The Frontstretch: Racing Is What I Do: Burt Myers, Short Track Superstar With No NASCAR Regrets by Mike Neff -- Tuesday September 6, 2011

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Burt Myers, 2011 Bowman-Gray Stadium Modified Champion dukes it out every Saturday night during the Summer at the fabled race track.

Burt Myers is the 2011, Bowman-Gray Stadium Modified Champion. The title is the second consecutive title for the well known driver from Walnut Cove, NC. Myers has won five championships during his Modified racing career. Myers is the grandson and great-nephew of Billy and Bobby Myers who raced at The Stadium when it was first opened in 1949. His father, Gary Myers, is ninth on the all-time career victory list at Bowman-Gray with 36 wins. Myers’ family has been synonymous with Modified racing at Bowman-Gray and Burt, along with his brother Jason, are carrying on that family tradition.

This past week, after some minor setbacks at Bristol, Frontstretch was able to catch up with Myers at his family race shop in Walnut Cove and spend a little time getting to know him. Myers was getting ready for a Southern Modified Tour race at Langley Speedway and, before we were able to sit down for the article, he actually allowed Mike Neff to assist in putting his freshened Roush Yates power plant into his car before it was loaded up to take to the race track.

Mike Neff:: Burt, you are one of five drivers who has won more than three titles at Bowman-Gray stadium. What does it mean to you to have that much success at such a historic track?

Burt Myers: We race so often that we don’t get a lot of time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished. It is pretty cool when you do take the time to reflect, especially on the history that our family has there. To be able to look and see the Myers’ family name in the history books, all of the way back to when Bowman-Gray began, when NASCAR began. It is pretty cool. This is the first year that I’ve been able to do a back-to-back. That is very cool, it is pretty special to me. It’s not just about hitting one here and there. I had ’99 and then ’01, then jumped all of the way to ’07. I think it is a testament to how hard you work and how much dedication you have when you’re able to do a back-to-back.

Racing is what the Myers’ do. When the Stadium season is not in session they are traveling with the Southern Modified Tour and hitting any other tracks that host Modified races.

Neff: Speaking of back-to-back, there are only three drivers in the history of The Stadium who have managed to win three consecutive championships. Is that now the goal since you’ve accomplished winning consecutive championships?

Myers: Well yeah, of course it is. When you’re able to win races and championships you become a victim of your own success. Whether that is good or bad I don’t know, but once you go to the banquet and you get that big trophy one time it is never good enough to go back and not get the big trophy. Absolutely three in a row is my goal. If I can go over there, I mean I say this every year, we go over there to win races. The last two years we’ve been fortunate enough to go over and win races and win the championships at the same time. I’d say three in a row is my next goal.

Neff: You mention the history of the stadium and your family there and part of the reason I’m doing this is there are people who are fans of our site who don’t know about you and your family’s history there. Talk a little about your folks and your family history at The Stadium. A lot of people don’t know that before you and Jason were running at Bowman-Gray there were other Myers who raced there.

Myers: Well, my Grandpa and my Great-Uncle Billy and Bobby Myers started there when Bowman-Gray started. They were pioneers of the sport, at least I think most people consider them pioneers of the sport, back with the Flocks and Curtis Turner and people like that. My Grandpa won three championships there and Bobby won one or two (a check of the records says it was one.) but the Myers family has won 135 races over there, combined, feature wins, so like I’ve said, the Myers name goes way back over there.

Running in front of 15,000 people nearly every weekend at the Stadium will keep a family coming back for years.

Neff: That leads us into the next question I had, you’re fifth on the all-time wins list at The Stadium. Are you going to run there long enough to get to the top spot and can you keep Tim Brown from getting to that spot before you do?

