“Although my involvement in motorsports has grown tremendously over the past five-seven years, I really wasn’t raised around it completely, so to speak. Actually, at 31-years-old, I would still consider myself pretty new to the sport; not knowing a lot of people, but I am trying to change that.
I grew up on a horse farm, actually. My dad and grandfather were heavily involved in harness racing – and my dad still is to this day. I spent most of my summer vacations and holiday breaks from school on the farm with my dad and pap- shoveling horse crap, weed-eating and mowing grass; hell on earth. Oddly enough, I used to love when we had to bail hay, probably because I was too small to lift anything at that point. I would climb to the top of the hay wagon and kick the hay down to the bottom. It used to make our farm help really mad. Nothing like getting pelted by 50-pound bails of hay when it’s 90 degrees outside. You have to remember, I never broke 100 pounds until I was a senior in high school. I wasn’t very big. My dad would always preach ‘The Lord loves a workin’ man,’ usually right before he took a nap and I was left with more yard work.
I made frequent trips to The Meadows Racetrack in Washington, PA, with my dad and the horses while growing up. I remember I would have to sit in the ‘old paddock’ by myself because I wasn’t old enough to be where the horses were kept before they raced. My dad knew everyone, so there was always somebody around to keep an eye on me when he was busy warming up his horse or getting ready in the paddock. This of course is way before they ever built the casino, not that I was old enough to go in one anyhow. It’s beautiful there now. I still really enjoy harness racing. I try to make it to The Meadows three or four times a summer to watch my cousin Mike Wilder race. My dad tried to get me to become a driver pretty often while I was growing up, but I always declined. Sometimes I catch myself rethinking that decision, but I enjoy what I am doing now.
Anyhow, I became involved in short track racing initially, mainly sprint car racing, through my uncle Bob. I blame this racing obsession on him – jokingly of course. I love him for it. Not that I don’t care about my own parents and their interests, but they really didn’t have the interest in car racing like I did. My uncle Bob raced micro sprints and 410 sprints between – I think from 1990-ish to 2004-ish. I used to go over to his garage and mess around; helped wash the car and do very minimal maintenance. I really wasn’t much help. Most of the time my little cousin Aaron and I would play hockey on the blacktop driveway. Those were the glory days; we were awesome.
That entire section of my childhood seemed pretty endless, but there were still plenty of times in there where I wasn’t around racing at all. My uncle Bob was hurt in a motorcycle accident when I was pretty young. That kind of stalled racing for me for a period of time. I really can’t even remember when that happened to be honest. Actually, getting to the races regularly was pretty far and few in between to begin with. By the time I got my driver’s licence, I found myself going to Lernerville a lot. I was making a lot of friends and I knew a lot of people through my uncle Bob, so that kept me entertained. Pretty soon, I found myself helping a buddy on a super late model team. Even while in college, I found myself back at Lernerville Speedway on select Friday nights helping on the same team. I didn’t know much – just helped change tires and bang body panels with a hammer. But lets not get too far ahead of ourselves…
Regardless, my senior year of high school, 2004/2005, was the year I stepped up my involvement in sprint car racing – big time. My good friend Greg Dobrosky called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Williams Grove Speedway for the National Open. Are you kidding me?? I’ll never forget that day. I had a soccer game in the morning and he planned to pick me up after the game. It was my last soccer game of my high school career and I could not have cared less. That trip to The Grove changed my life, basically. Up until that time, I only ever visited Lernerville, Tri-City, Marion Center and Challenger Raceway. I just didn’t have the means of getting anywhere else. That 2004 National Open really opened my eyes. From that point on, I had everything mapped out. I found myself printing schedules, looking up tracks, planning trips; I was basically a racing gypsy most of my summers, but poorer. I slept in my car a lot and showers were scarce. Lucky for me, one of my best friends from college, Ty Basinger, had a grandmother that lived about 10 minutes from Williams Grove Speedway. To this day, I don’t really think she ever knew who I was. I just remember knocking on the door and saying ‘I’m Tyler, Ty’s buddy..’ Good times.
