Local Racer

Local Racer Poised to Join Indy Car Circuit

JOHN NEWTON
Register Sports Editor

(Published on October 25, 2000)
Like a little kid throwing a tennis ball against the wall while dreaming of pitching in the World Series, whenever 24-year old Brandon Erwin dreams, he centers them on a very bright future.

It is a future that involves going around in circles, with a healthy dose of life-threatening danger, all while experiencing speed and trust, faith and patience, respect and endurance.

It is a future that is now one step closer to becoming a reality after the Callisburg High School graduate passed his Indy Racing League (IRL) rookie driving test Oct. 18 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

In his second attempt to get his IRL license, Erwin had to complete consistent laps around the TMS track at three speeds: 190-195 mph, 200-205 mph, and 205 mph and greater. Erwin not only completed the requirement, but also blew the requirement away, completing five of his 56 laps at speeds faster than 210 mph. Not even the qualifiers for that weekend’s Indy race at TMS clocked speeds as fast as Erwin.

During the test, Erwin drew high praise from a very credible source: IRL veteran racer Johnny Rutherford.

“Brandon took right to it,” Rutherford said. “He is ready. He could do really well in this league if he gets the right opportunity. He was impressive in that he got right to his program and clicked it right off.”

Erwin, a junior at University of North Texas, drove an Indy car that was used this racing season as a backup for Airton Dare, the 2000 RaceSearch.com Rookie of the Year. TeamXtreme, an ownership group that includes Brandon’s father, Mike Erwin of Lake Kiowa, owned the car.

Founded in 1999, TeamXtreme has three drivers on the racing circuit — Dare, John Hollandsworth, Jr. and Jaques Laziere. Brandon would be the fourth driver and the second rookie for the young team.

That is an honor that Erwin cannot wait to earn for himself.

“Wow, I just can’t believe it,” he said. “I can’t wait to focus on racing. I was driving around the turns just looking at the wall and thinking ‘This is really it — I have passed and now will be considered an IRL driver.’”

Erwin said he considered it such an honor to be put in a class of drivers so talented.

“I look forward to race beside them all,” he said.

He will get his chance next March. Erwin’s first IRL race will be the MCI Worldcom Indy 200, held at Phoenix Motor Speedway on March 19. The event will be televised on ABC.
Phoenix may be the begging, but Erwin ultimately dreams of one day racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, long considered the home of auto racing. After acing the IRL test last week, Erwin’s dream is becoming a lot less fuzzy.

NASCAR Nation
The Indy Racing League is not the limit for the ambitious driver. Also in March, Erwin will be starting on the NASCAR truck series for owner John Connelly, who hired Erwin without ever seeing him race. Over the winter, Erwin will be practicing in some of Connelly’s NASCAR trucks to prepare for the season.

Both circuits run approximately the same season and Erwin said he wants to continue Sprint Car racing on off days, so he will certainly be busy. But this is what he has always wanted to do.

“With continuing desire to be involved in racing, I have committed to racing as a career,” Erwin said on his racing profile. “My racing experience has grown to a new level the past few years.”

It is a big step for someone who has only driven an Indy car twice and never a NASCAR truck. But Erwin is now qualified to do both.

The Need for Speed
A racer since the age of 12, Erwin started with Karts and gradually progressed to Sprint Cars. Over the last decade, Erwin has won numerous awards and championships — including three state championships and two junior championships when he was 12- and 13-years old.

Between the years of 1993 and 1997, Erwin compiled over 300 feature wins, five state championships, one pro championship and two national championships. In 1998, he made his first attempt at gaining his Indy racing license but failed, despite reaching speeds over 200 mph.

Over the last six months Erwin has made a name for himself at Devils Bowl Speedway in Mesquite. In six feature events, Erwin captured first place in three — including his second race. He ended up 14th out of 40 drivers on the track points list despite only racing for a half season.

Erwin was so impressive at DBS, that owner and promoter Lanny Edwards praised the rookie’s poise and skill.

“From the start he has shown a strong awareness of his position on the track, the cars around him and a maturity in racing seldom seen in a rookie,” he wrote in a letter of reference.

“I am quite happy to see a driver with so much maturity to match his obvious talent. He is a driver who builds confidence in his ability among his fellow racers quickly with his actions on the track.”

One admiring fellow racer is Russell Shoulder, who has been a racer for 30 years. Shoulder said Erwin is a special driver who has a future in larger events than dirt track racing.

“We have a new kid racing [at DBS] that may be the next Tony Stewart,” Shoulders wrote in a letter of reference. “He is smooth in a sprint car. I have never seen a young driver adapt to changing track conditions as well as he does. Please look at this kid and give him a chance.”

The IRL did, NASCAR did, and he got that chance. Now Erwin will have the opportunity to pursue his dreams on the biggest stage.

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