Myers: Tim got about a four or five year head start on me so he’s nine or ten wins ahead of me right now. I think, if history stands true, me and Tim will be one and two before it is over with if we stay there that long. My goal has always been to progress up the NASCAR ladder, but all of my eggs are in the Modified basket. So it is hard, that is the basket that I have to carry right now. If the opportunity came up that I would have the chance to run something else I would absolutely pursue it, but you can see right here, everything I have is open wheel so it would be kind of hard for me to start over in something else, especially at the next level without some serious financial support. I think Brown and I will be one and two before it is all said and done.

Neff: Considering all-time wins, Junior Miller, the last couple of years it hasn’t seemed like he’s been that competitive, but he did win up at North Wilkesboro. Do you think he’s past his prime? Can he still get it done at The Stadium? I mean, I don’t know how old he is. He’s like 80 or something (he’s actually only 60).

Myers: (laughs) I don’t know how old he is. It’s hard to say. I try not to focus on what everybody else is doing. I try to focus on what I’m doing. When you lose focus and you start worrying about what other people are doing you get off track from where you need to be. Basically, other than Jason, everybody else over there is just another number. Y’know, Jason is not really a teammate, in my eyes he’s my brother. Me and Tim Brown race good together. The reason me and Jason and Tim get along together and race good and race hard and race clean and just have good racing together is because Tim lives the same way we do. We eat, we live, we breathe modified racing. It is a matter of respect. I think Tim respects his own equipment so he respects other people’s equipment because he knows what we have to do to put into it, the same way around with us. As far as Junior is concerned I try not to pay any more attention to him than I have to. We go over there to win races and do the best we can.

Myers keeps a great attitude about racing. Even though his motor was giving him fits at Bristol he still had a smile on his face.

Neff: Junior, Tim and you have owned the championship at The Stadium over the last 15 years. Is there anybody else over there running now, young or old, you see coming up or has been there a while that you see knocking you guys off for a championship?

Myers: It is hard to say. Y’know there are guys coming in and out. Jason has shown some real progress the last couple of years. The thing about Bowman-Gray is you’ve got to have some luck to go along with your success. With the handicap system, with the draw races, with the choice cone, with the double-file restarts, there are so many things that play into the picture. You can have the fastest car over there and be the best driver over there and that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to come out on top. If you look in the history books for the last several years, me and Tim have been first or second for the last however many years, but it is really hard to say. I don’t want to call out any names, good or bad, you never know who might step up.

Neff: You ran a Late Model during the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond. Have you ever thought about running a Late Model at another track to try and win a championship in that kind of car and win a NC State championship in a Modified and a Late Model?

Myers: I’d love to. Like I said before, everything I have is open wheel, it is all Modified stuff. If I had the opportunity, I’ve talked to a couple of people about possibly doing some UARA races or some Late Model races but, until the opportunity, until someone can actually come to me and give me an opportunity, I’m kind of stuck where I’m at y’know, as far as physically, financially, mentally, everything I’ve got and everything I know is about Modifieds. I love running Late Models, I love driving Late Models, it is a different kind of racing. I had a ball driving the Late Model at the Denny Hamlin race. I’d love to do some more racing for Team Dillon but, like I said, unless the opportunity it presented to me, it is kind of hard for me to step out of where I am now and try and race something else.

Myers wheeling the No. 3 Late Model for Team Dillon at Richmond.

Neff: What is it like having such a huge fan following at the Stadium? I mean, looking at that place, there are Cup drivers who would be jealous of the fan following that the Myers Brothers and Tim Brown has, for that matter.

Myers: The TV show did a lot to help that but, I think people appreciate how we treat the fans because, I think, we treat people the way we want to be treated. And people say all of the time that it’s about, they make comments about, we’re the last ones there, signing autographs and taking pictures, but when you enjoy it that makes it easy. It is our passion, it is all we know, it is what we do. So it is pretty cool to know that, when you actually take a minute to look and you see that we both have 20some thousand fans on Facebook, we’ve both won the most popular driver that last several years at the stadium, and I won it on the tour last year and I think Jason is leading it on the tour this year, so it is humbling if anything to know that maybe you’re making a difference.

