From Carts to Stocks
Former go-cart champion takes a step up
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
Michael Halbrooks' goal for this past racing season was simple: Take it off the trailer … race … put it back on the trailer in one piece.
The strategy worked, as Halbrooks placed in the Top 10 in points and won Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the Hobby Cup Class at Huntsville Speedway.
What's more amazing is Halbrooks missed the first four races of the season.
"I said I was going to get Top 10 at the end of the year, and they were like, 'yea, right,'" Halbrooks, 17, said.
Halbrooks' raced the first time he ever sat in a stock car. He had missed all the practices, and started at the back of the pack in his inaugural race.
"I had never even driven the car down the driveway until I pulled out onto the track," he said of his 1982 Monte Carlo. "I started 12th and made up it up to sixth before spinning out. I still finished eighth that night."
But Halbrooks' story begins long before this past season at Huntsville Speedway. When he was 10, he started racing go-carts.
"Somebody told me about racing go-carts, and I liked that idea," he said. "After I saw my first race, I knew that's what I wanted to do."
But money was the issue, as his dad, Jeff, told him if he wanted to race that bad, he would have to buy his first cart.
So Michael started mowing yards … a lot of them. He finally had enough to buy a cart he saw in a newspaper, costing about $300. All the mowing yards for the cart didn't pay off immediately, as his first year with the cart he was forced to just practice.
That may have been the smartest move.
The next year, Halbrooks won the points championship at Sunset Valley Speedway in Baileyton by 150 points.
He dominated the following years, and last year started being sponsored. And like any good racer, Halbrooks was sure to mention his sponsors.
"Trucker's Warehouse, Whitt's Barbecue, Filter Technology, Priceville's Barber Shop, B&B Heating and Cooling and Colors Paint and Body … They've all been great," he said. "Sponsorships help out a lot. We're going to have to put a new body on it for next season, and that will cost $700, and we need to put more horsepower under there. Somebody may just give us a $150. Well, that $150 could buy gas or tires or whatever else."
And it may be safer for Halbrooks to stick to gas and tires, as he'll admit, he's not to good under the hood.
"Everybody that helps me with this tells me I just better drive the car," he said laughing. Frankie Maples, Bradley Maples and Jody Maples – all relatives of Halbrooks – have helped by either supplying a shop to work in, or building a motor, or a roll cage. Billy Don Maples and Tommy Halbrooks also have been there to help.
All of the help and good racing has landed Halbrooks in the January 2004 edition of "Stock Car Racing." Halbrooks plans on making a move from Hobby Cup to either Open Wheel or Late Model for the 2005 season, and says he eventually wants to race in the Southern All-Star Pro Series.
"I might be 21,22 or 23, but I know I can accomplish that," he said. "We're in a low division right now, but I want to get more sponsorships and move up. I think I can handle it."