Parkland’s Danner excels in first season of SpeedSTR
The first time Briggs Danner raced competitively in a SpeedSTR, both his and his mother’s reaction was the same.
“I think it was his first heat,” said Briggs’ mother, Melissa. “He came off the track and I walked up to him, and we both literally said to each other, ‘I thought I was going to throw up.’”
That feeling didn’t stop Danner from having an impressive inaugural season for the Parkland sophomore in a racing class made up of mainly adults. In his first season racing SpeedSTR, after spending 10 years racing quarter midgets, Danner racked up plenty of accomplishments.
The third-generation driver was named the Open Wheel Rookie of the Year by Checkerd Flag Fan Club. His highest place over the four-month season was a second-place finish by 0.009 seconds at Kutztown’s Action Track USA. The driver who took first is a well-known and respected drive in the SpeedSTR class.
So, did Danner expect to do as a well as he did?
“Honestly when I got out of quarter midgets and got into the SpeedSTR, I didn’t expect to do that well,” Danner said. “Basically I went out and stayed out of trouble. When I kept finishing better and better every week, I started trying to push the car harder and do better to get better finishes. It ended out good for us.”
Good may be an understatement. Or maybe he is just a bit modest.
Danner, just 14 years old when competing last summer, finished the season 10th in national SpeedSTR points, seventh regionally, and third at Action Track Takeover at Linda’s Speedway. He’s mainly racing drivers that have been doing this for years, if not decades.
So when a driver that is barely a teenager is keeping up with and even surpassing adults, the crowd tends to take notice.
“There are guys that have been racing for 30 years or more than that even,” said Danner. “It has shocked me. I didn’t know what to expect honestly going into it.”
The Danner family certainly was optimistic after how Briggs performed in the quarter midget scene. But instead of racing a smaller car to bridge the jump from quarter midgets to SpeedSTR, which most drivers do, Briggs jumped head first into SpeedSTR.
Compared to the quarter midget cars in which a powerful engine might have up to 17 horsepower, SpeedSTR cars near 300 horsepower each. The jump in power and difficulty is substantial, and Briggs’ father Roy knows just how tough it was to transition between the two cars.
“From driving stuff, I know it’s a huge jump of what he did,” Roy said.
“We knew it was going to be a big learning curve for both of them,” Melissa said. “[Roy] in terms of setting up the car, and [Briggs] in terms of driving it. It was an amazing season.”
One of the main reasons Briggs jumped from quarter midgets to SpeedSTR was the tremendous amount of success he had in quarter midgets.
The wins at the quarter midget ranks are too many to name them all, but his most noteworthy ones include being a three-time USAC .25 national champion, six-time Keystone State Quarter Midget Racing Club track champion and a 2015 QMA Eastern Asphalt Grands National Champion. Briggs was the KSQMRC track champion in the heavy animal division, and he also placed second in heavy animal, heavy Honda and heavy 160 at the QMA Dirt National Grands.
Briggs was a graduate of the KSQMRC’s first ever novice class when it opened in 2007. He holds the heavy 160 track record at KSQMRC as well and hundreds of wins over his career.
“We always knew we would get him in something because Roy raced quarter midgets and go-karts when he was younger,” Melissa said. “And he raced Legend cars. But when they built that track up in Schnecksville, it was perfect. It was right up the street.
“He was definitely ready to move on. I think he learned everything you could learn in quarter midgets, and he was ready to take the next step.”
The first couple days of practice had been postponed due to the late snow and wet conditions in the Lehigh Valley, but Briggs has since ramped up his training in preparation for a memorable season.
The first race at Kutztown will be on May 14, the 4th Annual “Dick Tobias Classic” SpeedSTRs. The winner receives $5,000 in this 75-lap race. Briggs hasn’t necessary pegged that race as one he has his eyes set on, but he is certainly focused on taking first this season at some point.
“Hopefully winning a race, that would be nice,” Briggs said. “I want to win a race. I just want to stay out of trouble and hopefully not wreck the car. I got lucky last year. I didn’t wreck that car too much at all. Hopefully get a win. Or two. Or Three.”
Races are held weekly at Kutzown, with most of them coming on Wednesday evenings. Briggs’ sponsors include Ironton Telephone, Roy Danner Paving, Willow Street Pub and R. Motorworks, all of whom have helped this young driver along the way.
Anyone interested in following Briggs’ racing season or view additional photos and videos can check out his Facebook Page “Briggs Danner Racing.”