Let me say this, I think one of the things that I am most proud of with the TV show is the recognition that it got for short track racing in general and especially the modified division. I think it put people in touch with people like us, and I think they can relate to us because we’re just ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing. When the turn on CMT cribs and see these Cup drivers with multi-million dollar homes and 14 vehicles and all of these toys, they can’t relate to it. They can relate to us and I think that is one of the reasons that we’ve got the following that we do.

Neff: You mentioned Tim Brown before and the guy has got 160 pole positions or something and 58 feature wins and unloads fast every week but has respect for you and seems to always race you hard. How much fun is it knowing that you’re going to have to be on you’re A-game to beat him just about every week?

Myers: Well, I think it makes it fun. Y’know, it is a challenge and you don’t mind running and racing a guy when you know what you’ve got to do is out run him. You don’t have to knock him out of the way, you don’t have to worry about him knocking you out of the way, you don’t have to worry about someone playing dirty, you know you have to be on you’re A-game as far as being fast and competitive. That is what racing is supposed to be about. It is not supposed to be about where you’re going to draw or who you have to knock out of the way or avoid. I said it on the microphone a couple of weeks ago, other than Jason, Tim is the one guy that I enjoy racing door to door with.

Hard racing is the norm at Bowman-Gray. That is the way racing ought to be.

Neff: Have you ever thought of going up to the Northeast and running the tracks like Thompson and Stafford and Waterford to see what you could do against the drivers up there where Modifieds came from, for a full season?

Myers: Financially it is almost impossible for us. With the following we have at Bowman-Gray and the history that our family has there, it financially just makes more sense for us to go to Bowman-Gray Stadium. Actually, we can use some of our financial backing that we get because we run at Bowman-Gray to let it bleed over into our tour program, especially with the lack of TV coverage that we lost from the tour last year. It is kind of hard for us to go to sponsors when we don’t have anything to offer them other than the live fans who are in the stands. Whenever you’ve got some TV coverage you can go to a sponsor and say ‘Hey, I’m going to be on SPEED Channel or I’m going to be on Versus or I’m going to be on Madhouse TV show’ then it would entice a sponsor to help you. From talking to Christopher and Ryan Preece and a lot of those guys, Stefanik, Stafford is a place that I’m going to have to get to eventually. Of course Loudon is one of them that I’m going to have to hit before it is over with, they say they are just awesome tracks to race on. We had some good success when we went to Thompson last year for the Icebreaker. Qualified fifth and I think we had a solid top five if we hadn’t had a transmission problem. I enjoy racing with the Northern guys and there are a lot of tracks up there that I’d like to hit but financially it is just tough to do.

Neff: I was just curious. I know in talking to Patrick Reynolds, who was up there, he was saying that, while you guys were up there, the amount of Dirty South merchandise that you saw in the stands was unbelievable.

Myers:(laughs) Yeah it was really cool because, I don’t know if it was before the TV show or before I won the North-South shootout twice because it kind of fell along the same time that both of those happened in the same time period. There was always a rivalry between the North and South guys and it seems like that’s kind of vanished. I think some of it is due to when they saw the TV show they saw that we take this serious and that this is not just a game, that we take it just as serious as they do, that they gained some respect for us. Yeah, it was pretty cool. They treated me like a Dale Jr. when I went up there I mean the fans hollering and cheering and the long lines for autographs and it was pretty cool to experience that, away from your hometown. At Bowman-Gray and around this area, it is home so to experience that away from home was pretty cool.

Neff: I see you almost always wearing that No. 3 hat at the stadium. Was Dale Earnhardt you favorite driver, your idol when you were growing up?

Myers: Yeah, I really never pulled for anyone but Dale Sr. My dad grew up with Richard Childress, and with Chocolate being the gas man, and David Smith who was the jack man for years. He and daddy worked in this garage down here, this old body shop. It was just he was the guy that I always pulled for.

Neff: Are you related to Chocolate?

Myers: Yeah, he’s daddy’s first cousin.

Neff: I didn’t realize that.

