There are thousands-if not tens of thousands-of young race car drivers across the country doing battle on Friday and Saturday nights at local racetracks. Many have one thing in common-aspirations of making it to the big leagues of NASCAR. Yet, few will actually get a shot to become the next Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, or Kyle Busch.
Andrew Myers and Alex Yontz are two young drivers from vastly different parts of the country who are trying to get noticed by some of the top NASCAR team owners. Myers is from Newport Beach, California, and races in three different divisions-the NASCAR AutoZone West Series, NASCAR Busch East Series, and ARCA.
Yontz is a resident of Walnut Cove, North Carolina, competing in his first full season on the UARA STARS tour.
Both Myers and Yontz admit that trying to catch the eye of a top NASCAR team owner such as Rick Hendrick, Jack Roush, Richard Childress, or Joe Gibbs is not an easy task.
"I would have to say it's pretty difficult right now trying to break into the whole NASCAR scene coming from a lower level Late Model stock car circuit," Myers says. "It's really a pretty big task to grasp exactly how hard it is to actually get noticed by the right people. It really is very difficult."
Yontz agrees. "It's tougher than you can even imagine," Yontz says. "You see all these other drivers making a name for themselves and being pretty successful. Going into it, you think it's pretty easy because all you have to do is run up front and win races and people are going to notice and it'll be easy to get sponsors and things like that. It's not that easy. It's really tough, and to be honest, we don't know the exact steps we should take. We're just trying to win races and hopefully battle for this UARA championship and get attention that way."
Both Myers and Yontz started racing when they were 7 years old, and eventually moved up to various Late Model tours. Along the way, both drivers learned that making it to the next level would require much more than their on-track performances.
"Being marketable is probably as big a part of making it to the next level as driving the car," Yontz says. "When you are in front of the media you have to be respectable and make sure you mention everybody's name. I know it sounds kind of funny to say that the marketing side of racing is more important than the driving, but it is these days if you really want to make it at the next level."
Myers has rented an apartment in Concord, North Carolina, in order to be in and around the Charlotte area, where the majority of the NASCAR teams and drivers are located.
Yontz is competing in the...
Yontz is competing in the regional UARA series this season. Speed51.com Photo
"I talked to Bill Davis, and he told me that when he is looking for younger drivers for a driver development deal, he wants someone who is committed and lives in North Carolina," Myers says. "If a driver is from another state, he wants to see if they are committed enough to try and make the move to see how they adapt to the change of their environment. Now that I live around Charlotte, I get to be in the environment of basically all of what takes place in NASCAR. It's been a lot easier to be able to meet and talk with people to set up appointments and things like that. I hope that by me making this move it will show people how serious I am to make it in NASCAR."
Myers raced at Irwindale Speedway in the California short track's weekly NASCAR Late Model Stock division in 2003 and 2004 before stepping up to the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series in 2005. The move up the proverbial NASCAR ladder proved to be successful, as Myers finished Ninth in series points and fell one point shy of winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Myers scored his first NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series victory this April at Phoenix International Raceway in a strong 38-car field that included Nextel Cup Series driver Ken Schrader.
"That was huge," Myers says. "To be able to pull off a win like that in only my second year in front of all those teams that were there has helped open a lot of doors for me since then. A lot of people call me to see how I'm doing and what my plans are, so that Phoenix win really helped open a lot of doors and put us on the radar screen."
Yontz is taking a different approach this season by concentrating his efforts solely on the UARA tour, advice that was given to him by a top NASCAR team.
"I would like to get noticed by one of the big NASCAR teams, but this year our goal is to win the UARA championship," Yontz explains. "I've got the dream of making it to the big time in NASCAR, but you can't do that without getting noticed by the big teams and sponsors. I made the Top 100 last year in Roush Racing's 'Driver X,' and that was a neat experience, but they pretty much told me flat out that one of my weaknesses was that I had never run a full season and raced for a championship before for a full season.
"They told me my age was working in my favor, but that never running for a championship before really hurt me. That's why I'm concentrating on running the entire 2006 season on the UARA tour, and hopefully we'll be in contention for the championship as well as just getting that experience under my belt."
In this day and time in NASCAR, both Yontz and Myers agree that their age plays a big factor, as top team owners are looking for young drivers as opposed to those competitors around the age of 30.
The 21-year-old Yontz is gunning...
The 21-year-old Yontz is gunning to strengthen his resum with a title. Speed51.com Photo
"I started racing Late Models when I was pretty young, and I went into it thinking I was too young to be thinking about getting a ride in one of NASCAR's top three divisions," says the 21-year-old Yontz. "I was thinking that when I got to a certain age that if I was winning races then everything would fall into place for me. Then, before you know it, you've run a couple years in Late Models and you're older than what a lot of teams are looking for. I still think I'm at a pretty young age and have that going in my favor. If I finish the year off the way I want to in the UARA tour, then hopefully everything will fall into place for me."
At the age of 26, Myers concedes that getting his foot in the door and getting noticed by some of the top NASCAR team owners is something he needs to get done sooner rather than later.
"I know I'm not like the usual 18- or 20-year-old driver in NASCAR's top three divisions right now," Myers says. "I basically made the decision when I was younger that I wanted to go to college and get my degree. I did that and got my degree in business management from Cal-State Long Beach. Even though I am 26 years old, I think having that degree behind me and being educated will show a sponsor that I have something to offer that some of the younger kids can't in understanding the whole business side of NASCAR from both angles."