Max Sangillo aims higher: Farmville teen prepares for new season

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 16, 2024

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Last year was about new experiences. Farmville resident Christian Max Sangillo was competing for the first time in the Hornets Division, learning about the challenges in racing and what it takes to win. While most of his classmates at Prince Edward County High were taking part in afterschool clubs, he was suiting up with his cousin, 16-year-old Jordaine Penick to race against former NASCAR champions and rising stars. 

“I’m a lot more confident going into this season,” Sangillo said. “Last year was my first year in racing and I was driving a slow car, so this year is going to be a lot more exciting.” 

Still, for his first year, Sangillo didn’t do bad at all. He finished 12th in points, with a trio of Top-10 finishes in 10 starts. 

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“I’m having fun out there, meeting people,” Sangillo said. “Working on cars and learning how to drive on the track has been a neat learning experience. I’ve learned a lot of sportsmanship and also the mechanics of working on the cars.” 

He has some great help in that area. His uncle, Michael Penick of Michael’s Power Sports, built his cars. To date, he’s had three different vehicles. Sangillo says he hopes this year’s model will help him climb the points ladder. 

It’s a collaborative effort for Max. His godmother, Cheryl Penick, serves as his crew chief. Max also credits his mother, Nicole Sangillo, and sister, Lucy Sangillo, for spotting him on the track. They videotape his races as well.

And while Max Sangillo doesn’t plan to make this a career, he’s enjoying the experience. He is set to graduate from high school in May of 2025 and plans to attend Liberty University to get a bachelor’s degree in aviation with the plan of becoming an airline pilot.

Max Sangillo part of the family 

Meanwhile, Max’s cousin Jordaine is aiming for her own goals. A Farmville native and currently a sophomore at Randolph-Henry High, she has already done a lot in the racing world. Over the last two seasons, while racing in the HEAT Hornets Division at South Boston Speedway, she’s logged one Top-5 finish, put up 16 Top-10 finishes and recorded her highest career finish, placing fifth last June. But fifth isn’t good enough for the teenager, who has her eyes set on a higher prize. 

“I felt like last year was a success for me,” Penick pointed out. “I think I can be a lot better than I was last year. This year I hope to get a win with my new car. People say practice makes perfect so the more practice I can get the better I’ll be.”

Penick finished sixth in the point standings last season. Now with a new car on the track this year, she’s looking to pick up a win or two along the way. 

“Last year I was happy to finish races,” Penick said. “This year I want to be a lot better.”

Plenty of competition

Penick and Sangillo will have a lot of competition to take that Hornets title. A group of returning drivers and some newcomers are expected to create one of the most competitive seasons in the division’s history.

Kendall Milam of Keeling, the 2023 season champion, is moving up to compete in the Southside Disposal Pure Stock Division, opening the door for a new champion to emerge in what will be the 11th season of competition for the Virginia State Police HEAT Hornets Division at South Boston Speedway.

His brother, Landon Milam will be among the drivers that are expected to contend for the division championship in 2024.

Landon finished third in the title chase last season, finishing 11 points behind his older brother. He logged six Top-5 finishes last season that included one second-place finish and four third place finishes.

“The plan right now is to run for the championship,” Landon remarked. “With Kendall moving up, it gives us a lot more time to focus on one Hornet car instead of two. We’ve got to also focus on the Pure Stock for him to race in his rookie season and compete for Rookie of the Year.

“I’m confident going into the season,” he added. “Hopefully I can get three or four wins and cap off a championship this year.”

Milam noted that most of the off-season work on his car was devoted to body work. He noted that his car was running well at the end of last season, and it was decided not to tamper with it a great deal.

“When people see the car, they’re going to think it’s a brand new one,” Milam said, “but it’s the same old beat-up car.”

Plans to chase the title

Jason DeCarlo of Chase City, the 2022 division champion, plans to chase the division championship this season. Even with scaling back his schedule a little bit last season DeCarlo had a solid 2023 season, finishing fifth in the final point standings with the help of two wins and two second-place finishes among his seven Top-5 finishes. He also won three poles last season.

“I’m ready to go practice, and I’m ready to go racing,” DeCarlo remarked. “We had a good season last year and won the championship in 2022. We didn’t run for the championship last year, but I’ve talked to everybody involved and we decided we were going for it this year.”

DeCarlo plans to return with the Mazda 3 that has produced success for him over the past two seasons. He is also in the process of building a new car, a Honda Prelude, that he may break out later in the season.

“We’re still trying to build a new Honda Prelude, and we have the other car, the Mazda 3 that I had been running, ready to go. We’re not going to bring the Honda out until we are 100 percent sure it is better and faster than the Mazda. If the weather holds up, we look to come to the track and test sometime around the first of March.”

When does season start for Max Sangillo?

South Boston Speedway will kick off its 2024 season on Saturday afternoon, March 23, with the first of four special events that have been scheduled for the season – the URW Community Federal Credit Union Race Day event. That event will be headlined by the Pace-O-Matic King of the Modifieds event, a 125-lap race paying a minimum of $20,000 to win featuring the stars of the SMART Modified Tour powered by Pace-O-Matic and the top northern Modified drivers in sleek 600-horsepower open-wheel modifieds.

Fans will also see a 100-lap race for the Sentara Health Late Model Stock Car Division, and the track’s Virginia State Police HEAT Hornets Division will be featured in a 20-lap race.

The March 23 event schedule has practice running from 8:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. Qualifying begins at 11:45 a.m., a SMART Tour driver autograph session is set for 1:15 p.m., a last chance qualifying race for the modifieds is set for 2:10 p.m. and the first race of the day is set to get the green flag at 3 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased online on South Boston Speedway’s website, or by calling the speedway office at 434-572-4947 or toll free at 1-877-440-1540 during regular business hours.