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Racer begins to shift career gears

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Call it a coincidence that Tony Hunt has signed a deal with Seven Clothing Company at the same time he is beginning the pursuit of his seventh career United States Auto Club championship. Seven is tapping into auto racing and “the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle” in designing clothes for the now generation. Hunt recently turned 40 years old, so he is on the fringe of that target demographic. For Hunt, seven is a number synonymous with success. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. each drove to seven NASCAR championships. Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times. A seventh USAC title would be another feather in Hunt’s cap. That’s why he was wearing a “Seven” hat during a recent test session at Roseville’s All American Speedway. He knows what counts. “It’s kind of fitting,” said Hunt, who lives in Lincoln with his wife, Philippa, and 22-month-old son Logan. “(The number) gives me a purpose. I’d have to be naïve not to think about it like that.” Hunt will return to All American Speedway on Saturday night for a USAC sprint car race. He already has one victory this season, winning the Gerhardt Classic on April 2 at Madera Speedway. The car Hunt drove in that race is not the same one he used in winning his seventh title last year. His Metal Works Racing Team has three cars, and Hunt would be comfortable in any of them. With such a stable, Hunt is considering the idea of recruiting a young driver to succeed him as the team’s No. 1 racer. Hunt would continue to compete, but he would move into a backup car. Hunt is far from finished with racing, but the end of the road is drawing closer with each day. His infant son has prompted Hunt to re-evaluate his priorities, both professionally and personally. “The little guy requires a lot of on-site surveillance,” Hunt quipped. “I thought having a dog was a lot of work, but all I have to do is make the bowl is full. This is definitely changing my routine.” His time at home is usually spent on the computer. If he is not corresponding with other drivers, he is making arrangements for his next racing trip or remaining in touch with all of his sponsors. Hunt will travel to Indiana in two weeks to compete in the Little 500 and then attend the Indianapolis 500. He is also trying his luck as a promoter for the June 11 race at Calistoga Speedway. And then there is Logan. The demanding toddler lets it be known he wants a fair share of his father’s time. Time is no longer on Hunt’s side, however. His shot at cracking into the NASCAR circuit has come and gone, and USAC races are not putting enough money in his wallet to support his family. Stunt work in movies such as “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” supplements his income, but landing a young driver would allow him to pursue management opportunities in racing. For the time being, Hunt will continue to climb into his car and go for the gusto. He is not resting on his laurels. In fact, he recently pulled 50 of his trophies out of storage boxes and dismantled them. The parts, including about 160 pounds of marble, were donated to a trophy shop. He ran out of room to store all his trophies and has no interest in displaying them as mementos of his success. Hunt expects more success to come his way. He is not wearing a “Seven” hat for the sake of fashion. “The day you say you’re content, the desire’s not there,” he said. “I’ve still got the desire to go out there and do the job. I still have that competitive fire. I’m still going out there. I’m still racing.”