By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Ron Skinner
SPRING, Texas — While the 2020 short track season was filled with hurdles and challenges for the entire industry, one young driver in south Texas kept his head in the game and made big strides in his career. A global pandemic and struggling economy did little to slow his roll.
For 18-year-old Beau Begnaud, this year provided the opportunity to grow. The former IMCA Modified driver and Louisiana native piloted the No. 40 Super Late Model entry for Neil 'Scooter' Manchester this season, and turned heads across the state of Texas once things started to gel.
In 21 starts, Begnaud recorded nine top-five finishes (4 with an SLM, 5 with a Crate LM) and 13 top-10s. He finished second to veteran racer Bo Day at Heart of Texas in Waco and landed on the podium at West Texas Raceway in Lubbock. On the ultra-competitive Southern Touring Late Model Series (STLMS), he earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors and finished second in points to Cody Leonard.
It was, by any standard, an impressive first season in a division filled with seasoned veterans.
“We are very satisfied with the way our season unfolded,” Begnaud said. “Every time we finished, we were inside the top five. Of course, I really wanted to get a win, but we fell a little short. Yet we learned something at every race and improved throughout the year. I was very pleased.”
While competing on Kody Hardage's STLMS circuit, Begnaud visited a variety of new tracks.
“I had an absolute blast this year going to new tracks and learning how to get around them,” Begnaud said. “We traveled up to north Texas to Amarillo and Lubbock, Wichita Falls, Abilene and the famed Devil's Bowl in Mesquite. That's a big 1/2-mile oval with a rich history, and I just loved it.”
Making the transition from IMCA Modifieds to Late Models this year presented all kinds of challenges for Begnaud and his BBR squad. His ability to adapt was put to the test.
“At first, I struggled with having to drive the car so much harder than I did in the Modified,” Begnaud explained. “In the Mod, we were always working to find more grip. Now, you have that big tire to support the power and you can be really aggressive. Once I got used to it, I was fine.
“I feel like the last race we ran with an open motor in the Super Late Models, I finally figured it out. I wish we would have had a few more races, because things were really starting to click for us.”
Among the many season highlights was the STLMS 'Western Swing' in August. This year, his travels allowed him the chance to race against many of the region's big names.
“I was able to race against some of the sport's top drivers, at least in this part of the country,” Begnaud said. “Guys like Morgan Bagley, Patrik Daniel and Jon Mitchell are extremely talented. If you can run with those boys, you're doing something right. You can learn a ton racing against them.”
Now, the team's focus shifts to next year, and plans are starting to take shape.
“Right now, my family is in the process of buying this car from Neil,” Begnaud explained. “We're planning to run the DFW Local Crate Late Model Series in 2021. I just really feel like the Late Model suits my driving style better than a Modified.
"I feel that will allow us to get better results in the future. This was a breakout season for us, despite not winning a feature. Next year, we're going for it.”