Inspired by the Peugeot LMP1 project, televised NASCAR and family karting, 21 year-old business owner Alex Sedgwick has set his sights on competing at the highest level of American stock car racing – the NASCAR Cup Series.
Alex recently tested at Daytona in the ARCA Menards Series test weekend as part of his plans to compete in selected rounds of both the ARCA series and NASCAR Xfinity in 2021.
EnduranceandGT’s Andy Lloyd spoke to Alex about his goals and how he will combine a packed racing schedule in the US with the demands of Vertex VIP, the fast-growing track day company he runs with co-founder Adam Owen.
Alex, you recently took part in the ARCA Menards Series Test at Daytona. How did you find that weekend?
“It was awesome. To be able to drive at Daytona, no matter what you’re in, is pretty cool. Being the birthplace of NASCAR as an organisation and the home of the Daytona 500, it’s a big ‘bucket list’ tick. It’s also a very necessary step in the ARCA and NASCAR world to be approved to race on the superspeedways such Daytona and Talladega.
“I very lucky to be able to do it and it was a wildly different experience to anything I’ve done in the past in my career. Even the small amount of oval experience I do have is nothing compared to Daytona and the superspeedways so it was a very cool opportunity for sure.”
What were the main learning points that you took away from that weekend?
“The stereotypical view of ovals is ‘it’s flat out – turn left’ which, for Daytona at least, to a degree is true. However, you’re in a big, lazy, heavy stock car and it still wants to wander up and down the track. It’s pretty bumpy so you still have to work to keep it in check. When you add in pack running and you have a group of cars around you, that’s when it gets a little bit insane.
“With the wake that comes off of every car, it feels like the turbulence you’d get in a plane but while you’re driving. You need to learn how you can interact with the other cars around you to hinder them, help them or help yourself, for instance, using side drafting.
“There’s a lot less room for error when you’re two or three wide. You’ve got your lane and maybe a foot or so either side of margin. I think the average speed for the tests for a lap was 182 mph and that’s way faster than I want to hit anything! It’s pretty intense even in the testing scenario.”
Looking at the times, you were a lot closer to the front-runners on the second day.
“Yes, for sure, but it’s one of those places where it’s hard to get the full picture from the timesheet because, of course, running in the pack you’re going so much faster than on single car runs. On the first day we focused a lot more on single car runs and trying to trim the car out. We were third or fifth quickest which was pretty good.
“When you’re running with the pack, you’re more dependent on who you’re with and how many cars are lined up. Half a second isn’t a lot of time to find but it’s not so representative as it would be for another type of track.”
What has motivated you to pursue your racing career in the US in stock cars?
“When I was younger, I discovered NASCAR by chance. In the UK it’s a lot harder to follow the sport but fortunately I was able to and, over time, my interest in it grew. I think it’s such a cool form of racing. Some of things that are going on in NASCAR are on a par with F1 with development, which you’d never think for these relatively simple cars. On the flip side, you have barely any data or telemetry so feedback to the engineers is a lot more in the hands of the driver.
“I find it pretty cool that I can make more of a difference. There’s more pressure and weight on my shoulders, if you like, to perform. The cars are awesome. They have a lot of power, not much grip and not a lot in the way of brakes. You have a huge variety of tracks from the superspeedways down to the half-mile tracks and, of course, the road courses. There’s so much packed into a single season. I don’t think you get that kind of variety in other series or have to be as adaptable as you need to be in NASCAR.
“I love the thought of the challenge and, since I was a kid, it’s been what I’ve wanted to do.”
Going back to the start of your career, where did your initial interest in motorsport come from?
“My father, who’s worked for Peugeot for over 30 years, was PR Manager for the company when Peugeot were running the LMP1 908 programme. I grew up with the start of that programme and one of the first things I remember was going to the Le Mans test weekend in 2007. Nic Minassian took me under his wing and I’d use his headset to listen to the team radio. That was one of my first exposures to professional racing.
“So I’m the first person in the family that’s actually raced but there’s always been involvement. From there we started karting but I never saw it as a career path. Winning the Ginetta Junior Scholarship was a big thing for me, however, and at that point, driving went from being a hobby to something more serious. Six years later, here we are.”
You’re planning to combine a full season in the US in what is a very long and intense season with the development of your company Vertex VIP. How will you balance the commitments of those two very demanding projects?
“Probably at times with not a lot of sleep! I founded Vertex VIP with Adam so fortunately I can spread the load a little bit there. If I want to race in NASCAR Cup there may be times when the racing may have to take a little bit of priority. With Vertex VIP there are people and processes in place so that, if I’m not there, things can carry on.
“But of course, this year will be super hectic. We probably won’t be competing in the full ARCA Menards Series but, by summer or autumn, it’s going to be pretty full on. The workload is something that you can’t really plan or prepare for because you don’t now how much time each one’s going to take. Yeah, it’s a problem to be solved in the near future, I’m sure.”
So your ultimate goal is the NASCAR Cup Series?
“That is the goal, yes. It’s simple to say but much more complicated to get there in reality but we’ve got a good plan of what the next couple of years will look like. As long as our partners buy into it and I perform, there’s no reason that it can’t come true.
“This year ARCA is the big focus in order to get a lot of seat-time on ovals. That’s what I’m lacking at the moment and what I need to learn. I should be making an Xfinity debut as well and run most of the road courses in Xfinity as well. By the end of the year, we will have made some very good progress towards the ultimate goal.
“The next step up will be running more full time with Xfinity and then going onto the Cup series. So that’s the plan. Obviously all good plans have diversions and issues along the way but I’ve got some amazing people supporting me and it’s through them that this will all come true.”
The ARCA Menards Series gets underway at Daytona International Speedway on February 13.