This year he hooked up with Sean Michael, who raced sprint cars successfully for almost 20 years, and hired him as his crew chief.
“He was an accomplished race car driver and he’s a terrific crew chief; he’s very meticulous and driven,” Dyson said. “We clicked immediately and I made the decision pretty early on to have Sean put together some top-flight equipment. So I’m trying to race in Pennsylvania, which is close to my home in New York, as much as possible, plus do the USAC Silver Crown dirt-oval events. I’ll probably end up running about 12 to 15 nights of dirt-track racing this year.”
He’s also had some help from Bobby East.
“Bobby East volunteered to come and help us run the first Silver Crown race at Terre Haute, and he was terrific,” Dyson said. “He supported us at the Hoosier Hundred too. He has a wealth of experience and a tremendous track record and he had no problem with digging in and helping with the car. I’m really grateful to have him in my corner.”
Incidentally, Dyson qualified eighth out of 38 drivers at the Hoosier Hundred and finished 16th.
Some of the Silver Crown regulars have been welcoming too, whether or not they knew his background.
With some schedule conflicts, Dyson hired Thomas Meseraull, who had worked with Michael in the past, to drive his sprint car during USAC’s Eastern Storm tour. The pairing resulted in a victory with Meseraull winning the June 19 feature at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway, making Dyson the first car owner from the Empire State to win a USAC National Sprint Car Series event in more than 25 years.
It’s no surprise that Dyson’s favorite road course is Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l, but what’s his favorite short track?
“I really like Terre Haute,” he said. “It has everything you’d want in a dirt track. The corners have an interesting profile and the grip changes enough to make it very challenging. And I really want to race at Williams Grove someday.”
What’s his goal with the dirt-track effort?
“I’d like to become more consistently competitive, and to do that we need to be competing as much as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to race consistently enough so that when it comes time for the Chili Bowl or the Silver Crown races next year, we’ll be even better prepared to run closer to the front.”
For Dyson, racing on dirt is part of a holistic approach to his craft.
“I just like to race on good dirt tracks with the best possible equipment and good people around me,” he said. “It’s making me a better driver in every respect. I absolutely love the marquee races; they’re exciting and people are having a blast, but you can learn something at every race you do. I just always want to improve. At this stage of my career I don’t want to get complacent, and this is a true challenge. Plus, the two types of racing complement each other.”
What’s the biggest thing he feels he has to learn?
“The biggest and most challenging thing to master is the track dynamics, and how to adapt to how much the track changes throughout the night and throughout a race,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make. You need to really focus on your throttle control when the grip is that tenuous and elusive. On the dirt the driving is precise but it almost needs to be directional; you have to anticipate where the grip is going to be. In road-racing terms, it’s like driving on a track that is hyper-drying and come to grips on where the traction is going to be. In such close quarters as you face in dirt-track racing, it challenges the mind. It’s not just an art; it’s remarkably mentally challenging. You have to be thinking about how much the surface is changing all the time. There’s a lot of nuances, and being able to handle them well only comes with experience.”
Even Schatz drives late models sometimes. Maybe someday sports car fans will see him at the Rolex 24 or the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Both Dyson and Schatz are 40 years old and as Dyson has proven, one never knows what secret passions a race car driver might decide to pursue someday.