Tim Byrd and Jensen Ford are teaming up to tackle the FasTrak Racing Series.
The two local dirt track racers have committed to running the full series this season, competing at dirt tracks throughout the Southeast. They leave today for the first race of the year at Augusta, Ga.
It’s much different than a couple of years ago when they were friends, but rivals. Ford edged Byrd the last race of the season to capture the Wythe (Va.) Raceway track championship.
“Jensen and I went neck-and-neck for the championship the year before last,” Byrd recalled. “We didn’t know who won it until an hour after the race. He came out on top, but it’s like I told him, ‘This year, if you beat me every race, that’s good. We’re just going to have fun.’”
Both are expected to be competitive in equally-prepared No. 24 Chevrolets. The No. 24 was chosen because it was the number raced by Charles Byrd, Tim’s father, who won an estimated 70-75 races as well as track championships at Volunteer Speedway and Newport Raceway.
In fact, both drivers are second-generation racers.
Ford’s father Tony owns TNT Race Cars, and his uncle Randy was the 1996 Volunteer Speedway Super Late Model champion.
Despite their similar upbringings, they took different paths to get to where they are.
Ford, 25, has worked at his father’s race car building business since he was a teenager and started driving race cars right after high school. Byrd, 44, runs Charles Byrd Logging, but didn’t get started as a race car driver until he was 40 years old.
“I was raised around it, but I had kids and all, and got away from it about 12 years,” Byrd said. “I had the opportunity to get back in it, and I’m having a good time with it. It’s a family thing, and I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for my father and my wife Lori.”
Ford couldn’t have done as much this season without Byrd. He needed a full-time ride and this provided the perfect opportunity. Byrd, who finished third in last season’s Volunteer Speedway point standings, believes it’s a good match. Byrd finished runner-up to Ford in Volunteer’s final race of last season, and likes his talents behind the wheel.
“I’ve worked hard to get a winning team together,” Byrd said. “I finally have the sponsors to do it now and I think we will have a winning season. Some of the tracks around here don’t run a lot, so we decided to do the tour this year.”
The strategy is to work together with hopes that they will be competitive and have fun racing.
“All I hope for is put them back in the trailer at the end of the night and to finish good,” said Byrd, who started three years ago as a teammate to five-time Volunteer Speedway track champion Dale Ball. “I think racing different tracks is really going to help me a lot, think it will be a real learning curve.”
They realize many challenges lie ahead, including racing on different track surfaces. While the sizes of the tracks in the FasTrak Series aren’t as varied as one of the major NASCAR series, drivers have to contend with a different type of dirt in Virginia than they see in the Carolinas or Georgia.
“That red dirt, I don’t even know if you can call it clay, in South Carolina is different than anywhere we race,” Ford said. “It goes from heavy hooked-up to just dry slick real quick. Guys who race asphalt have pretty much a consistent surface and know what it’s going to be. On our dirt stuff, it’s different somehow.”
Still, they are optimistic they can compete for a championship.
“I believe we’re going to have a good year,” Ford said. “I think we can finish top-five in points and hopefully, one of us can win that deal. If we can win some races here and there, it will be good.”