There are thousands--if not tens of thousands--of young race car driversacross the country doing battle on Friday and Saturday nights at localracetracks. Many have one thing in common--aspirations of making it tothe big leagues of NASCAR. Yet, few will actually get a shot to becomethe next Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, or Kyle Busch.
Andrew Myers and Alex Yontz are two young drivers from vastly differentparts of the country who are trying to get noticed by some of the topNASCAR team owners. Myers is from Newport Beach, California, and racesin three different divisions--the NASCAR AutoZone West Series, NASCARBusch East Series, and ARCA.
Yontz is a resident of Walnut Cove, North Carolina, competing in hisfirst full season on the UARA STARS tour.
Both Myers and Yontz admit that trying to catch the eye of a top NASCARteam owner such as Rick Hendrick, Jack Roush, Richard Childress, or JoeGibbs is not an easy task.
"I would have to say it's pretty difficult right now trying to breakinto the whole NASCAR scene coming from a lower level Late Model stockcar circuit," Myers says. "It's really a pretty big task to graspexactly how hard it is to actually get noticed by the right people. Itreally is very difficult." Yontz agrees.
"It's tougher than you can even imagine," Yontz says. "You see all theseother 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 isrun up front and win races and people are going to notice and it'll beeasy to get sponsors and things like that. It's not that easy. It'sreally tough, and to be honest, we don't know the exact steps we shouldtake. We're just trying to win races and hopefully battle for this UARAchampionship and get attention that way."
Yontz is competing in the regional UARA series this season. Speed51.com Photo
Both Myers and Yontz started racing when they were 7 years old, andeventually moved up to various Late Model tours. Along the way, bothdrivers learned that making it to the next level would require much morethan their on-track performances.
"Being marketable is probably as big a part of making it to the nextlevel as driving the car," Yontz says. "When you are in front of themedia you have to be respectable and make sure you mention everybody'sname. I know it sounds kind of funny to say that the marketing side ofracing is more important than the driving, but it is these days if youreally want to make it at the next level."
Myers has rented an apartment in Concord, North Carolina, in order to bein and around the Charlotte area, where the majority of the NASCAR teamsand drivers are located.
"I talked to Bill Davis, and he told me that when he is looking foryounger drivers for a driver development deal, he wants someone who iscommitted and lives in North Carolina," Myers says. "If a driver is fromanother state, he wants to see if they are committed enough to try andmake 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 ofbasically all of what takes place in NASCAR. It's been a lot easier tobe able to meet and talk with people to set up appointments and thingslike that. I hope that by me making this move it will show people howserious I am to make it in NASCAR."
Myers raced at Irwindale Speedway in the California short track's weeklyNASCAR Late Model Stock division in 2003 and 2004 before stepping up tothe NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series in 2005. Themove up the proverbial NASCAR ladder proved to be successful, as Myersfinished Ninth in series points and fell one point shy of winning theRookie of the Year award.
Myers scored his first NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone WestSeries victory this April at Phoenix International Raceway in a strong38-car field that included Nextel Cup Series driver Ken Schrader.
The 21-year-old Yontz is gunning to strengthen his resume with a title. Speed51.com Photo
"That was huge," Myers says. "To be able to pull off a win like that inonly my second year in front of all those teams that were there hashelped open a lot of doors for me since then. A lot of people call me tosee how I'm doing and what my plans are, so that Phoenix win reallyhelped open a lot of doors and put us on the radar screen."
Yontz is taking a different approach this season by concentrating hisefforts solely on the UARA tour, advice that was given to him by a topNASCAR team.
"I would like to get noticed by one of the big NASCAR teams, but thisyear our goal is to win the UARA championship," Yontz explains. "I'vegot the dream of making it to the big time in NASCAR, but you can't dothat without getting noticed by the big teams and sponsors. I made theTop 100 last year in Roush Racing's 'Driver X,' and that was a neatexperience, but they pretty much told me flat out that one of myweaknesses was that I had never run a full season and raced for achampionship before for a full season.
"They told me my age was working in my favor, but that never running fora championship before really hurt me. That's why I'm concentrating onrunning the entire 2006 season on the UARA tour, and hopefully we'll bein contention for the championship as well as just getting thatexperience under my belt."
In this day and time in NASCAR, both Yontz and Myers agree that theirage plays a big factor, as top team owners are looking for young driversas opposed to those competitors around the age of 30.
Myers picked up his first NASCAR AutoZone West Series win at Phoenix in April. Mike Keon
"I started racing Late Models when I was pretty young, and I went intoit thinking I was too young to be thinking about getting a ride in oneof NASCAR's top three divisions," says the 21-year-old Yontz. "I wasthinking that when I got to a certain age that if I was winning racesthen 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 alot of teams are looking for. I still think I'm at a pretty young ageand have that going in my favor. If I finish the year off the way I wantto in the UARA tour, then hopefully everything will fall into place forme."
At the age of 26, Myers concedes that getting his foot in the door andgetting noticed by some of the top NASCAR team owners is something heneeds to get done sooner rather than later.
"I know I'm not like the usual 18- or 20-year-old driver in NASCAR's topthree divisions right now," Myers says. "I basically made the decisionwhen I was younger that I wanted to go to college and get my degree. Idid that and got my degree in business management from Cal-State LongBeach. Even though I am 26 years old, I think having that degree behindme and being educated will show a sponsor that I have something to offerthat some of the younger kids can't in understanding the whole businessside of NASCAR from both angles."
Yontz admits that if and when the phone call ever comes from a topNASCAR team, it will be a dream come true.
"I don't know what I'd do," Yontz says. "If I ever got that phone call,I don't know if I could even speak for a few minutes. That's been mydream since I started, and I'm not giving up on my dream just yet."
Myers says it would be vindication for all the hard work and time he'sspent trying to make it to the next level of his racing career.
"It would be a dream come true to let me know that all my hard work haspaid off," Myers says.
Myers celebrates his first NASCAR AutoZone West Series win at Phoenix in April. Mike Keon
Yontz and Myers are also aware of the harsh realities of life and knowthere's a chance the phone call from one of the top NASCAR teams mightnever come. Despite that fact, both drivers admit they will still stayinvolved in racing.
"If I don't get a ride in 5 or 10 years, I think I'll still have thesame passion for racing and still be involved in some shape or form,"Myers says.
Yontz agrees with Myers in that he's got racing in his blood and willalways be involved in the sport, though he hopes that is a problem hedoesn't have to deal with.
"I'll still be racing. I couldn't do without it," Yontz says. "I'm happyright now running just the Late Models, but of course I'd like to moveup the racing ladder. I think that I'll still be in racing a few yearsdown the road if I don't get the chance to move up."
The following are also drivers who--like Myers and Yontz--are hoping toreach the highest levels of the sport.