500 Sprint Car Tour Rookie of the Year Eyes First Little 500 Run

500 Sprint Car Tour Rookie of the Year Eyes First Little 500 Run

By: Koty Geyer

Jackson Macenko has many laps around Anderson Speedway between the 500 Sprint Car Tour and USSA Mel Kenyon Midgets.  It has led him to his first attempt at the biggest pavement Sprint Car race in the world at the 76th Annual Little 500 Presented by UAW.

The Cincinnati native has a Kenyon Midget win at Anderson, while also scoring his best career 500 Sprint Car Tour finish of fifth at the ¼-mile last season.  With his attention focused on Memorial Day weekend, his excitement for his first Little 500 is unmatched.

“I don’t think I can necessarily put that answer into words.  I think about it non-stop, whether that’s waking up in the morning, even at work I’m thinking about it because I’d be scrolling through Instagram and I’d see a picture of my car or of someone else’s car at Anderson,” said Macenko.  “When I’m going to sleep I go through so many different scenarios that I can’t stop thinking about it.  My excitement level is about as high as it can be.”

After spending four seasons in the Mel Kenyon Midget ranks, he, car owner Brad Hayes and crew chief Tony Fox all decided to make the move to Sprint Car competition in 2023.  Macenko earned Rookie of the Year honors with the 500 Sprint Car Tour after finishing seventh in points with a top-five and eight top-tens in nine races.

Already with one race under his belt in the 2024 500 Sprint Car Tour season, he gives his thoughts on how his rookie year went.

“I think it went really well, I’m pleased with it and I think Tony Fox and Brad Hayes would say the same thing.  I was really pleased with our pace.  I don’t know if we ever really put a full day together, which I think makes our results even more impressive.  My best race of the year was the second Anderson race.  I finished fifth and I was running on the back of Dakoda Armstrong and Tyler Roahrig for fourth and third.  We started that race and at I think lap 25 I was 13th.

“There were days where we definitely had the speed and that showed multiple times, we just have to be a little better at putting it all together but that’ll come with more experience and as our notebook gets bigger when we come around to these tracks for a second and third time.”

His sophomore season behind the wheel of a Sprint Car now has him making his debut in the Little 500.  He is admittedly unsure as to how to exactly prepare for 500 laps around Anderson Speedway, but believes being in the car is the best way to do so.  It has included a debut with the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series at Toledo Speedway in April and at Winchester Speedway on May 5.

“I don’t really know since I’ve never done it, we’re going to find out if my preparation has worked.  I train three to four days a week trying to build up stamina and strength.  I think being in the car though is the best way.  Similar to playing a sport, there’s no actual way to get in shape for the sport other than actually playing it.  I think being in the car is the best way to get in shape for it.  With the addition of USAC Silver Crown and getting more track time and all that, I think that’ll help out.  Hopefully we can schedule a few practices in between now and the race so I can get even more seat time and get more comfortable with the car and setup.”

One year removed from Jake Trainor winning the Little 500 as a rookie, Macenko has modest goals for his first start in the race, starting with locking himself into the field on the first day of qualifying.

“I would say I have a few.  My first goal would be to qualify into the top 16 to lock myself in on Thursday.  I would love to complete the race, which is kind of a battle of attrition for both myself and the car.  As a driver, no matter what you’re doing you want to win the race.  My top goal is to win the race but realistically I would love to finish better than where we started.”

Tickets for the 76th Annual Little 500 Presented by UAW are on sale now at https://buff.ly/44lYUVc.