Wayne County racing team living in fast lane
By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on July 26, 2005 2:09 PM
Eddie Massengill doesn't do it for the money. Neither does Curtis Venable.
And for now, that's a good thing, too.
Massengill drives stock cars for Venable, and gets paid when he runs a good race -- perhaps.
"If he does good, Top 5, I'll give him some money," Venable says on another hot, sticky summer day in the garage. "If not, he gets nothing. Even if he does run good, he still might not get any money."
That makes Massengill laugh. You see, the 40-year-old Wayne County residents have been friends for years. They've celebrated in Victory Lane, and they've been educated at the school of hard knocks.
"I'm just doing it to have fun," Massengill said. "He lets me do it 'cause I love it."
Right now, they're trying their hand at the Hooters Pro Cup Series after years on dirt tracks and on smaller circuits.
And they're doing it without any major sponsorship.
in the red
The money they're making on the national circuit isn't coming close to paying the bills just yet.
In their two Pro Cup races, they have made a total of $2,800. That may sound like decent money to some, but it isn't.
"Well, we usually use four tires during practice and eight during the race," Venable said.
That's $163 per tire, plus tax.
Fuel runs about $6 per gallon, and Venable estimates his No. 67 Ford Taurus uses about 12 to 14 gallons during practice and 32 to 35 gallons during a race.
Entry fees for races run between $200-250, and there's always travel costs, paying a pit crew and the ongoing need for car maintenance -- especially when a driver wrecks a car or blows up an engine.
Massengill did both at Myrtle Beach on June 25 in his first Pro Cup race. The wreck that put a hole in his radiator wasn't his fault, but in racing, there are no citations or insurance adjusters.
"That wreck torched the engine," says Venable. "It cost $11,000 to rebuild that engine, and it usually costs $6,500, give or take, to rebuild an engine."
Which happens about every four races.
"You go through an engine that fast," he said. "I'd say it costs us around $6,000 to $7,000 a race, and that's not counting shop labor, engine maintenance and rebuilds after a crash."
Factor in the $165,000 semi car hauler Venable bought last year, the 6,000 square foot garage he is having built and the six race cars he owns, and racing is a pricey business.
"It's all about money," Venable says. "It buys knowledge and it buys good help. In the Craftsman Truck and the Busch Series, to run a team competitively, you need 20-30 employees and about $5 million a year. At our level, you need about $250,000 to $300,000. We see area drivers all the time who could compete with Busch Series drivers, but they just don't have the money, they don't have the backing. It's a shame, really."
After finishing 32nd out of 35 cars in Myrtle Beach at the Groucho's Deli 250, Massengill posted an 18th-place finish this past weekend at the Merchant's Tire and Auto Centers 250 at Southern National Speedway in Kenly.
The team plans to run only two more Pro Cup races this season so it can maintain its rookie status for next year. Venable, who started drag racing in 1982 and raced on round tracks in the 1990s before stepping away from driving, is currently building another car for himself and wants to get back behind the wheel next season.
"If we can get some sponsorship, our goal for next year is to run a full schedule, run competitively, be a contender weekly and make a run for the championship," Venable said. "And we want to bring up a young driver, groom him and go from there."
Right now, that young driver is 18-year-old Jonathan Kornegay, a 2005 graduate of Southern Wayne High School.
"He's got some potential, but he's not used to this kind of car," Venable says as he pats the hood of the No. 67. "He's not used to this kind of horsepower."
"Jonathan's well on his way," says Massengill, whose 12-year-old son, Trey, is already racing go-carts.
In his 22 years of racing, Massengill estimates he's won 140-150 races in go-carts, on the dirt or on asphalt. He's not just ready to retire from racing just yet, but he knows racers like Jonathan and Trey are the future of the sport.
"We're not too old," he says, "but you get to a point in life where you can't afford to get hurt, where you have responsibilities. It plays on your mind -- and if you get your bell rung enough, you really start thinking about it."
Massengill has no illusions of becoming the next Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Venable doesn't expect to become the next Jack Roush or Richard Childress.
They're just doing it because they love racing.
"When it comes to the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch Series or Truck Series, if you haven't started climbing the ladder early -- I mean real early -- you're not going to make it in this sport," Venable said.
"You think they would ever look at a couple of old guys like us?"
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