Welcome to this week’s edition of the Short-Track Top Five. Every week NSSN will talk to a different short-track driver and get his or her thoughts and opinions on a series of five questions.
This week National Speed Sport News talks to open-wheel racer David Byrne. A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Byrne has been racing since he was just a child in 1994.
Most recently Byrne has focused on asphalt midget racing. In 2008 he placed second in the United Midget Auto Racing Ass’n standings and fifth in the World Outlaw Midget Series, winning five races between the two series.
This year Byrne will turn his focus to USAC, where he plans to compete in all the USAC Mopar National Midget Series and USAC Silver Crown Series pavement races.
NSSN: What influenced you to become a race car driver.
BYRNE: We just drove by a go-kart track. There was a go-kart track real close to our business. I guess my dad drove by it a couple of times and he had go-karts on the farm when he was growing up. That just kind of got me started and it has kind of snowballed from there.
NSSN: If you had the chance to race in the Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500, which would you choose and why?
BYRNE: I guess I would do the Indy 500. I just like the technical side of the Indy cars. I’m a little big for an Indy driver, but we grew up road racing and I still love doing that kind of stuff. It seemed like we went to oval racing because of my size when I was growing up so I could do senior divisions. That kind of helped us keep me competitive again. I was always really, really good on the road course stuff. Obviously the Indy cars do more road racing and things of that nature, so I think the Indy 500 would probably be better for me.
NSSN: How healthy is short-track racing in the United States?
BYRNE: I think it is kind of at a stalemate. I don’t think it is real easy for people to get into it. You have to have a lot of money. We’ve stuck a lot of money in our equipment the last few years to be competitive. I definitely think something needs to change. I don’t think it’s on the engine side or the technical side, because I think that is what is unique over a stock-car or anything of that nature. There are just a few simple measures that need to be addressed and it would be a lot healthier. I just think it is kind of stagnating. When we first started at a local show at Grundy [County Speedway in Morris, Ill.], I think there were 30 cars there the first race we ever did. A regional race is lucky to get 10 to 15 now. I right now it is in a stalemate or a little on the negative side.
NSSN: What is the wildest race you’ve ever been a part of?
BYRNE: The wildest race? Any race we did at Grundy in Morris, Ill. The race directors and the whole series was kind of just, I don’t want to say a joke, but kind of on the downswing. They’re not there anymore. I mean, we were winning and they just didn’t seem to want us to win that race. So they kind of came up with every [excuse]. They put us at the back a couple times and we came back to the front. It was fun but we didn’t end up winning the race. I think those were probably the wildest races because you just didn’t know. It was like you were fighting a different animal. Not just the drivers, but you were also fighting the officials and the track workers.
NSSN: At the end of your career, what do you hope people will remember about you?
BYRNE: Just that we were, my family and I, we worked hard and we put everything we could into racing and helped people along the way. That we were somewhat decent or above average at what we did. I think a lot of people will look at the equipment we have, maybe that portrays a different image of how much we have. We put a lot of thought into everything. All of our resources pretty much go into the cars. I don’t think they realize how hard we work back home. It is definitely not a golden spoon where we come from. I think what I’d like people to remember is that we weren’t the typical rich kid driving race cars. I think that would be the best thing people could remember about me.