If Emerson Axsom set out to make a statement at the Tulsa Shootout, he accomplished his task.
After qualifying for four features on Saturday night, the 17-year-old Hoosier picked up his second Golden Driller with his victory in the Stock Non-Wing A-Main.
But he didn’t stop there.
Axsom fought for the lead after starting sixth in the Non-Wing Outlaw feature. On the last lap, he collided with winner Jeffrey Newell, who nipped Axsom by just 0.052-seconds at the finish line. The contact sent Axsom airborne down the front stretch. Still, he came back and closed out the night with a seventh-place result in A-Class and finished eighth in Outlaw Winged.
“It was good,” Axsom said. “The team (Ten-J Chassis) gave me a really good car and made my job a lot easier. I feel like any time you can get laps around the Tulsa Expo track it’s helpful because not everyone attends the Shootout,” Axsom said. “The more laps you get, the better acquainted you become with the track because of how it’s built and how it changes every year. I’m definitely confident about getting the extra laps. It definitely helps.
“It took a while to build the cushion—and when it did it was only up against the fence. That should be a good show for midgets because it was either roll the bottom or rip the fence with the micros.”
In his first full season on the USAC Midget tour, the 17-year-old high school junior from Franklin, Ind. won twice and finished fourth in the standings with Petry Motorsports.
Clauson Marshall Newman Racing announced on Dec. 2 that Axsom will contend for the USAC National Sprint Car Championship with the Driven2SaveLives sponsorship. He will also run in select winged sprint events and midgets—starting with the Chili Bowl Nationals in the iconic No. 39BC.
“I’m excited,” Axsom said. “I can’t thank Scott (Petry) enough for the opportunity he gave me. He’s really the one that kickstarted my career and made it possible for me to be where I’m at. I can’t thank him enough for that, but I’m really looking forward to joining CMR at Chili Bowl because they’ve obviously had a lot of success.
“I think teaming up with Clauson-Marshall will be pretty good.”
Axsom joins a star-studded cast at CMR which includes defending All-Stars champion Tyler “Sunshine” Courtney, NASCAR veterans Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and fellow teenager Corey Day.
“I already have a lot of experience at that (Tulsa Expo Center) track but I will lean on my teammates for more of the car feel because I’m running a different motor and a different chassis than I was with Scott,” Axsom said. “I’ll rely on Sunshine to get the feel I want out of the car and what he’s feeling compared to what I’m feeling more than the actual driving of the track.”
When Axsom auditioned in the final 10 sprint car races for CMR in 2021, team owner Tim Clauson witnessed the young driver’s potential first-hand.
“I was really impressed by the speed he had right out of the gate with no previous sprint car experience,” Clauson said. “As much as I was impressed by his speed, I was more impressed with the way he represented himself, our company and especially our partners out of the race car.
“Getting an opportunity is the first step, but taking full advantage of that opportunity is what leads to where we are today. One of the values we have as a company is to help grow the next generation of the sport, and there is no doubt in my mind that Emerson is not only going to be a big part of not only CMR’s future but the sport’s future as well.”
Axsom won qualifying day his heat race in the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals, finished fourth in the qualifying and 14th in Wednesday’s prelim night feature. He came from 15th to finish eighth in C Feature 2 on Saturday.
This year, Axsom wants more. Ideally, that means locking into Saturday’s A Main from his qualifier on Thursday.
“I want to be top three for sure on my prelim night,” Axsom said. “If everything goes right, we’re plenty fast enough in a midget to lock in. But if we don’t lock in, I feel like it will be on me.
“I feel like I’ll be disappointed if I don’t finish in the top three.”