deal was his kids could drive them if they could pay all the bills. Austin, who lives in Corona, California, found out that can be expensive. Make that, very expensive.

"These last two years have really humbled me (running his own operation)," the friendly driver said. "I used to race for Jack Jory and I had the best of the best. Anything I wanted, pretty much we got. Then racing for Tom and Lauri Sertich, they were really good car owners and gave me everything I asked for. Now, this opportunity is going back to the time when I could actually race the racecar, get as many wins as I can and not have to worry about what I am doing the next race if I crash this car."

"I was planning on racing as many races as I could (in his own car this year) with the little money that I had," Williams continued. "I had a good sponsor drop out on me, which really hurt my program. I still had other sponsors. Pacific Highway Rentals and Forefront Construction Services are still on board. I think I am going to be bringing them over to the Inland Rigging team."

Williams is excited to get into the Inland Rigging cars and he believes the transition will be a smooth one as he has been running DRCs with Shaver engines. That is the same combo he will step into in the Dunkel-owned machines.

Finishing third last season in USAC/CRA points meant he ran near the front. That is not far behind where Roa ran for Inland Rigging most of last year as he won eight of the 18 main events in the series and his overall 40.9 win percentage was the best in the nation amongst 410 wingless drivers.

The affable driver is chomping at the bit for the February 24th season opener at Perris Auto Speedway. He believes the transition to the new car will be very smooth. The only thing he will have to get used to is a different shock package.

"Honestly, I do not think there will be a period of adjustment," Williams enthused. "The only thing that will be different from my #2 car to the #17A car is the shock program. They currently have CSI shocks and I have always had Matt Hummel's FK Shocks. We will see how that transition goes. I am sure it will be fine."

"I got engaged (last year), and I am getting married this year. I got the ride in the best sprint car this side of the Mississippi or even farther," Williams boasted. "I am very excited."

Dunkel and the Tafoya family are anything but strangers. In 2015 and 2016 he competed in the USAC West Coast Series and the VRA Sprint Cars against Eddie Tafoya Sr. They stayed in touch and last year the relationship grew tighter as Dunkel accompanied them on some of their sojourns for Eddie Jr. to race with the USAC National Sprint Cars. He was very impressed with the rising young star and the way he carried himself. That led Dunkel to offer him a full-time ride in the USCS.

"When Eddie Jr. started racing, him and I got to know each other," Dunkel said. "Last year we went back east with them a few times. I just kind of helped out. Got to know Jr. a little more. He is a solid kid and his parents are great. When the opportunity came up to run him at Turkey Night last year it was kind of a no-brainer. With his experience back east, I thought it was a good fit. We did not have a lot of luck in that race. Nevertheless, it was a great weekend with him."

The sprint car portion of Turkey Night features 360 sprint cars. While at Ventura, the conversation came up about teaming up for some 360 stuff this season. Then the West Coast Series (USAC West Coast Sprint Cars) folded up. Subsequently, the new USCS series was born and inherited USAC West Coast Series tracks.

"Eddie made the most sense," Dunkel comfortably stated. "We are really looking forward to running him this year. He is extremely good with equipment. That comes from running for your family. You do not want to cost mom and dad any more than you have to. He is very methodical and he likes to set up his own car. On top of everything, the Tafoya's are just a great family. Julie (Eddie's mom) runs Specialty Fasteners and is super cool. She is hard on drivers, though. She cuts Jr. no slack. Me too! I have come off the track feeling pretty proud of what I did and she says, 'Ah, better luck next time.'"

Tafoya, who is based in Chino Hills, California will also chase the USAC/CRA title in his family-owned #51T, is eager to get started with the 2024 season. When he rolls onto the track at Ventura for the USCS inaugural race it will only be his third time racing a 360 sprint car. Last season he got taken out by another car at the Turkey Night Grand Prix. Before that, he had one other 360 start. Besides that it has been all 410s including a restricted 410 he drove to the Perris Auto Speedway Young Guns title in 2018.

"I ran one 360 maybe three years ago and it was not a full night as we had engine issues," Tafoya said. "So Turkey Night (last year) was my first full night in a 360. Besides that, just 410s."

"I think we should be able to jump right into it," the personable driver said on what he expects in the 360. "It should all transition pretty well. Most of the tracks we are going to run at are smaller and intend to slick off. I won't have to worry as much about getting myself out of trouble on the cushion or things like that. In the 410 I have to be easy on the pedal sometimes. I have to make sure when I am in the 360 I do not do that."

One thing is for sure, Tafoya will be on a lot of different tracks in 2024. The only tracks the two series will both be competing on are the rejuvenated Santa Maria Raceway and The Dirt Track at Kevin Harvick's Kern Raceway. Kern is the only track currently on his schedule that he has not competed on in the past. That is a lot different from 2023 when Tafoya raced in the USAC National Series on many tracks he had never seen before.

"I wouldn't say I dislike any," Tafoya commented on the tracks he will be steering the Dunkel's car at. "To me, they are just a lot different driving styles. I like Ventura. I've gone quick time there (with CRA). Santa Maria, I have gone top five. Bakersfield I have been top five. I don't get to drive them much so I do not have a lot of feedback on them but I definitely think we will be up front. I prefer big tracks and going faster. I like just having some extra room to move around. It seems like I always do good on the small tracks, too. So, I definitely don't have a problem with them. I like going racing anywhere we can."

"We have everything in our corner to go and win races," Tafoya enthusiastically intoned. "Zac (team manager Zac Bozanich) and I have been down there building up cars, getting the trailer ready and all kinds of stuff. We will be ready to come out swinging. It was a no-brainer for me when they asked. Thanks to Tom and Christy, this year big things fell together and we have ourselves a whole other seat."

Tafoya reckons he has worked on sprint cars every day for the last two months. His new DRC for the USAC/CRA Series arrived last week and he started putting it together last weekend.

A successful season is not just dictated by the drivers. Dunkel and Zac Bozanich, Roa's past crew chief and a past USAC/CRA mechanic of the year, made a deal for Bozanich to be the Inland Rigging team manager. If that is not enough to scare the foe, Rip Williams will be heavily involved as will Dunkel and his son Aiden. Tafoya and his father will also be occupied with helping maintain the cars. Austin Williams will be hands-on and is bringing his longtime crewmen Paul Dean, Rich Ruston, and Joe Perez.

"I have worked with Zac in the years prior to being around Brody," Dunkel stated. "With my smaller sponsorship that I did prior, Zac has always been top-notch and has always been a class act. As we rolled into 2023 and really stepped up our game with the Roas, Zac jumped in and took me under his wing. It just made sense towards the end of the year and things were winding down and some things were changing on what I was going to be doing with Brody. Zac and I were able to strike a deal and bring him on board to help us execute our big plans this year."

"We had our first shop day the day of the CRA banquet," Dunkel recalled. "Rip was there. That was kind of surreal, to be honest. I am not really a kind of star-struck kind of person but it was kind of neat to work with the "Ripper" in my own shop on my cars. He is the guy I always watched as a kid. To go full circle and be providing a car for his son is pretty bitchin.'"

Dunkel would like to thank the following 2024 season sprint car sponsors. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, Specialty Fasteners, BR Motorsports, King Racing Products, Osborne Speed & Machine, Maverick Transport, and HBC. If you would like to join this championship team for another title run this year, please contact Dunkel using the information at the top of this release.

Tom Dunkel's 2024 Racing Results

1/11/24 SageNet Center Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 8th C Feature

1/13/24 SageNet Center Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 11th L Feature

This release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768 mailto:sdaloisiosports@gmail.com