Back in 1996 a young college kid in a bright purple No. 55 street stock picked up his first victory on a warm July night. That night the dirt-track fans in northern Michigan found a new favorite to cheer on. Nearly 15 years later, Jeep VanWormer is still turning heads.
VanWormer is a born competitor. Prior to strapping into a street stock VanWormer enjoyed success on two wheels while motocross racing, but when a dear friend lost his life in competition, VanWormer made the move into full-fendered racing.
What originally started as a father-son weekend hobby grew into a passion. In his first full season of street-stock competition VanWormer racked up two championships and later made a name for himself in the modified division before moving into the dirt-late-model ranks in 2000.
After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration, VanWormer started Iron Motorsports and began racing on a full-time basis at tracks throughout the Midwest in an attempt to develop and hone his skills as a driver.
It wasn’t long before his hard work paid off as VanWormer began amassing several prestigious wins, including the 2003 UMP Nationals at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the 2007 Illinois Fall Nationals at LaSalle (Ill.) Speedway, the 2007 Fall Harvest Shootout at Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Ill., and a number of UMP Summernationals victories.
In less than 15 years, VanWormer has transformed from local rookie to national fan favorite and although he is still a key element of the family-owned Bayline Fire Protection, Inc., he is very appreciative of the fact that much of the summer he is able to dedicate to the race team.
“I’ve always wanted to race at this level, but I just never knew if it would work out,” VanWormer said. “I’ve been really fortunate with having my entire family behind me 100 percent, giving me the opportunity to come out here and race, and now being able to come into some shows and know that I have been picked as one of the favorites to win makes all the hard work pay off.”
The season is already off to a great start for the Iron Motorsports team. It currently sits atop the American Late Model Series standings and plans to compete with the series when schedules allow as the season progresses.
VanWormer is always a force to be reckoned with during the UMP Summernationals tour and he hopes this year is no different. Never one to settle for anything less than a challenge, VanWormer has his sights set even higher for this year and beyond.
“I’d like to run in the top five in both the Dream and the World 100, and in all honesty I would like to be the first driver to win them both in the same season,” VanWormer said. “I know that’s setting a really high goal, but if you don’t set them high enough how are you ever going to know if you can achieve them or not?”
Taking on new challenges definitely requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but VanWormer has never shied away from striving for what he wants. The long nights at the shop and endless hours of travel are all worth it to be living a dream.