Future bright for Columbus racer

Columbus teenager Caleb Faulkner has high hopes for his racing career.

The 2014 Columbus East High School graduate completed the 2015 racing season second in the final UMRA King of the TQ Midget points standings. He views it as just another step in a career that began in 2003, when he was just 7 years old.

Faulkner’s family has been involved in racing since before he was born. His grandfather, Roy Faulkner, drove and owned dirt late models for several years. Caleb Faulkner got his start in racing when his other grandfather, Calvin Dunbar, bought him his first go-kart.

That first year, Caleb raced at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds in Columbus, Jennings County Fairgrounds in North Vernon, and the Ripley County Fairgrounds in Osgood. He won his first feature race in only his third start. By the end of his rookie season in 2003, he had a feature win at all three tracks.

His go-kart career was sterling for sure, with 75 heat race wins, 45 feature victories and two championships. His first title came with the Columbus Kart Club in 2004, with the second coming two years later at the Ben Hur Speedway in Crawfordsville.

Faulkner then moved into the competitive three-quarter midgets in 2010, racing with Midwest TQ Racing League. This past year was his best, as he finished second to Carthage’s Robbie Roland in the final UMRA points standings. During his midget career he has recorded seven heat race wins, capturing one feature event at Jackson, Michigan.

The young racer has been honored several times already in his career. Faulkner was the 2010 People’s Choice Rookie of the Year and the Larry Rice Spirit Award winner, and he was a recipient of the Rich Vogler Scholarship in 2014.

“My end goal is to have a big race team like Keith Kunz Motorsports, and we are well on our way to that,” Faulkner said.

The driver recently purchased a lightning sprint (1000cc Mini Sprint) car, and he’ll be racing with the UMRA King of TQ Midget Series for the championship and then the lightning sprint whenever he can.

Faulkner would like to move up into a sprint car and race in the Indiana Sprint Week and the Little 500, and he also hopes to one day race in the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“My end goal is to move up into a bigger car and compete on a national level,” he added.

Faulkner is currently pursuing a mechanical engineering technology degree at Purdue Polytechnic in Columbus. His sponsors are Purdue Polytechnic Columbus, B&M Salvage, CARQUEST, Clancy’s Tool and Party Rental, Creative Finishing and Culver’s of Columbus. His crew consists of himself, his father (Ray Faulkner) and his grandfather (Calvin Dunbar).

Caleb Faulkner and the rest of the UMRA King of the TQ Midget drivers will be honored during their racing banquet at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville.

Race has local flavor

In front of 20,000 race fans and a live television audience on MAV-TV, California’s Rico Abreu won his second consecutive Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire on Jan. 16. The event, held annually indoors in Tulsa, also made it back-to-back wins for Keith Kunz Motorsports of Columbus. Abreu, who started fourth on the grid, took the lead from Bryan Clauson on Lap 45.“This is one of the toughest tracks to be a leader at and set the pace,” Abreu said. “Just because with how much the track changes in a feature or in a race, you can run second or third, and have the advantage of moving around on the surface rather than being the leader and running the line that you started running where you got the lead.”Kunz Motorsports put four drivers in the Saturday night finale, with Abreu the winner, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson fifth, Tanner Thorson ninth and Christopher Bell 12th.

The 2017 dates have already been announced, with racing action at the 31st Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals taking place Jan. 10 to 14, 2017. Tickets go on sale March 2.

Racing results

Chili Bowl Nationals

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Jan. 16

Chili Bowl Midget feature

1. Rico Abreu; 2. Bryan Clauson; 3. Zach Daum; 4. Jerry Coons Jr.; 5. Kyle Larson; 6. Tim McCreadie; 7. Tyler Thomas; 8. Thomas Meseraull; 9. Tanner Thorson; 10. Joey Saldana.

Final 2015 UMRA King of the TQ Midget Points Standings

1. Robbie Roland 484; 2. Caleb Faulkner 397; 3. Kirby Petry 356; 4. Aaron Percell 330; 5. Trent Henderson 329; 6. Corey Eaglin 322; 7. (tie) Bobby DeWitt and Devin Fairchild 310; 9. Matt Hedrick 301; 10. Nick Speidel 296.

James Essex is the motorsports columnist for The Republic, a sister paper of The Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com.

James Essex is the motorsports columnist for The Republic, a sister paper of The Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com.