The Chrome Horn News

4/29/2008

IT'S IN THE BLOOD;
The Myers 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 for it.
    "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 it loves.
    "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 doing.
    "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 always done."
    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 a try.
    "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."

THE END

Source:  Tommy Bowman / Winston-Salem Journal
Posted:  April 29, 2008

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