|Friday, 04 May 2012 19:24|
Think about the names: Bobby Schnars, Squirt Johns, Dick Barton, Ron Davies, Chub Frank, and Skip Furlow. What do they have in common? All are Stateline Speedway points champions, some many times over.
Dutch Davies, in one of the feel-good stories of 2011, added his name to that venerable list, wheeling George LaBarbera's No. 26G to the top of the heap at the Busti, New York, oval. As Davies prepares to defend that championship, he realizes that what he accomplished a year ago—his first points title at any level—is a big, big deal.
"It meant a lot. I'd never really run anywhere for points ... just kind of chased the bigger shows that were in the area," said Davies, from Warren, Pennsylvania. "It meant a lot because there is a lot of history at that track and a lot of great drivers who have come out of there. So to be able to say that you've won a points championship at Stateline Speedway really means a lot. It meant a lot to George and his family, too, I know."
If, once the end of August rolls around and Davies has successfully defended his Stateline crown this year, he'll have done it in his own equipment. Davies, 40, is returning to drive a Rocket chassis he fields with partners Todd Houser, Sam Gafner, and Bill Curren. While he enjoyed his year-plus with LaBarbera, Davies said it just makes too much sense to field his own car again.
"This last offseason, I had a good sponsor come along and want to back me in my own stuff, so I just decided that I would go ahead and run my own operation again," he said. "George and I had a good time racing together, and they treated me well. I really enjoyed him and his family. But it's hard when you have your own equipment sitting there to go drive somebody else's stuff.
"Our plan is to run Stateline all season and try to repeat."
It's never been easy for Dutch, the younger brother of the more accomplished and extremely popular Ron Davies, who last year decided to tour with the World of Outlaws bunch for the first time. While Dutch is now a veteran of more than 20 seasons behind the wheel of a late model, those early days brought their share of anxiety and disappointment. At one point, he steered a yellow No. 21D limited late model that was much like Ron's No. 71D.
"When you start out, it's tough because there is such a steep learning curve, and I think you have a lot of expectations put on you," said Davies, who "kinda runs the place" at Davies and Sons, the family's outdoor power equipment business that often keeps Dutch working 12-hour days during the spring. "People expect you to be good right out of the box. But you have to be patient with yourself and learn at your own pace. ... It's a tough business with a lot of talent, expecially in this area."
Dutch Davies (21D) leads Kurt Thorpe (99) in limited late model racing at Eriez Speedway. (Courtesy Eriez)
But inside, Dutch must have known he didn't have a lot of time to figure things out, not when his older brother was giving advice.
"Especially when I was young and getting started, he was always trying to get me to be more aggressive," Dutch said of Ron. "You know, the younger brother type of thing where he was like, 'What are you doing?' you know. 'Get your ass in gear and get moving.' That was one thing that he was always harping on me about."
Ron, a.k.a. "the Rim Rider," has his own business, Weldbank Energy, so their busy schedules don't allow them to chat much. When they do get around to talking about racing, setups aren't a topic they can agree on, Dutch noted.
"Neither one of us likes the car set up the same. We have completely different driving styles, and what he needs in his race car is usually 180 degrees different from what I need," he said. "He's good and very accomplished at the way he does it, and I feel like we are too.
"He likes his cars freer. He likes to charge the corner and run out against the outside. And me, I like to drive the car straighter. My cars have to be pretty tight for me to feel comfortable and drive the car the way I want."
(Courtesy Stateline Speedway)
The Family Man
There was a time when Dutch had aspirations to make racing a much bigger priority in his life. After all, who wouldn't want to give a national touring series a shot as Ron did in 2011—to mixed results? But listening to him talk about his family makes you think Dutch, with one race car and one motor at his disposal, is enjoying racing now as much as ever.
"At one time when I was younger, in my 20s, I wished that I could do it for a living," he said. "But now, the older I get, and being more involved in business and getting married, and we have three boys, I really get enjoyment out of my family, staying at home with them, and then racing close to home on the weekends so that they can enjoy it with me. That's really important to me that they be there and we enjoy it together."
You might say that things have kind of come full circle for Dutch. At one time, he grew up trying to emulate guys like Ron Davies, Dick Barton, and Skip Furlow—after all, putting the No. 40 on his car several years ago started as a tribute to Furlow, "and it kind of stuck."
"I enjoy racing with the people that I grew up watching because to me that's such a priviledge to race against guys like my brother Ron and Dick Barton," Dutch said. "I thought, 'Man, they were my heroes.' Getting the opportunity to race with them and compete with them really makes you feel good, and that's part of the aura of the sport."
Now he's the defending champ ... and that's pretty cool too.