CONCORD, N.C. – Renowned Australian sprint car owner Sean Carren was close to putting his racing days behind him, after accomplishing a lot, but also losing a lot.
His driver, Darryl Krikke, and Krikke’s cousin were killed in a car crash on their way to the racetrack in 1997. Carren continued on but hadn’t put a car on track in a few years.
Then, rival car owner Geoff Kendrick and American-Aussie Lynton Jeffrey came with a proposition to field a car for the 2020-21 Western Australia Sprint Car Speedweek championship – a feat Carren had yet to accomplish.
The driver was Pennsylvania’s Brock Zearfoss – who was primed for his rookie season with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, starting at Volusia Speedway Park during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Feb. 5-7.
Carren didn’t know Zearfoss, and Zearfoss didn’t know Carren. Zearfoss hadn’t even been to Australia before.
One day in November, Jeffrey texted Zearfoss to ask if he would be interested in running Down Under. Without hesitation, Zearfoss said, “yes!”
They got to work looking for a ride, only to have the first four deals fall through.
On Thanksgiving night, with about a week left to make a deal, Zearfoss and Carren were connected for the first time. They discussed the idea and its logistics, and while the conversation went well, Zearfoss said it still wasn’t a done deal by the end of the call.
Carren didn’t take long to make his decision, though. Two days later, he gave Zearfoss the green light.
“Hell, I left (on) Dec. 7,” Zearfoss said. “It was a pretty tight window.”
In that time frame, from when Carren gave him the good news, Zearfoss had to get a visa, get an exemption and get a letter from the Australian government to travel over.
“Everything leading up to the travel was pretty hectic,” he said. “Especially when we only had like two weeks to do it. Just not a lot of time. I didn’t think it was going to happen, to be honest.”
When he finally made the continental leap to Australia, he had to quarantine for two weeks. Speedweek started three days after his quarantine ended.
With those few days to spare, Carren picked up Zearfoss from his isolation, meeting each other face to face for the first time, and they immediately got to work.
Zearfoss found instant comfort in Carren’s car. He had his own seat, brought his own shocks and the two discussed ahead of time the bar package they should run to make the American feel at home in Australia.
The few differences with the car he had to adjust to were the dish wings and different tire package. Also, he faced a stiff group of drivers he’d never raced against and a new set of tracks he’d never seen.
Finding chemistry with Carren and his team helped with the learning curve.
“Everybody that helped on the car, they were really nice and made me feel welcomed,” Zearfoss said. “We just all worked together, which made life easier. We all had fun racing. We knew what we were there to do. That made the whole transition of coming over and racing easier, I would say. I had no clue who any of them were and they thought I was just some Yankee.
“Everybody’s personalities, they all mixed. We all enjoyed each other’s company. It was good to have that. When you go into a situation like that and you don’t know who anyone is, that could make or break the whole deal. We just all had open minds with everything and enjoyed the time we were actually there to race.”
As added pressure, or motivation, Carren decided to run the No. 95 on Zearfoss’s car – the number used by Krikke before he died.
Carren had only run the No. 95 a few times after Krikke’s death but felt it would be a nice way to honor the family by running it again.
“It was a very special deal,” Zearfoss said. “For the Carren family, it was really special to run the number 95 over there to honor the Krikke family and their son.”
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