Tanner English may have found the perfect Father’s Day gift: a day of racing.
The Benton driver plans to compete at the Wilmot (Wis.) Raceway today in the 2014 DIRTcar Summer Nationals “Hell Tour.” His father, longtime driver Terry English, is working as Tanner’s pit crew as they navigate the 33-race, 39-day schedule of events mainly in Illinois and Indiana.
“I wouldn’t see us spending it any other way,” Tanner said.
That’s because his father nurtured his love of racing. Tanner, 21, grew up racing mini sprints and 4-wheelers but never thought about racing anything larger — at least until Terry sat Tanner in the driver’s seat of his Late Model and told the then-12-year-old he’d race one of those soon.
“It was pretty crazy,” Tanner said. “I was nervous and excited at the same time. I didn’t know if he’d trust me enough to put me in something that elaborate.”
Just two years later, at the age of 14, Tanner passed his father on Turn 4 of the last lap to win the feature race at Paducah International Raceway on April 22, 2010. They both beat Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart, drivers with years of NASCAR experience.
The Englishes have been nearly unbeatable this season. Tanner has won four Late Model features in six Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway starts and finished second to his father once. His worst finish was fifth ahead of his father’s sixth at Bluegrass Nationals on April 26.
Tanner’s success comes after his father taught him the importance of patience while racing.
“Everything’s happening so fast,” Tanner said. “It’s hard to take it in and put it in perspective, but that just comes with experience. When you get into lapped traffic, you want to be right there behind them when they make a mistake and be able to capitalize on it.”
As Tanner goes through the Summer Nationals schedule — the series started last Wednesday, will stop at Paducah International Raceway on June 27 and will end July 19 — he’ll rely upon his father for advice on which route around turns becomes fastest throughout the night and to help him make repairs and adjustments between races.
Terry, 51, admits that helping Tanner takes a lot of work and a lot of time and the series of races is grueling.
“However, being at the track beats receiving a tie for Father’s Day.“It’s just night after night of racing,” Terry said. “That’s what we enjoy doing.”