Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Mitchell Clement finds success as a ‘Hired Gun’

BONHAM, Texas — They gathered at Rocket Raceway Park last weekend in search of a big payday; the ninth annual Smackdown offered $2,500 to the Factory Stock winner, and lots of red-hot teams were on hand. Yet in the end, only one driver hoisted the coveted trophy and winner’s hardware. 

For 29-year-old racer Mitchell Clement, the high-stakes Smackdown was his first win of 2024 and third straight victory in that event. Last year, he won five features and earned 21 top-five finishes in 31 starts (in his Modified). This year, that win at Rocket goes nicely with a pair of top-fives in four starts. 

“It was pretty special to win that thing for a third time,” Clement said. “I’ve only driven that car a handful of times, it’s the same one I won it in last year. I drove it two other times up at Ardmore, but that’s all. It’s a Royalty Racecar built and owned by Casey Jones, of Van Alstyne, Texas.”  

Now in his 22nd year of racing, Clement paid his dues as he came up through the ranks. While he considers himself a Modified specialist, he does pretty well in a Factory Stock, as well.  

“My father was a very successful Modified racer in his career,” he said. “So I came by my love for racing naturally. I drove a Mini Stock after I raced Karts for a couple of years. After that, I drove a SportMod a couple of seasons, then I got my first Mod when I was 15. I’ve been in one ever since.”

No matter where Clement unloads his machine, he faces some stiff competition across North Texas. 

“There are talented race teams all across this region,” he explained. “We have a pretty stellar group of drivers up here. It’s like anywhere else, I suppose; you have your local heroes that folks pull for and love to watch. It’s never easy to get anywhere near the podium, you have to get up on the wheel.” 

When Clement puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he straps into a very well-built machine. 

“The Factory Stock I’m driving is more than capable,” he said. “It’s a really nice car, handles well, and I am comfortable in it every time out. It’s powered by a motor built by Todd Short at Kustom Machine Shop in Denison, Texas. This chassis/engine combination works very well.” 

Jones has high praise for Clement and his entire family. The owner of Royalty Racecars, Jones builds cars as a sideline (for now) when he isn’t working his regular day job.

“Mitchell is the type of talent that is quite rare,” Jone said. “He only needs good equipment to be a star, and has the ability to communicate the flaws he finds in a race car. His Dad, Kevin, put the No. 32 Late Model into Victory Lane night after night. And with Mitchell, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  

“So I chose the number 32 for my car because I wanted to be that kind of driver when it was my turn. When Mitchell made the decision to drive this car, I was thrilled. I don’t know if it was the number, yet he could have climbed into any car. He didn’t know the origin of my car’s number, but he does now.”    

The Modified Clement drivers isn’t his, either. Yet this ‘hired gun’ is quick to thank those who make it possible for him to go racing. 

“I’m very blessed to drive the Modified for car owner Victor Keeling,” he said. “I’m grateful for him giving me a chance to drive his car. I want to thank our valued sponsors, including Keeling Concrete, Harold Locey’s Big Foot Dispensary, our primary sponsor; Outlaw Construction, and Dudley Excavation. 

“I also need to thank JN Wrecker, Stewart Plumbing. Parker Tire & Service; Red River Renovation, Moran Glass, and Clement and Sons Sand and Gravel. My family is pretty supportive, as well, so I’ll thank my wife Brittany, kids Cortni, Brynli, Kayli and Jaggar.

I appreciate all of that support, and couldn’t compete at this level without them.” 

With that big win at Rocket in the books, Clement is unsure what the balance of this season holds. 

“I’m not sure how much racing I’ll get in this year,” Clement added. “I’ve raced the Modified a couple of times so far. We ran third the last time out, but I’m kind of slowing down a bit because of the costs associated with it. It really gets out of hand sometimes. We’re just going to race when it makes sense. 

“My kids are all involved in softball, and we’re busy at work, as well. We own a construction business here in Bonham, so we have a lot on our plates right now. I just don;t have the time to go Mod racing as much as I’d like. But when we get caught up a bit at work, we’ll get back out and give it our best shot.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer

Photo by Mike Frieri