“I want to race on Sundays in the NASCAR Cup Series.”
Jade Avedisian has made her goal clear as day and the newly christened Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series champion has the foundational support from Toyota Racing Development to get her there. The rest will come down to execution and timing.
So far, the 17-year-old has exceeded expectations, winning five Xtreme Outlaw features and a pair of POWRi Midget Series appearances. This followed up a campaign in which she became the first female to win a national Midget series race last year with the Xtreme Outlaws.
And, oh yeah, she made the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals feature in her debut appearance back in January to kick off this run of success with Keith Kunz Motorsports.
“If you would have told me back at Chili Bowl that we would have been able to accomplish all of that, win the championship, I would have called you a liar,” Avedisian told Sportsnaut on Wednesday afternoon.
It’s not that she was surprised in her own ability. In fact, her trademark confidence has been detailed before but it’s just a reflection of how much she respects the level of competition she has faced and occasionally bested over the course of this full season racing national Midgets.
“I have come a really long way since the Chili Bowl,” Avedisian said. “Second full time year helps but joining such a great team and my crew chief, Jarrett (Martin) helps.
“And really, all the credit goes to them. They have such a ‘no quit mentality’ and it drove me to be better. There were a lot of highs but there’s a lot of lows over a long season too and the team made sure it never got too low.”
In an Xtreme Outlaw press release detailing their season together, Martin said Avedisian pushes herself and everyone around her to get better too, resulting in a synergetic pairing.
“She wants to make sure she never loses the will to always get better,” Martin said in the release. “That’s one thing I’ve noticed about her that sets her apart – she never wants to give up, she never wants to slow down.
“She works at getting better and wants it as bad as us, so that makes it easier for all of us when we do have a bad night to know that she’s upset too. She’s working hard as well.”
Avedisian has tremendous raw speed, but has occasionally pushed too hard, resulting in high-profile flips at Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway and Paragon Speedway and those are the sort of things she has been challenged to control.
It’s a matter of consistency, learning to take the best possible finish, especially on nights where a win or podium just isn’t viable. The second half of her season and one that resulted in the championship was a signal of her development.
“Jarrett taught me so much, and it’s just not getting in the gas,” she said. “I probably should have won three or four races before June or July and I just needed to be more consistent. I was just so aggressive at the start of the year. I needed the experience and to get better.”
Toyota thinks a lot of the raw potential, extending their partnership over multiple years to come, starting with a campaign in 2024 that will include a part-time Midget schedule in addition to full-time in the Toyota GR86 Cup — the latter being her first foray into pavement and road racing.
“This is a huge opportunity,” Avedisian said. “Super grateful to Toyota, Trent Rodriguez and Jack Irving for believing in me. I’m excited to learn road racing, the shifting, and it’s going to be good for me to have a new challenge.
“And I still get to race dirt. Really, I can’t believe I get to do all of this next year.”
In addition to having access to the Toyota Performance Center and its team of nutritionists and physical fitness specialists, plus the TRD simulator, the agreement also allows for Avedisian and Toyota to start mapping out a future together.
Assuming next season goes well and she acclimates to pavement, Avedisian says they have already started talking about a pathway to pavement Late Models and then the NASCAR pipeline but she also isn’t putting too much thought into any of that right now.
“We’ve talked about all that stuff but really, I’m just focused on doing the best I can with what is right in front of me,” she said. “Like, I know what I’m doing next year and I am just really focused on that.
“I want to race in the Cup Series, and that’s the goal, but I want to win in whatever car they put me in. I want to make sure that I stay focused and do what I need to make the next steps happen.”
It was a similar answer when asked about bucket lists races, or wins she possibly wanted to chase with a more versatile schedule in the next year or two, but she steered the conversation back to the here and now.
“I’m just really excited to run GR86 Cup,” Avedisian said. “We want to pick the dirt races where I have the best chance to succeed or have the most things to learn. I don’t have one race or win that would be the most important to me.”
Then she paused for a second.
“Actually, I do have one and I want to win my prelim night at the Chili Bowl and I think we have a team that can do that. That would be really special to me.”
And given some of the bigger names that have departed Chili Bowl in recent years, opening up the potential for new winners over the five nights before Championship Saturday, who is going to doubt her potential?
Certainly not Toyota. Combined, they have everyone’s attention now.
Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.