Myers: He’s Bobby’s son. Billy was daddy’s dad and Bobby was Chocolate’s dad. The story behind the No. 3 hat is that when I drove the Team Dillon No. 3 car at Richmond, the guy that just walked in, Danny Culler, he spotted for Earnhardt, and that was the tenth anniversary hat that they had at Daytona. He spotted for me in the Late Model race. On the way home he gave me that hat, he said ‘here, this hat is good luck.’. So I wore it the first race at the Stadium and I won the race. I wore it all year and won the championship. So it was kind of one of those deals where I started the season with it and everything was going pretty smooth so I kept it on every week. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Neff: You’ve done some things with RCR in the past, is there any possibility that they could stick you in a Truck or Nationwide car in the future or is that more of a Team Dillon thing?

Myers: I’ve beat the bushes with them pretty hard and I’ve reminded Richard Childress on several occasions that he started over here where we’re still at. But I think, anymore, it is not about how good you are, it’s about the financial backing. I mean it is purely either politics or financial backing. Without the financial backing it is kind of hard to do anything anymore and I think it is obvious, I’m not knocking anybody but I think it is very obvious that when you watch a race on Sunday it is not about whether you can drive anymore, it’s about how much money you can bring or who is your dad. It is sad that it has come to that. Y’know, NASCAR is still great and the NASCAR racing you see on Sunday is still great NASCAR racing but, what we do, what we do here and on Saturday night is true, hard core, real racing. It’s real racing, I mean what we do is, and I don’t mean we don’t appreciate our sponsors but, we race for the trophy. We don’t race to impress somebody or to jump through hoops, we race for the trophy and I think that NASCAR is gradually getting back to that, but that is where NASCAR started and that is where we still are.

Myers loves racing a Late Model, he’s just hoping an opportunity will present itself that will put him in one a little more often.

Neff: Next one is a little controversial, I’ve heard from some fans and even someone who writes for our site that the reason you don’t make the move up to Nationwide or Trucks is because you couldn’t pass a drug test. What do you say to people who say that?

Myers: (laughs) I’d say get a cup. I mean the bottom line is people are going to say things and people are going to start rumors. The only drug test I have ever taken for NASCAR is when I drove Bobby Doddard’s Truck at Martinsville and passed a drug test and I was at Martinsville, had my Camping World Truck license. I’ve never had a failed drug test of any kind, whatsoever to speak of, so people are going to say what they are going to say and, if the opportunity ever arose where I had the opportunity to drive something, I have to take a drug test to get my license, and when I did that I passed it. That’s all I can say.

Myers has one start in a NASCAR National Touring Series and passed a drug test to do it.

Neff: Are your kids racing at all?

Myers: No, I’ve got a 10 and 11 year old girls and then my son just turned three. Which, daddy says that, when he turns four he’s going to get him a go-kart so we’ll see how that goes, but it kind of amazed my momma the other day when I made the comment that I was glad that I didn’t, I realize it now but maybe at the time I didn’t, but I was glad I didn’t start racing until I was 17 years old. The reason I say that is I can remember the last time I had on a football helmet, I can remember the last time I had a baseball bat in my hand. I think, nowadays, parents want it more for their kids than the kids want it for themselves. What happens is that kids don’t get to be kids. The thing about it is, you can either drive or you can’t. I started driving when I was 17 years old. Now I was around it my whole life, I’ve got pictures of when I was five years old, pushing a jack around in the shop, so I knew the ins and outs and I knew the things that had to go on. Not saying a kid can just step into it at 17 years old and be blind to everything about it, but being around it, knowing how it works, and paying his dues, and then getting in the car and learning from there I think that is probably, if you can drive you can pull it off. Y’know, people ask me all the time about my son, is he going to be the fourth generation of the Myers to come in and drive, I tell people all of the time that I’m going to put a football in his hand. The fact of it is that I want him to be a kid and I want him to play sports then, as he gets older, then he can drive.

