J-Mac is back for summer
In Australian speedway, James McFadden is considered royalty.
J-Mac’s Ned Kelly inspired bushy beard is his trademark.
The Yanks love him for bringing the shooey to victory lane.
He’s the lone Australian running full-time on the prestigious World of Outlaws championship, and in 2023 he’s statistically the most successful Aussie abroad in motorsport.
And the good news – he’s back home for a holiday and will again run a bunch of races across summer, with the same team of high-profile owners from last year.
It was a cool one-off concept last January to target the 50th anniversary edition of the prestigious Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.
But such was the success – J-Mac is going again with a team that includes co-owners, IndyCar star Scott McLaughlin, AFL legend Jack Riewoldt, and perhaps Australia’s leading sports broadcaster, Gerard Whateley, with backing from NAPA Auto Parts.
“I know a lot of people questioned why and how this group came together, and why I’d join such a random bunch,” McFadden said.
“But it was a fun concept to put this team together in the space of three or four months and I loved every second of it.
“I love how invested our guys were – Scott is right into it and is a huge speedway guy, I admit I’d never heard of Jack (Riewoldt) but he’s massive petrol head – it was just a fun crew to be a part of, so we thought, why not go again.”
A passion project of Warrnambool raised, Melbourne based sports producer, Tim Hodges, Hodges Motorsport was a huge success story in its inaugural season last summer.
McFadden won events at Warrnambool, Avalon and Mount Gambier – and created enormous publicity for the sport wherever they went.
J-Mac says it was one of the highlights of his decorated career.
“I’ve always been a part of professional race teams – in Australia and in the States – but the level of professionalism stepped up with Car 5,” McFadden said.
“It honestly changed the sport, it changed the perception of the sport and it brought more eyeballs to it here in Australia than it’s ever been able to attract with the names involved.
“The recognition we got – it was big for me, and importantly it was big for the sport, so it was really cool to be a part of that.
“To see the excitement of Gerard (Whateley) who watched the Classic final from the infield – he’s a guy who has never been near a speedway, but he got it and loved it.
“To hang out with guys like Greg Rust – who has so much respect in motorsport but it was great to see his raw love for speedway – that’s great for our sport.”
McFadden has just returned home to his family base in Warrnambool – just a few kilometres from Premier Speedway, for his Christmas break.
It comes after his most successful World of Outlaws season to date – there were six Outlaws wins, seven USA victories in all, and a top ten championship finish.
For a 35-year-old, it was a breakout season.
“This year’s goal was to win five Outlaws races – so to win six, to be in the running to win ten, it’s definitely a proud thing to be as competitive as we were,” McFadden said.
“It was definitely a hard year – getting to know a new crew chief on the run and developing the TRD engine program on the run is difficult on such a long and punishing schedule.”
That schedule was helped he says – by the limited calendar he ran last year in Australia with Hodges Motorsport.
“Normally I come home and run 30 plus races – but we ran nine nights which left me a lot fresher… I wasn’t worn out going back to start the USA season,” McFadden said.
“We run 85 times over there, so racing less back home helped.
“I probably didn’t realise how much it wears you down, but I loved that it was a more laid back schedule and helped my mindset for the Outlaws season.”
McFadden’s focus back home remains the big one – the prestigious Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic – an event he has won twice.
He’ll add the Australian Sprintcar Championships to his schedule for the first time since 2020 – which this season will follow Classic week at Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway.
“The Classic was bittersweet last year – it was the one event we wanted the most but it was our worst result for the season – finishing fifth,” McFadden said.
“The Classic is our showpiece, it’s our Melbourne Cup – that’s our sport’s biggest race of all and I’d love to win another one in January.”
J-Mac will begin his summer in Car 5 in Warrnambool on December 16 for the annual Max’s Race.