IT'S IN THE BLOOD;
family has won 110 feature races at Bowman Gray
Lines of trophies adorn the shelves that stretch across a cinderblock
wall of a 3,200-square-foot shop that is home to Bowman Gray Stadium's
most storied racing family.
Burt Myers picked up one of the awards, eyed a race-ready
Modified car responsible for bringing it home and then thought about all
the work that three generations have put into the sport and business.
"I guess you either love racing too much or you're crazy if
your race shop is bigger than your house," he said. "Maybe both."
His grandfather Billy and great-uncle Bobby started it all, nearly 60
years ago when Bowman Gray Stadium and NASCAR racing were in their
infancy. His father, Gary, kept it going, and Burt and his brother,
Jason, have continued the legacy. In all, the Myers family has won 110
feature races at Bowman Gray Stadium alone.
"Every dime we make, you can see it sitting right here," Burt
Myers said, glancing across the shop off Germanton Road that was built
by his father about 10 years ago. "People think because we've got this
shop and race cars that we've got money. The truth is, our passion for
racing and these race cars is the reason we don't have any money."
Jason Myers said: "If you handed our Dad a check right now
for $5,000, he'd spend $4,900 on race cars."
And the remainder? "He'd spend that on Sun Drop," Burt Myers
said. But it's racing first, soda second. The Myers' do have a passion
"You hear people say that racing gets in your blood," Burt
Myers said. "I'm a firm believer in that. This is what my grandpa did,
racing three or four nights a week. And I've watched my daddy go as hard
as he can go working on these race cars. He's done it all his life. This
winter he never took a day off. He was working on these cars trying to
get them better for this year. Me and Jason are the same way. We're here
every minute we can be here. I can't imagine not doing this."
The family team now owns and maintains seven cars, driven by
Burt and Jason at Bowman Gray Stadium, which will begin a new season
with qualifying tonight and a 200-lap race Saturday, and in NASCAR's
Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The oldest of the fleet is a favorite,
first built in the '80s and rescued from "the weeds" in the '90s. Burt
has won 28 races and Gary 24 in it.
All seven cars have been built from scratch, which saves
money and helps the family team in its attempt to break even doing what
"When you build a car from the ground up, by hand, you
appreciate it a little more," Burt Myers said.
Philip Smith, a former stadium champ, foots the bill for the
cars driven by Burt. Gary pays for the rest, with money made from a
body-shop business. Gary Myers said that at least $50,000 is invested in
each car, not including labor, and that it costs at least that much to
race it for a season.
Burt Myers won a third Bowman Gray Stadium championship last season,
matching the total of his grandfather Billy, who died of an apparent
heart attack while racing at the stadium in 1958.
"I remember going to the stadium and watching Daddy race when
I was about 7 or 8 years old," said Gary Myers, who couldn't wait to
race himself. He drove himself to driver's education class, got his
license when he turned 16 on a Friday and went racing the next night.
Gary tried his hand in NASCAR's big league for 46 races,
through parts of four seasons in the late '70s -- registering 11th-place
finishes in Winston Cup races at Martinsville, Rockingham and North
Wilkesboro -- until it became too costly and he had to deal with a bout
of colon cancer.
He won 38 times in Bowman Gray's Modified Division, and now
oversees his sons' racing endeavors. Burt began racing in 1994, and
Jason in 1999.
Pam Myers, the wife of Gary Myers and mother of Burt and
Jason, said that is hasn't been easy being a wife and mom to race-car
drivers. She said that she always worries about the danger, and that
it's a lifestyle that allows for little else other than racing. But
there are rewards, she said.
"Racing has kept my family together," said Pam, who has been
married to Gary for 36 years. "I see my boys every day -- although
granted I might have to go to the race shop to do that. But they're
always there. I've always known where my boys are and what they're
"I can't say it's always been easy with them so wrapped up in
it. It's been difficult at times. And expensive. And the danger and
worry is always there. But it's binding. And for the boys it's about
heritage. It's important to them because it's what this family has
And it's what the family will continue to do. Burt recently
took his 8-year-old daughter, Jade, to give scaled-down Grand Prix cars
"The guy working there said, ‘I've never seen a kid out here
that little running that hard,'" Burt Myers said. "She was bumping and
passing and set the fastest time for the month for the youth division. I
swear she looked like one of us. She wants to win, she wants to go fast
and she wants to race like her family does."