by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher Photo, Nick Zebelian, @NickZeb
You may not know his name now, but you probably will in the future. He’s a race winner, a champion, and a Little 500 starter. His name is Trey Osborne, and now, you’ll get to know him a little more. You’ve been able to see Trey race quite a bit at the Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana with the Kenyon Midget season, and the National Midgets. He has also made a handful of dirt starts at places like US-24 Speedway, and has gone a few rounds with the USAC Midwest Thunder Speed2 midgets. On top of that, he works on Saban Bibent’s nonwing 410 and maintains his own cars.
It wasn’t always about midgets and sprint cars though. There might be an alternate universe where Osborne ended up as an NHRA Top Fuel drag racer.
“I started out in quarter midgets when I was seven with my dad and Larry Ebert, who are still very involved in my career. Larry’s mechanic shop that he owns is where my midget stays and he lets me work on it there. Dad has a background in drag racing, like restoring old cars. His goal was to put me in a quarter midget so that I could learn car control to be able to run a Top Fuel car in NHRA. He didn’t see the point in a junior dragster, because it didn’t help you with your car control.”
A serious quarter midget crash which left Osborne with internal injuries and a broken arm, coupled with age and growth, led Osborne and his father to a crossroads in his career at 12 years old.
Osborne went on to test a Honda midget at Columbus Motor Speedway, and enjoyed it, but the series didn’t make sense for him at the time. Trey then went down to Charlotte to do a week-long driving school with the Legends car. That went well, and Trey and his father were almost set on going Legends racing when the guy they were going to buy a car off of, showed them all the ways he was cheating. That was something the Osborne’s didn’t want to get caught up in.
“We got a few meetings set up over spring break that year. One was touring Tony Stewart’s race shop, and another was touring a NHRA shop. Then we met Mel and Don Kenyon, and that was huge. I always enjoyed watching the Thursday Night Thunder videos on YouTube, and I watched one from IRP the night before we went to their shop, and it was the Mel Kenyon Classic. Little did I know that I would be meeting him just a day or two later. That was pretty awesome. Mel, Don and I had a pretty immediate connection. That’s when we decided that this is what we were going to do after quarter midgets.”
That chance meeting was the beginning of something good. Osborne found success with the Kenyon Midget series, eventually winning the championship in 2018. Trey has also been able to hop in both Mel and Don’s personal midgets to race, and has had good results in them as well.
“2021 was the first year that I took care of the car on my own. Before that, we owned the car, but Mel and Don would take care of them in Indiana. I wanted to have a bigger role in the maintenance program, but I didn’t have the space to at the time. Larry Ebert let me put the midget in his shop, which is close to my house and I could do whatever I needed to with the car.”
“It started out pretty bad,” Osborne admitted. “I put the motor in the car the night before the first race because that’s when we got it. I went to the first race and the shocks, I don’t know why, because they were fine at the last race of the last season, ended up being junk and the car was bouncing around all over the place. It was a snowball effect after that, it seemed like”
Osborne battled wiring issues, a seized-up bird cage while leading with two laps left, among other things.
“I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of everything now, and will be prepared for next season. I’ve been able to save money and improve parts on the car that needed it. I feel like ever since 2018, that I’ve had speed, but stuff has broken, or blown up.”
As mentioned before, Osborne has made a fair amount of starts on dirt as well as pavement, and with the Kenyon Midget Series, those races are with the same car. The D2 Midget series presents a challenge, though.
“To run with the D2 Midgets is difficult, because they don’t have the combo cars like the Kenyon series. A lot of those cars could go and win regional races, and a few of them have. It’s a really competitive series and I felt like it would be a cool thing to mess with before the Kenyon series started. We have half the horsepower as the D2 cars and a 25 pound weight break, but that’s not enough to really make a difference.”
In the last two races of 2021, the Rumble in Ft. Wayne, Osborne made his midget debut aboard one of the Don Kenyon midgets. Osborne did not waste this opportunity, going from the BMain to sixth in the AMain Friday night, and bested his effort Saturday with a BMain to fourth in the AMain.
“Growing up, I always thought of the Rumble as the biggest race of the year for me. I grew up running quarter midgets there, and I always thought the midgets were super cool there. To be able to make the feature both nights and compete and be fast and feel comfortable all weekend and have success finally was awesome. It was an incredible opportunity to race for Don and have Mel help throughout the week.
As for 2022, it will still be a mix of the midgets on dirt and pavement for Osborne with some unknown as well. Osborne stated that he wants to do more on the dirt, and that his Rumble runs have gotten him some attention from some car owners.
“I feel like I’m there as a driver, but I haven’t had an opportunity to show it, and the Rumble helped do that. It’s helped me get talking to some people at this point with nothing confirmed. But I hope I get to be in both a winged and non-winged sprint car next year. The big issue is me being able to fit in the cars, but as long as I can fit, I’ll run anything. I’ll run with the Kenyon Series as much as I can. Brad Hayes is going to do good things for that series, helping it grow. It will be a very competitive field and I want to be a part of that as much as I can. Hopefully that could be more of a filler car, as I’m looking at getting my own sprint car. The goal is to run someone else’s car, though.”
Trey Osborne, ladies and gentlemen. Keep an eye on this young shoe, he’s proven that he can compete when given an opportunity, and he’s already able to work on and improve his cars in the shop. Whatever route Osborne goes down, dirt or pavement, the future’s looking bright.