Sherwood, Hillcrest, NY.
THE KID WHO SAYS THANKS
There was a curious moment in the Coastal 181
booth at the Gater Motorsports show in Syracuse, NY, last weekend.
The much-honored Bill Wimble, NASCAR National Sportsman Champion in
1960 and '61, was there signing his book.
In came fresh-faced
Bryan Sherwood, a 19-year-old modified racer. Watching the two of
them shake hands, it was hard not to reflect on how differently they
were launched into the sport.
Sixty years ago Bill was a
naive, impoverished dairy farmer on the banks of the St. Lawrence
who pooled every spare coin he had, bought a used football helmet,
and flat-towed an ancient, hopelessly dangerous and unprepared Ford
coupe to Canton Fairgrounds. Here on the other hand, was Bryan,
already a veteran behind the wheel, preparing for his first season
in his own full modified – a topped-and-tailed Troyer with one
honkin’ heart under the hood.
Was this a demonstration of
what so many former competitors get to talking about these days? You
see them congregating at the beer stand and carrying on about what’s
happening in racing now. In half a lap, the talk turns to the
dizzying costs of fielding a car and to the tsunami of manufactured
parts and pieces that flood our sport. “Gosh,” the discussion goes,
“A driver today doesn’t even have to know how to weld!” All a young
he or she has to do is to have a father who’s a Romney
one-percenter. “Look at these kids,” they would say, “Sometimes all
they bring to the pit area is attitude.”
generalization is worth a damn. If you think all teeny-boppers are
arrogant, unaware, and unappreciative, you might want to stop by
some time for a chat with Bryan Sherwood. His perspective might just
change your mindset.
Bryan’s Dad is Lee Sherwood, a respected
and enduring Northeastern modified shoe, and his whole family is
knee-deep in racing. Here’s what Bryan has to say:
inevitable that I became a driver. Racing is my thing in life. It
sure hasn’t been easy, but I’m always aware of how lucky I am .
My dad had me at the track at six months old. Honestly, he is a
hero to me. When I was little, he was gone at night, trying to keep
the car going after work. I never felt cheated. I could see how much
it meant to him. I started to understand racing.
moment watching him came when he won the 2003 Richie Evans Memorial
at Tioga (NY). I can replay every lap in my head today. And the
Victory Circle. It took Dad a long time to get there. I could feel
how grateful he was.
We’re close. He took a couple years off
from driving and came back last year. I spotted for him and I was
worried. It was nerve-wracking for me. I watched him very closely
and timed him. But he was still smooth and hadn’t lost a thing. He
ran two shows, both Oswego 200s for modifieds and he got a third and
at the Gater Motorsports show with his father, Lee,
Allen. Lee and Allen co-own
Sherwood Racing Wheels. (Coastal 181 Photo)
I got started at eight running microds and
then open-wheelers all over New York. On that first day in a microd,
I was stunned. I had assumed it was going to be like that yard car
we used to have at home. Not. It was a rocket ship. Dad set up cones
around the groove and made me run hundreds of laps around them in
that microd to teach me consistency. The more seat time I got, the
slower things seemed to happen. We got good. We won a lot.
Then I got a micro sprint and we went to the dirt. It was that same
rocket ship thing again. I got to like the heavy, thick surface when
you throw the car and can compensate for it. But I really struggled
on dry slick and glassy conditions. That gives you this nervous,
loose-in feeling, something I’m just not good at. Dirt almost did in
all my self-confidence.
The year 2008 was really crazy. Dad
had two modifieds plus his Sherwood Racing Wheels business. I had my
micro sprint and my brother Steve had a microd. We were at the race
track three days a week all summer.
After two years I got into
Dean Rypkema’s B-mod. These have 530 horsepower and ten-inch
tires. He let me drive it for a couple of seasons. We
maintained it and paid the bills. Some people think B-mods
are just for kids. No more. With the economy today, there is
less travel and so much more expense that people are moving
down from the full mods. In fact, we calculate that there
are only five guys under 20 - Erik Rudolph, Patrick
Emerling, Jimmy and TJ Zacharias, and me - who have driven
B-mods in the last five years. I was so fortunate to land
to the asphalt, into the B-Mods. (Sherwood
It was something to drive that car. We
went right to the half-mile at Shangri-La. I was real glad
to be back on pavement, but was I ever nervous. I felt so
enclosed under that roof. Sure, that rocket ship phenomenon
was back, but it wore off.
We won the fifth night
out. I led with the Zacharias Brothers and Dan Korzejewski
behind me in a blanket. Dad was on the radio. He kept me
calm. It was just like going around those cones. I think he
occasionally fibbed to me and told me I had a bigger lead
than I actually had.
The biggest deal with Dean’s
car, though, was going to Oswego for the B-mod ROC event lat
summer. I had such big-time nausea – much more than at
Shangri-La. I was so awe-struck by the history of the place.
Just to be driving out there under those lights! I took it
easy, like Dad would have, and we got tenth.
year I have my own full modified. I’m at Broome Community
College. I wanted to be a teacher, but there are so many
cuts coming in education that I am now taking business and
marketing courses. I work every spare minute I can to fund
the car – in my mom’s knitting business in the winter and in
the wheel shop in the summer.
Knock on wood, we will
start at Shangri-La on May 12. You can bet I will have
butterflies. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was five
years old. I just can’t believe it is actually happening.
And maybe I am over confident, but I can’t see why we can’t
have success in the end. We’ve got the same team, and now
I’ve got the car.
I’m hoping to go as far forward as
I can. I’ve dreamed about running the Whelen Tour. I used to
have a favorite, Tony Hirschman. I loved to watch him drive
– second only to Dad.
Dad and I talked about when and
where we might be racing against each other for the first
time. He’s 48 now. The way I figure it, I’ve got thirty
years of racing just to get where he is.
How can I
not be thankful?!
and Miss. Shangri-La. (Sherwood Collection)
© 2012 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181
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