The way Eric Rhead looks at it, when you’re going racing you need to check your attitude at the pit gate.
“If you’re not having fun doing this I don’t know why you’d be doing it. That’s the gist of it,” the Lucas Oil Modified Series rookie from West Jordan, Utah, said. “There’s no reason to have a sour attitude or a bad attitude about it. If you can’t have fun I don’t know what you’re doing out here, realistically. If you can’t put a smile on your face you’re in trouble.”
Rhead smiles and laughs a lot. The 31-year-old who runs the diesel engine shop for sponsor Redbone Trucking isn’t having quite the kind of year he hoped for in the West’s best short track touring series. He’s 20th in the point standings and has two top 15 finishes as the series prepares to kick off the second half of its 10-race season Juiy 25 at Rocky Mountain Raceways, but even when he talks about the challenges of running a new series his enjoyment is obvious.
Like so many others Rhead has had trouble adjusting to the 8-inch Hoosier 700 tire used in the series. “I don’t like this tire. Me and it are not friends,” he said during the Las Vegas weekend in May. Then he laughed and said he had a solution, though. He was “just going to start parking by the smart guys that know the tires.”
His home track is Rocky Mountain Raceways and he’s raced many of the tracks in Idaho and Washington, but except for The Bullring at Las Vegas most of the Lucas Oil Modified tracks are new to him. That means having to learn how to drive the track and how to get there, and finding out that Google Maps said it should take 12 hours to get to Madera, California, when it actually took more than 15.
Rhead thought the rookie class would have a different demographic, too. “I didn’t think I was going to be the old guy. I feel young. But apparently I’m old,” he said while talking about the talent displayed by a handful of rookies under 21.
Rhead’s perspective perhaps is helped by his realization that while he once had thoughts of racing on a national level his age now makes that unlikely. As a result, he said, “we do it as a hobby. It’s something that I love to do and we put a lot of heart and soul and money into it.
“We’ve accomplished a lot. I didn’t think we were going to accomplish near what I have. It’s hard for me to tell you that now because it’s like ‘you’re in the back (of the field), you ain’t accomplished nothing.’ But I’m real proud of last year. We won the (Rocky Mountain) Challenge Series championship and that was a huge accomplishment for us. We had an awesome year last year.”
Rhead got his first race car, a Super Stock, when he was 16. “Then I found out how much racing cost and got about three jobs to pay for it and did that for a couple of years and then backed off and didn’t run for a couple of years and kind of dabbled back and forth.”
Rhead drove the Super Stock for five or six years, along with a little Figure 8, then bought the Late Model he drove to the Rocky Mountain Challenge Series title last year, when he also bought a Modified and finished fourth in Rocky Mountain Raceways’ Maverik Modified series. Then he sat down to decide where to race this year and opted for the Lucas Oil Modified Series.
“It’s a financial deal,” he said, “and these guys are the best show in the West.
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I’ve been impressed with how clean everybody runs with how many cars there are and how much respect they give each other. That’s a huge thing. There’s so much money in these cars and I hate going out and tearing them up. It’s racing and things happen but that’s been the biggest eye-opener – you get 30 or 40 cars and everybody out there has respect for each other.
“Before the race in Las Vegas we were meeting (STR car builder) Steve Teets to set up the car and (fellow driver) Pat Petrie, who I didn’t even know, offered a shop and then wouldn’t take any money. It’s good to see a big group of people that will help each other. That’s just a huge thing.
“Other than that I can’t tell you that I love Modifieds because we haven’t been competitive yet. Maybe when we’re competitive I’ll tell you I like more things, but not right now,” Rhead said.
Then he laughed.
ERIC RHEAD AT A GLANCE
- Age: 31 (18 February 1984)
- Lives in: West Jordan, Utah
- Marital status: Married; wife’s name is Candyce. They have a daughter, Izabella
- Occupation: Manager of Redbone Diesel
- Car number: 66
- Type of chassis: STR
- Engine: Chevrolet
- Crew Chief: Self
- Sponsors: Redbone Trucking
- Years in racing: 16
- Divisions raced: Super Stocks, Figure 8, Maverik Modifieds, Rocky Mountain Challenge Super Late Models, Lucas Oil Modifieds
- Titles and awards: Super Stock champion, 2009, 2013; Rocky Mountain Challenge champion, 2014; Rocky Mountain Raceways Sportsman of the Year, 2014
- Series point standings: T66 (2014)