Momma’s Boys

Momma’s Boys
Sunday, May 14, 2017
By Joanne Cram

Mother’s Day is one of those days that should be all about mom… but we all know that’s never the case. Moms don’t ever stop “momming” their kids, and that includes those kids that race. After chatting it up with 305 drivers Kevin Hetrick, and Ryan Leavitt; 360 driver, Sawyer Phillips; and 410 driver, Austin McCarl, it’s pretty clear that their moms are all unique and a huge part of their racing successes.

19 year old 305 rookie, Ryan Leavitt, is no stranger to the race track. Jumping into a sprint car from a mini sprint is a big deal, but one that he claims his mom, Amy, knew would happen eventually. “She didn’t have much to say (about it), she goes with it, as much as a mother can. She just wants us to be safe out there.” Growing up in a race family where his dad, Eddie raced for many years, Ryan says that his mom, Amy, “got used to the nerves side of things... she sees how much I love it and she gets really excited about it (racing)”. When asked about Amy’s role in Ryan’s racing, he said that she is involved in keeping the team fed on race nights, and checks up on them in the shop to keep them on track. She keeps the team calm, and always has a smile on her face. On race nights, Amy is in the stands every week. She focuses on Ryan’s car, and he could picture her being pretty calm while being his biggest fan.

Kevin Hetrick, driver of the #35 305 sprint car, brings his mom, Joyce, to the track every weekend. Kevin claims his mom is his biggest supporter. “She’s at the track every week, brings food, gets the lineup. She’s all around good help, even does a little mud scrapin’ too”. When Kevin informed his mom that he would be taking over where his brother, Brian left off in a sprint car, she “was a little nervous, scared; informed me that it cost a lot of money, and obviously she was right.” When asked about her reaction to Kevin when he hit the track, he claims that “it used to be that she filmed every week, and when she would start filming, the camera was always shaky, then it got to the point where she could just film and watch me and she got a lot more comfortable.” Kevin says she still gets a little nervous with him on the track, but his mom is his biggest supporter and always there for him.

Susan Phillips has not one, but three sons out on the race track each week now. Rager, the oldest of her boys, runs a 410 in the #22; Tasker, the 7w 410 driver; and Sawyer, the 3P in a 360- all give Susan a run for her money on Saturday nights! Susan is so much more than just a typical mom for her boys. She financially backs the race program for Sawyer’s car, helping to pay for the expenses that weekly race earnings can’t make up for. Sawyer jokes about his mom’s ability to film him each Saturday; there are often times “choice words on the iPad that he can’t repeat” when he goes back to view his races. When asked about her reaction to his racing each week, Sawyer said his mom is there every Saturday and supports all three of the brothers in any way she can. She comes down to the pits every Saturday night to wrap up the evening with her boys. Sawyer thinks that his choice to carry on the brotherly racing tradition wasn’t a huge surprise to his mom. Although Sawyer and Susan never actually had that conversation about whether he would race or not, Sawyer said his mom “just kind of expected it, it was in my blood, and I was raised up around it”.

Austin McCarl’s mom, Lori, is also no stranger to the race track; having spent much of her life supporting her husband, and now supporting her two sons’ aspirations to be sprint car drivers. Lori is Austin’s number one fan, and she plays a huge role in his racing career. She “guides me in the right direction when things aren't going well, or when you just need a kick in the rear. This sport can be brutal mentally at times, especially when things aren't going your way or you're not as competitive as you think you should be. She does a lot behind the scenes that people don't see, for not only me, but for my father and brother as well. When we're too busy working on the cars or doing interviews, she's always got our helmets ready, suits clean and everything we need for the night ready for us at all times. She goes very unappreciated at times, but without her I'd be lost.”

When asked about Lori’s reaction when Austin is out on the track, he said “she (Lori) definitely gets nervous I think. When I was a kid I always remember her grabbing my arms and using them as a stress ball and stomping my feet cheering for my dad, or yelling at him to move up or go to the bottom. This is a very dangerous sport and cars are going way faster than I ever have before, so there's plenty to be nervous about from my mother’s side (of things), I would assume.”

Being born into a racing family, Lori knew that inevitably, Austin would go into the family business of racing. “I've never told her I wanted to do anything different. She always tried to ask me when I was a little boy, if I couldn't be a racecar driver what would I be? And I could never really answer the question. This has been all I've ever done, and all I've ever been around my whole life; between my father and my grandfather. So for me, it's in my blood- and she knows that more than anybody. She's been with my dad since he was 18 years old and this is all they've ever done. I know she wishes I would've went to college to be a lawyer or a doctor, which would've been a much safer occupation and much more financially stable occupation. But she knows this is my passion and she supports me 100% and we couldn't do it without her.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of those moms out there that support their kids and other people’s kids, too!