ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sean Guthrie and Isaac Sherman are late additions for NAPA 150
Thanks to a flurry of 11th-hour wheeling and dealing, the Duke City will be well-represented tonight when the green flag drops for the NAPA 150 stock car race at NAPA Speedway.
The 75-mile event, which is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., is part of NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West, a developmental program that is making its first stop in Albuquerque. This race is the 13th on the circuit’s 15-date 2012 schedule.
Making last-minute plans to take part are the Duke City’s Sean Guthrie and Isaac Sherman. They’ll join defending series champ and current points leader Greg Pursley and 18 other drivers.
As of early this week, however, neither local driver figured to be part of the K&N mix.
Guthrie, 24, a veteran of 43 races in the Indy Lights open-wheel series, said he was planning a leisurely weekend of golf and would watch the K&N feature from the grandstands.
“I wasn’t expecting to ride anything,” said Guthrie, son of speedway owner Jim Guthrie. “I was only going to do a drift car exhibition.”
But then came Tuesday morning, when he was at his father’s Car Crafters collision center preparing to put an engine into a modified racer.
“We decided to put the engine in that day and I said, ‘Who’s driving it this weekend?’ Well, Luigi Truden and his dad, Mario, who built the motor and kind of maintain the car, just shrugged their shoulders.
“So, my hand went up and now I’m driving it.”
Only two hours later, Sean’s weekend got exponentially busier when his father received a call from the K&N race team owned by John Wood of Eagle, Idaho. Wood also is a driver.
Said Sean: “He called dad and said, ‘I’ve got a car, and you talked about your son wanting to drive,’ so my dad first made sure I still wanted to do it. Well, since I’m a racer I’ll never say no.
“It’s funny that this was the first year in eight years I haven’t been riding a car at all, and now all of a sudden I’m racing two.”
At least he should be familiar with the track.
Sherman, 17, who is a senior home-schooler, has three previous races in the series, including a 19th-place finish at Phoenix in March while staying on the lead lap. But he, too, had given up hope of riding in this one because of sponsorship issues. He thought he would have to be satisfied with just his place in the modified event.
“Yeah, I really wanted to ride here,” he said of his anxiety leading up to the K&N race. “It was between a couple of teams, but it turned out we didn’t raise enough money for the top teams that we wanted.”
At which point another K&N driver/owner, Ryan Philpott of Tracy, Calif., came to the rescue. Said Sherman: “Philpott really worked with us, and we wound up getting in the race.”
Philpott, who said he is interested in having Sherman drive for him full time in the future, gave the teen his No. 38 car despite Sherman’s team coming up $10,000 short of making its sponsorship goal.
“That’s a lot farther along than the $30,000 we were looking at earlier,” said Sherman’s marketing and promotional manager, Jennie Jansson. “(Philpott) will be running us a bill. Eventually Isaac is going to pay it off.”
Primary backers to date are Supercuts and Motiva.
Not that Jansson still isn’t searching for a heavyweight sponsor to make up the difference. And if she finds one, she said it’s never too late to slap fresh art work on the hood.
“I can decal like there’s no tomorrow,” Jansson said.
Philpott said the fact that Sherman is local was a key to his decision.
“It’s his home track and it’s always good to showcase your talent in your hometown,” he said. “And being as young as he is, he’s open-minded. He knows how to drive a race car and he’s willing to learn.”
Sherman said Philpott helped smooth his transition to the bigger K&N cars.
“I’ve learned a lot from him – the secrets and little tips on how to drive,” Sherman said. “It’s actually that the weight of the car is completely different (from modifieds). They’re heavier, by about a thousand pounds. So they take a long time to stop and they react slow in the corners.”
And if anyone knows this track, it’s Sherman, who estimates he has run more than 100 races at the speedway in various classes.
“I think it will give me a pretty good edge,” he said.
Whereas Sherman is eager to continue to his progression in racing, Guthrie has arrived at a fork in the road.
“Racing has always been a passion of mine, but now that I’m married and have so many other things going on in my life, if I get back in a race car, it’s got to be the right deal.
“A few years ago, I would get in anything with four wheels and an engine. But now it’s got to be a good deal. And if I get one, then I’ll have my helmet and bags packed.”
NOTE: Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip won Friday afternoon’s celebrity race at the speedway, holding off the car driven by Jim Guthrie. Finishing third was Steve Stucker of KOB-TV (Channel 4).
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal