By MATT NOLES
SPRAKERS, NY – The rattle of the open trailer made a telltale sound as it raced over and across the bumps on Route 29 in upstate New York; hurtling through the rugged countryside as a retinue of dust streamed off the back like the tail of a comet.
The car, which sat comfortably poised in an unforgivable position of potential energy, had little to no decals adhered to its side; the name on the roof and the associated number on the door held little to no recognition for the occasional passersby. To many it seemed as if it was just another race car on its way to another race track.
Scott Huber isn’t a household name and to hear him speak of that fact, he doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest. Yet what he has become is something that the race fan of yesterday craves more and more with each passing season; he’s a racer’s racer and that trait is something that is in drastically short supply.
That may seem like a lofty and probably unreasonable claim to some, yet to understand his story and in turn understand where he’s trying to go, you can’t help but tip your hat and respect the desire that the driver from Cambridge, N.Y., possesses faithfully and unrelentingly week after week.
His story, like many before him, started off not behind the wheel but behind the scenes with a wrench in his hand; working and learning and dreaming of the day that he would come into his own set of fortuitous circumstances.
“I got into racing by helping other people,” said Huber. “My good friend Erik [Yager] was at Highline Performance with his pro-stock and we actually built a three-link coil car that nobody else had at the time and the next year, we decided that we were going to build a brand new car.”
Huber, who was attending the Hudson Valley Community College studying to become a machinist, jumped at the chance to become more involved.
“Racing was something that I always had passion for,” Huber explained. “I started going to the races when I was a kid at Malta [Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, New York] and there was really nothing else that I ever wanted to do.”
It took time for the young Schuylerville, N.Y., native to find his way to the driver’s seat but in the meantime, one can be assured that if there was information to learn and tricks of the trade to pick up from those around him, Huber was as absorbent as a sponge.
“I worked on all types of equipment over the years,” he mentioned. “I worked on snowmobiles, tractors, trucks, you name it; the whole deal so I could get familiar with machinery and to be honest, I wanted to become a machinist and move on to working for a NASCAR team; then I met my wife.”
Life, as it so often does, had other plans for the driver of the No. 51 modified. They may not have been his plans at the time, but as the old adage states, there is more than one path through the forest. Huber’s just happened to be the scenic route.
“My wife grew up in Fonda and her father [Kevin Barkley] used to be on the safety crew at the track,” Huber explained. “Our two worlds collided and one thing led to another and our relationship kept me around town.”
Though his dreams of working in one of the top NASCAR garages fizzled and seemingly faded into the past, his passion for the sport of auto racing stayed as present as possible.
“I ended up with a great job at the Watervilet Arsenal after I graduated,” Huber said with a smile. “And when I got my first tax return check, I went out and bought a race car.”
Huber’s first venture into the ranks of dirt racing came with a five-year-old chassis and a roll of duct tape. “The first car I bought was a ’99 Bicknell down tube that I got from a friend of mine,” he continued. “Then I went out and bought a brand new crate motor for it and went racing.”
His first attempt at life behind the wheel came at the speedway that held special meaning to his wife’s family; the Fonda Speedway in Fonda, New York.
“I was the first guy to run at Fonda Speedway with a crate motor in the sportsman division,” Huber recalled. “I went to Ric Lucia [former promoter] and he let me run it and we were trying to get ahead of the curve because DIRTcar was talking about going to crates for that division. It was just a plain black car with duct tape numbers on it.”
After the talks of the sportsman class going to crate motors didn’t come to fruition, Huber spent the next few seasons as a journeyman.
“We ended up picking up a 2004 Bicknell from Doug Mathewson and I built an open motor for that car,” said Huber. “We hit some races at Fonda and Malta and then went up to run the asphalt at Airborne and I had a blast.”
Just when circumstances seemed to be on the rise for the young competitor, the 2008 recession hit like a freight train and with gas prices rising faster than Paula Deen’s blood pressure, Huber and his young race team had to stick close to home and return to running at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday night’s. To say times were tough is an understatement.