My start in writing is probably a little more unusual than most involved within this field. I have multiple college degrees including a Masters, so I guess I’m educated, obviously in debt, but being a writer was never the intention. It was a complete accident. I knew I wanted to somehow become involved in racing. I never had the talent or the resources to be a driver, and I certainly never had the coordination or knowledge to be a mechanic, so I had to find a different path. Therefore, my contribution became promotion. It definitely started out as being just a hobby; an accident at that!
I started a website soon thereafter to promote my attempt at becoming a super fan. In addition to my attempt at selling my own line of custom apparel, I maintained a weekly blog highlighting my weekend road trips and listing all of the tracks that I visited. I think my first actual ‘client,’ if I should even label it as that, was Danny Holtgraver. He messaged me on Facebook and asked me if I would be interested in recapping his results once a week or what not, so I agreed to do it. I look back now and re-read some of those entries. Boy, I hope my stuff is better now. I did that for an entire summer. Pretty soon, I was writing recaps for more and more drivers throughout Western Pennsylvania; mostly sprint car drivers that competed at Lernerville, Mercer and Sharon. I was really enjoying what I was doing; expanding as much as I could while also adding other elements to my website such as shop tours and driver interviews. I miss that stuff, for sure. I definitely have to thank guys like Danny Holtgraver, Jared Miley, Colton Flinner, Mike Reft, Scott Priester, Brandon Matus, Brandon Spithaler, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Joe Martin; I know I am forgetting to mention others, but these guys really gave me a chance. I had a blast writing about their results and mentioning their upcoming plans. I felt a real sense of accomplishment while I was doing that stuff. It was my place in the circle, so to speak. I never charged anyone a dime at that point, I just loved doing it.
My first real taste of expansion came at Lincoln Speedway in June of 2011 when I met the Haas family. How I met Cory Haas, and eventually Alan Krimes, is actually really comical. At the time, I was still trying to get my own brand of T-shirts off the ground, all while still maintaining my blog and writing recaps for guys back home. My buddy, Ty Basinger, and I – you know, the kid with the grandma that lives by Williams Grove that probably still to this day has no clue who I am – were in the parking lot of Lincoln Speedway during PA Sprint Speedweek. We were selling Fully Injected T-shirts out of the trunk of my car when Larry Haas, Cory’s father, walked by. He asked us what we had and we explained our cause. He said ‘I’ll give you a Cory Haas shirt in exchange for one of those.’ Naturally, we said yes. As he was walking away, he turned around and yelled ‘you boys have any decals?’ Luckily, we did. He told me ‘I’ll put this on Cory’s wing tonight. If he wins, I better see your ass in victory lane.’ Cory went on to win that night; the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial worth $7,000. I kept my promise and went to victory lane. What a night. Ill never forget that. To this day, I am still very close with Cory and his family. I’ve had the privilege to be a part of his racing career ever since that weekend, as well as meet others within the Central PA circle. It was an amazing experience. If it wasn’t for that random parking lot occurrence, I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I think it was late 2013 into spring of 2014 when Brian Ellenberger, former sprint car driver and World of Outlaws touring member, became involved with Fully Injected Motorsports for the first time. He showed a lot of interest in what I had going on and really helped me build it up to where it is today; turned it into a business, so to speak. With that said, I also became an employee of Brian’s other company, the Fully Injected Motorsports parent company – as I like to refer to it as – Classic Ink USA Screenprinting and Embroidery. I still work both jobs to this day; writing press daily for Fully Injected Motorsports during my office and out of office hours, as well as work as the motorsports account manager within Classic Ink USA from 8 am to 5 pm, daily. I think the official title on my contract is ‘Director of Motorsports Marketing and Sales.’ It sounds intense, but I really enjoy what I do.”
Part two coming up eventually….