Sarah Burgess’ smile is infectious. So when she emerged at California’s Irwindale Speedway in March wearing a massive grin to pair with her blue and red driver’s suit, many noticed.
The sight of the 41-year-old native of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, wearing a driver’s suit was not out of the ordinary. She wears it when she serves as her daughter Bridget’s crew chief for ARCA Menards Series West races.
The smile, though, was telling.
Burgess’ beam was a projection of the joy she felt preparing to drive a stock car on an asphalt oval for the first time. This was only a practice, a test of her driving ability. But it was a key stage in a journey that will feature a notable addition to stock-car racing history.
Sarah and Bridget Burgess will race against each other in the same event, the Star Nursery 150 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 14. Their doing so will mark the first time a mother-daughter duo has raced in the same NASCAR or ARCA touring series event.
“The historic moment definitely would be one of those standout moments,” Burgess allowed in a conversation with ARCARacing.com “I will admit, though, I’m also the type of person who does something because I want to do it. I chose to be in the automotive industry because I’m fascinated by it, not because I wanted to be a girl in the industry.
“I just really want to go do one of these races. See how it feels, and go out there and be competitive.”
This is how the Burgesses are wired as a racing-obsessed family that uprooted their Australian lives in pursuit of motorsports glory on American soil. In 2008, Sarah and her husband Adam moved with their then-six-year-old daughter to the Los Angeles area after the Australian government prohibited people under 25 from driving cars with turbos or V8 engines.
All the family had when they arrived in the United States were six suit cases.
Once settled in America, Sarah Burgess raced drift and off-road cars. She and Bridget even competed against each other in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series after the latter made her debut at age 15. But the Burgesses eventually realized their efforts needed to be concerted and pushed toward Bridget’s career in a stock car.
Now 20, Bridget Burgess has been racing family-owned cars in the West Series since 2020 after making her debut driving a couple races for other car owners in 2019. She has nine top-10 finishes on the platform.
Sarah Burgess not only lists herself as Bridget’s car owner for each event. She also works as her daughter’s crew chief and, sometimes, the entire crew. Adam typically serves as Bridget’s spotter.
On top of the racing program, Sarah works a full-time job at eBay in the business and development, parts and accessories department. Bridget works at a McDonald’s in their home of Tooele, Utah, where the family rents a three-bedroom apartment. Adam is not employed. His job, Sarah says, is working for Bridget for free, maintaining and preparing her car and coaching his daughter.
“I can’t afford to pay Bridget to be a race car driver,” Sarah Burgess said. “All of that money goes into the opportunity for her to be a race car driver. Same with Adam. My salary has always covered our cost of living.”
As if their situation supporting one driver was not difficult enough, for at least one race, the family will make it two.
“If I want to do something, I go do it,” Sarah Burgess said with a laugh.
The Burgesses have been thinking about Sarah joining Bridget in a West Series race for years. The process of turning that dream into a reality began last fall, when they began looking for a second race car to purchase.
This year, they finally found a Gen 4 Chevrolet chassis former West Series driver Matt Levin had posted for sale within their budget. Sarah said the car, which last ran in 2019, came with a relatively fresh motor. That was important to the family, because an industry-wide shortage of engine components had been restricting their development. The Burgesses took the “new” motor and dropped it the car Bridget has raced this year.
The next step for Sarah Burgess was getting clearance from ARCA to race. With experience behind the wheel on other platforms, she was able to obtain a license, but she needed some laps in a stock car on an oval. So she completed a couple practice runs in Bridget’s car during an open session at Irwindale. This despite the fact that Sarah’s legs are three inches longer than Bridget’s; the ride was not exactly comfortable.
After that session, ARCA officials told Sarah Burgess she was cleared to enter a race. In fact, she almost did just that the following day. Because of a driver no-show, Burgess, the only person in the garage licensed to race, was asked to start in Eric Nascimento’s car. She agreed to do so, but the team eventually withdrew the entry before the event.
Sarah Burgess still had one major hurdle to clear in order to race. She needed sponsorship to fund the efforts.
In fact, she said, a lack of funding would have been the only thing that could have derailed this historic mother-daughter moment.
The partner that ended up solving this issue was Sarah’s employer. eBay Motors in September announced its sponsorship of Sarah and Bridget Burgess for the Oct. 14 West Series race at the Vegas Bullring.
“The eBay Motors team is made up of car enthusiasts like Sarah,” said Ron Jaiven, GM of P&A for eBay Motors. “Our passion is to support and engage in the automotive community, whether it’s sponsoring events that draw car lovers nationwide or being the source for hard-to-find performance parts. It’s incredible that Sarah and her daughter Bridget will make NASCAR history together. We’re eager to watch their journey to Las Vegas and will be cheering them on from the stands.”
One thing the Burgesses are not concerned about is people power. Though Adam typically spots for Bridget, Sarah wants her husband in her ear while on track. Bridget, after all, is used to working with different spotters depending on the race location and Adam’s availability.
Victor Franco, a family friend who works closely with the Burgesses, will serve as the crew chief for both Sarah and Bridget. As for the crew, the family has enough friends in the LA area to piece together a team to service both cars. They also have two haulers.
Now that Sarah Burgess has landed the sponsorship she needed, her attention has turned completely to the preparation required to compete at The Bullring. Because that competition is what these efforts are about. While Bridget’s program remains the family’s priority, the Burgesses will prepare both cars to run as well as possible.
What will be a special night in Las Vegas is not lost on Sarah or Bridget. Sarah said simply being able to talk to her daughter about the car’s drive after that practice session in Irwindale was a cool moment. She can only imagine how it will feel for the two to discuss their performance in the same ARCA race.
When Sarah Burgess gets the chance to race against her daughter in a stock car, regardless of how she performs or where she finishes, one thing is certain.
That infectious smile will return.