When the green flag waves for this year’s Kings Royal, there will be a local driver to cheer for.
Jim Perricone, a 1985 graduate of Meadville High School and a part-time World of Outlaws sprint car driver, will be among the field of racers in the 36th annual event at the legendary Eldora Speedway in New Weston, Ohio, which takes place July 17 to 20.
The Kings Royal is among the top sprint car showcases in the nation. The winner receives a fine pay day of $175,000 — up from $50,000 a year ago — and will also be crowned as “King” in victory lane.
While winning would be a dream come true for Perricone, he knows that it’s going to be a steep hill to climb as a part-time racer.
“I’m part-time,” said Perricone, whose day job is as the general manager El Paso Marriott hotel in El Paso, Texas. “These other guys, they do it for a living.”
A more attainable goal for Perricone during the Kings Royal weekend will be a solid showing with his 10p car, maintained by JBMotorsports out of Hohenwald, Tenn.
“We want exposure for our sponsors, to get our key folks out there,” said Perricone. “If we can finish in the top 20 cars, that’s a pretty good win for us.”
How does a hotel general manager get into racing sprint cars? Well, the story actually begins in Meadville.
“It all started back at North Street Auto Supply,” Perricone said. “They sponsored Johnny Beaber, who was a Northwest Pennsylvania sprint car star.”
Perricone would go out to the Sharon Speedway and Mercer Speedway to see Beaber race and that’s when he got hooked.
“This is what I want to do someday,” added Perricone.
He was an athlete while at Meadville High School, competing as a member of the Bulldogs wrestling team that finished second in the state two years in a row (1984 and 1985). He honed some skills that he managed to transfer from the mat to the dirt track.
“The ability of upper body strength,” he said. “The upper body is used a lot when you’re muscling that steering wheel around.”
After graduating from Meadville, Perricone attended Penn State University and studied hotel and restaurant management. His interest in sprint car racing was rekindled in 1996 while in Florida.
Since then he’s spent time balancing his work life with his need for speed on the oval.
Now he sets his sights on the Kings Royal at Eldora, owned by the famous NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.
“It’s a half-mile, you can go 150-160 (miles per hour) on the straightaways,” said Perricone. “Everybody wants to win at Eldora.”
Jordan Hansgen can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.