Neff: Saturday night, the season finale at the Stadium was a freaking mess. How frustrating was it being in the car with the long run at the beginning and then it was like four laps of green then seven laps of caution, four laps green then seven laps of caution? Just how irritating is it to deal with that?

Myers: The track was as bad as I’ve ever seen it, the track conditions. In my mind I thought that, what would happen is, I ride around for a little while and stay out of trouble, let four or five cars fall out and then I’ve got the championship locked up, then I could go. Well with 25 to go there were still 20 cars running so, as it got down to that point I just put myself into, ok, I’ll sacrifice the little trophy for the big one, and that was kind of where I put myself for that last race. As far as being frustrated, it was very, very frustrating. It is not my style to lay back. I want to try and go win the race. I just had to suck it up and sacrifice the little trophy for the big one.

Neff: During that race the other night, one of the guys dropped a wheel off of the track coming off of two and you got inundated with water. How nervous did it make you getting all of that water inside of your car? Were you worried about electrical issues, because those things aren’t designed to get wet like that.

Myers: I don’t know that anything like that crossed my mind, I think that just the overall factor of the drama period maybe crossed my mind. I had to dodge so many bullets that night that it just all kind of ran together. Now that you say that I think about, yeah it could have flooded the carburetor or flooded the gauges or whatever and caused a problem, but I think that basically, I just wanted it to be over with. In my mind, I wasn’t really concerned with, I knew I could dodge the bullets of other cars and where other teams were concerned. The thing that worried me was a mechanical problem. Once the green flag fell, if my coil went out and I’m out of the race, I lose the championship. If I had to dodge another car or dodge a wreck, I felt like I could do that. For the most part I just wanted it over with.

Going fast and turning left is what Myers loves to do.

Neff: Last point on that, you started on pole because qualifying got rained out and you were immediately dropping back. Watching it I thought you were just dropping back to get Jason right behind you to cover your back bumper, but on the next restart he went to the outside and left you. Did you plan on dropping back to him or did it just work out that way? Did you have it lined up to have him help you out?

Myers: It just worked out that way. No, we don’t plan anything out like that. Y’know, if it came down to the end of the race and I needed on spot I feel like he’d give me the spot, if it meant winning the championship, and I’d do the same thing for him. As far as planning it out with him riding behind me or whatever, we didn’t even talk about it. Now when I looked up and I saw that he was behind me it made me feel a little bit of comfort but never at any point during a race or during my career have I expected him to stay behind me, unless it was a last lap situation that meant the championship. We just kind of play it by ear and go race. I think, just like the very first race I ever won, at The Stadium, I started on the pole and daddy started on the outside of me. As the race got going and he was behind me, I pulled away from him and I won the race. I had to hear from people, ‘well your daddy was blocking for you, of course you won the race.’ and I wouldn’t want him to block for me. I want him to try as hard as he can because I know, if I beat him I’ve done something. Me and Jason feel the same way about each other, we want to earn it. We don’t want each other to give it to the other one, we want to earn it.

Neff: Before that race, I think it was the Browns that were talking some smack about there being no way they’d let you win the championship. Were you worried about that at all when the race went green I know one of them was right behind you?

Myers: I won the championship didn’t I? (laughs)

Neff: Yes you did. I just didn’t know, as you’re ready to take the green, are you thinking about what they were saying when one of them is in your rear view mirror?

Myers: No, the thing about it is, you go over there and you take it one piece of the puzzle at a time. You try as hard as you can and you deal with whatever is put in front of you. People are going to talk trash. It is like you said earlier, if I was running 15th or 20th every week, no one would say a thing. Just like I heard Jason say to Tim Brown, he knows that, if he beats me and Tim, he’s done something. I think, the guys who aren’t beating us, that is their goal, to beat us. I remember when I was in the reverse situation. I was chasing Junior or daddy or Philip Smith or Ralph Brinkley or whoever it might be and I knew that, if I beat those guys, I did something right. But that goes back to focusing on what I need to do and not worrying about what everybody else is doing.

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