Celebrating our Racing Dads!

Celebrating our Racing Dads!
Friday, June 16, 2017
by Joanne Cram

There is no shortage of father-son race combinations at Knoxville Raceway, both past and present. The newest generation of drivers with kids is coming up quickly! Matthew Stelzer, Ryan Giles, and Davey Heskin all three balance their lives of being dad, racer, and career guys by reflecting on a few things for Father’s Day.

305 driver, Matthew Stelzer thinks back about how his dad influenced him on and off the track with some fun memories and reflections. He remembers that his dad used racing as a reward growing up. As long as he earned good grades in school and stayed out of trouble, he was able to race. Matthew’s parents pushed him to get an education and go to college, so he had something to fall back on if he never ended up not racing for a living. “In life, it is not always about racing and how you finish. It is the memories that you share together and things you do that make it worth it”, Stelzer stated. He reflected on when he raced micro-sprints across the nation, his dad would always make the family stop and see a historical site/monument on the way to a race. These things were a huge part of his childhood, now that he can reflect back on them. “When I was young, I did not think anything of it, but as I get older, I remember the things we did at a racing event versus how we did”. Those are the things that make a father-child bond even stronger.

Since becoming a father to Addisen age 4 and Sawyer age 2, Matthew says that his children bring him a lot of joy, which is great when the night of racing maybe has not gone the way he wanted- and “let’s be honest, (it’s been) multiple weekends the past couple years”. It’s been fun for Matthew to now have a mini pit crew to help with the sprint car and keep it clean. Matthew enjoys his off-season prep time when he is often working on the car in the garage while the kids drive their ‘race cars’ around. He also finds them with tools in their hands, helping Matthew and learning how to wrench on the car.

Matthew is a fourth generation driver, so when asked what he would do if his kids wanted to race, he said he will “embrace it! Racing brings many valuable lessons in life…on and off the track. My wife, on the other hand, may be a little too worried to allow it, time will tell”.

It has been said that sprint car racing can solidify a family bond. Racing has been in the Stelzer family since before he was born; he says it is genetic. Matthew’s wife and children have bonded with his love for the sport by being his support system when times are tough. They like to help wash the car on Sundays. Stelzer says “it is great when we are able to spend time outside together. My mom and step-dad are huge supporters of my racing and are willing to help in any fashion. Overall, racing has brought my entire family closer”.

360 driver, Ryan Giles, has also adapted well to being a sprint car driving dad to Jackson (3), and Hank (1). He says it can be a challenge to juggle all of his jobs (being a dad, working, and being a sprint car driver). It’s harder to find time to work on the car now that he has to prioritize everything to make sure no one area of his life is getting neglected. His family has had to sacrifice to make sure it all comes together. Giles says that becoming a dad has “calmed me down some. It’s always in the back of my mind that I have little kids at home”. He tries to set a good example for his kids; showing them how to work hard and have a good attitude.

Ryan has been racing with his own dad now for several seasons and is really thankful for the opportunity that racing provides for them to deepen and continue that relationship. The relationship has evolved over the years and has gone through natural ups and downs that can be expected with competitive racing. But at the end of the night, Giles is thankful that they can still go home together and spend that time together. His favorite part of having his dad be part of his race team is that there is that dedicated father-son time that comes from a one hour drive to the track, and the one hour drive back at the end of the night. Giles says that time is so important to him. As you become adults, getting that one on one time with your dad is hard, so he feels very thankful to have that time just the two of them every week. “Every week I can count on at least two hours with him. Just get away, talk, hang out, relax. I think that’s the coolest part about it: the one on one time I get with my dad”.

Ryan has two kids of his own now, and he knows the time will come when they want to race. Ryan’s three year old son has already informed his dad that he wants his own race car. Giles is pretty close with the Garner camp, and hopes that he is able to do a similar program with his son that Clint has done; starting him in cage karts and beginning a new father-son race adventure. He knows that it will be hard to juggle it all; the kids will want to be involved in other sports, too; so making time to do everything will become a challenge. Ryan wants to make it possible for his kids to do whatever they want to do with their sports or racing in the future.

Racing has made the Giles family bond stronger he says. Ever since he and his brothers got started in go karts, it’s been a family ordeal and something that he could count on doing with his family. Racing has brought his own family closer together. After the races, Ryan’s wife brings the kids down and no matter how bad the night is, seeing the kids come down after the races makes it all worth it. Every Sunday he takes his three year old son out to wash the car, starting a new father-son tradition. Overall, as a family, they’ve always stuck together and been behind racing 100% and that makes their family bond strong.

410 driver, Davey Heskin has been a dad to Halle now for a year and a half. Davey is a third generation sprint car driver, so no stranger to the racing family dedication. Heskin grew up at the race track, where his dad, DJ raced the family sprint car. He remembers when he was a little boy scraping mud as soon as he could get in the pits, and his brother, Danny, playing with his race cars in the dirt at the tracks the family would race at. Racing was always what the Heskin family did on the weekends; some families go boating or camping, the Heskins went racing and they never thought twice about it. Racing was a great thing to grow up in, because for the most part, it kept all the Heskin kids out of trouble and always gave them something to do.

Racing is a lot of family time together, and over all, Heskin says it has strengthened their family over the years. In addition to racing, they still try to get out to the lake once a week for even more family time at DJ’s place. All that family time can lead to some drama at times… but Davey wouldn’t change the close knit family that they have because of racing. Racing is what the Heskins do; get up on Saturdays and work on a car, spend all afternoon and evening at Knoxville Raceway. “I can’t picture any other place I’d want to be”.

When the day Halle tells her dad she wants to race, Davey jokes that he will cry. “It will be really interesting when the time comes to see if she gets the itch”, Davey said. “It’s something that you want to do and you can’t describe how you get into the seat that first time and how you really start to grow a passion for racing. If she really decides that she wants to do it (then I’d be okay with that)”. She spends a lot of time at the track now and is around racing all the time, and there are more and more girls getting into the sport and she will have a lot of opportunities if she decides that’s what she wants to do. “She’s only a year and a half… so I have a little time left”.

Since becoming a dad, Davey says things have been great. “When she first learned to smile was probably the coolest thing” Heskin reflects. Now that Davey has a year and a half under his belt, he gives Josh Schneiderman a lot of grief and parenting “tips” Davey style. Schneiderman and his wife will be having their first child this summer. Having a child teaches you a lot: a lot about yourself. They push your boundaries every day. The focus shifts from being about yourself, to being about your child and the drive to do the right thing and raise them right. You hope that along the way you can instill good values and good decision making skills. That’s the hardest part and the thing you worry about the most as a new parent. Becoming a parent makes coming home from a hard day at work the highlight of your evening; seeing Halle light up when she sees that her daddy is home is priceless.

It’s hard to picture the softer side of all of these competitive, driven sprint car men, who also go by the title of Dad. Sprint car racing is a unique family of extended friends and inherited relation that brings everyone together each week for a night of common fun. Watching so many of the kids grow up throughout the years to repeat the family pattern is what the Knoxville Raceway family is all about.