He is still a year away from getting a real driver’s license.
But if you didn’t know that — or the rest of the field had known that — they would never question the talent and ability shown by 15-year-old Owen Groves of Hearts Delight.
The two-time Eastbound International Speedway MNR Performance Bandolero series champion jumped out of the entry level cars he has dominated for two seasons and captured both legs of the NASCAR Division I series, taking top spot in the 40-lap first segment and again in the 35-lap second segment to win the Wounded Warrior 75 on Sunday in Avondale.
“I never ever dreamed of this. To hop in that car and race it like this is unreal,’’ Groves said at Eastbound International Speedway.
“I just expected to go out and run and get some experience. The car was so good, so I just kept going. It handled well, and this was the result,’’ he added.
Groves said the competitors raced him hard, which is what he expected and, “pushed me a bit at times.”
Groves, who earlier in the day had won his 16th consecutive Bandolero race, captured his second championship, passing Josh Collins with three laps to go and extending his lead en route to the sweep of both legs.
Collins finished second just ahead of Groves’s uncle, Jason Groves, the 2106 Eastbound champion. Dean Martin was fourth and Wayne Walsh all but sewed up the 2018 title, his second in a row, with his fifth-place finish.
In the first segment, the younger Groves led his first lap of his career on Lap 23 and posted a fast time of 17.211 seconds in doing so. He never relinquished that lead, and held off Jason Groves and Wayne Walsh for second and third.
“I think we got enough points today to wrap up the title,’’ Walsh said.
“We went out and did what we had to, and I am looking forward to the race in two weeks. We will have a bit of a different strategy than what we have done the last three races, so we will see what happens,’’ he added.
He said the length of the season finale, and hopefully long runs will benefit his car and setup on Sept. 29.
Walsh was quick to give praise to Owen Groves for his feat Sunday and called him, “a good young fella who I will race with anytime. He is good. He ran clean and hard.”
Josh Collins, who was chasing Walsh for the title, had a tough day early on as he battled an ill-handling race car.
“We didn’t have any practice because of the rain and that set us back,’’ Collins said.
“We also had a bad wheel bearing that didn’t help us,’’ he added.
It appears Collins will finish second in the points standings, due in part to missing one race early in the season and the consistent finishes of the No. 99 of Walsh.
But he will be back on Sept. 29 and gunning for a victory.
He also gave praise to performance of Groves calling him “a good driver” and noting he has a bright future based on his performance on Sunday.