ROUGEMONT -- Most fathers don't have to take a second job to finance their children's sports activities.But for Scott Roach, giving his three sons the opportunity to participate in stock car racing is well worth the money and the extra work. Roach and his family drove from their home in Ruckersville, Va., to participate in Saturday's races at the Orange County Speedway.Racing is a lifelong passion for the Roach family, and though his sons are only in their teens they are already experienced drivers."Each of them started when they were 7," Roach said. "They grew up at the racetrack."And Roach is simply following in the tradition of family racing started by his grandfather, who taught him how to race as a child."I grew up at a racetrack watching him," he said. "My whole family has raced something."The experience extends well beyond the weekends spent together at the racetrack. While the Roach family wouldn't get home until 3 a.m. after the race, they were already planning to get up early on Sunday to work on their cars."You work on these things five to six days a week," Roach said.Many other drivers who compete at Orange County Speedway share similar stories. For some, the father-son partnership continues long after the son has become an adult.Daryl Carver of Prospect Hill has been racing for 21 years, having started at the age of 9. His father, Will, is still an integral part of his crew."My dad builds all my engines," Carver said. "It's a way for me and my dad to spend time together."
The Carvers were at the racetrack hours before the competition began on Saturday, working with several other crew members to make sure Daryl's car was in perfect order for the race. They toiled meticulously with wrenches and other tools, shouting instructions at each other over the almost deafening noise of cars zipping around the track in practice.After several practice laps and more maintenance, Carver was ready for the race, which consisted of 50 laps around the 0.375 mile track.Cars such as the one Carver drives have little in common with regular vehicles. He and his crew built much of the car themselves. Similar in design to vehicles used in NASCAR, the car consists of a steel frame with custom-made parts covered in thin sheet metal.The Carvers said the camaraderie with everyone at the track is part of what keeps them coming back to the speedway for 15 to 18 races each year."It's the competition and the fellowship," Will Carver said. "You can meet some real nice people here."And speed, of course, is also a major attraction for the drivers at the track. Roach's son, Tyler, 13, said he loves being able to get up to speeds as high as 100 mph without worrying about getting a ticket. He and his brother Travis, 17, race mini cup cars, which are about half the size of standard stock cars and have speedy aerodynamics, making them popular among younger drivers."I've had more fun in (mini cups) than any class I've been in yet," Scott Roach said.
Drivers typically move into bigger cars as they get older and more experienced, and many of the younger racing enthusiasts have ambitions to become professional drivers in NASCAR races."I'd like to get into the Nextel Cup series," Tyler Roach said, referring to NASCAR's top racing series.His dream is entirely possible, as many of today's NASCAR stars got their start at Orange County Speedway. Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Ward Burton are among those who have raced at the track in the past.But increasing costs and high gas prices are making it difficult for families like the Roaches and the Carvers to compete and advance in the sport.Scott Roach said his family might not be able to make the trek to Orange County as often in the future, as the drive to Saturday's race alone cost him $250."We're racing close to home next year," he said. Daryl Carver said he spends about $20,000 each season in order to compete in the sport -- a substantial sum for someone who teaches auto body classes. Carver's expenses are still lower than many other drivers, as he gets help working on his cars from some of the students in his auto body classes and he tries to conserve gas."We've cut our practices down," he said.Many drivers get sponsorships to help offset the costs, and the prize money -- which ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars -- also eases the burden.Though winning the money is nice, Scott Roach said winning isn't the main goal for his family."We race with the understanding that we're going to do the best we can with what we've got," he said.