“We ran a small-block sportsman in 2008 at Malta and we really struggled,” Huber stated. “Going from the asphalt to the dirt and the horsepower difference was tough and we didn’t do well. By the end of the year we made a few shows at Glen Ridge [Motorsports Park in Fultonville, N.Y.] and at Fonda and we were really starting to click and finally making things work.”
It never seems to fail that once items seem to be falling into place, the proverbial rug is suddenly and recklessly pulled out from underneath you. When the 2009 season started, it started without Huber in the ranks of Nomex clad warriors. In fact; the entirety of that year saw him reluctantly on the sidelines.
“With the war on terror going on and working for the Department of Defense, I was busy,” stated Huber. “The race car sat and I ended up making a good living that year but what it came down to was making a decision of spending money on the race car or buying a house; we decided on the second choice.”
If he was going to continue racing and attempt to further his career in the future, Scott Huber was in dire need of having his own shop to work out of. After years of bouncing from one garage to another, the time came for himself and his young family to seriously settle down in one spot for the foreseeable future.
“I needed a place to work,” he continued. “So we bought a house up in Cambridge [New York] and it just so happened to have a four-car garage with it. My wife insists that we bought a house; I insist that we bought a four-car garage. Either way, it worked out.”
Though finally settled down, Huber wasn’t ready to return to open-wheel competition; at least not at first.
“I had a couple buddies that were into gokart racing and they talked me into it,” he explained. “We did that for a few years; we followed the series and ran all over New York and it was fun for a while but it didn’t really do it for me; the thrill just wasn’t there.”
Like a moth to a flame, Huber was unexplainably drawn back to the center-steer dirt modifieds that he remembered from his childhood. Needless to say, it was time to give his racing career a much-needed shot in the arm.
“My son Logan was on the way and we were doing well financially,” Huber remarked. “And I always wanted my kids to be around to see me race; I didn’t want to be a story to them. So I went out and bought a used 2009 Bicknell, freshened my old small-block motor from Malta and went racing.”
Competing in only ten events throughout the year, 2013 became his first attempt at racing with the modified division at the Fonda Speedway. He followed up his rookie year with another ten-race schedule the following season until he had both enough experience and equipment to take his program full-time by 2016.
Though he had come a long way, undoubtedly, he still had to deal with his fair share of hardships like any other racer inevitably will. However, what sets Huber apart from some of his contemporaries and what truly makes him a “racer’s racer” is a story that was born from his unrelenting desire to get to the race track regardless of how absurd it may seem.
“We burned a piston on opening night last year with our LS7 motor,” Huber said with a chuckle. “The motor wasn’t ready to go the following week but we were so we put a 400-horsepower pro-stock engine in the car and went racing.”
With half the horsepower of his competitors – complete with a cast crank no less – Huber took to the speedway the second week of the season and finished 12th in the feature. To say that hilarity ensued is almost like describing the Empire State Building as moderately tall.
“We finished 12th with a pro-stock engine,” Huber exclaimed. “That was the most fun we had racing last year, hands down. We laughed driving out of the track that night thinking about all those guys that have brand new big-blocks and brand new cars and we finished better than half of them with probably less than 400-horsepower. It’s a night we’ll never forget.”
With age comes experience and despite the low-cost budget that his race team exists on, the Hunt’s Machine sponsored modified saw its fair share of success throughout the 2016 campaign.
“We’ve shown that we can run really well,” Huber recalled. “We won four heat races last year but we just can’t seem to put it all together come feature time. We missed the setup here and there but a lot of it was being on used tires that we buy from other teams trying to make ends meet.”
Where some teams may be ashamed of their budgetary limitations, Huber is the exact opposite; there’s a lot of pride in what he’s done and what he and his team continue to do.
“We are probably the lowest budget team at Fonda that is running competitively,” he said with a smile. “This whole program is out of my pocket; nobody has handed me a single thing to do any of this.”
There are drivers that complain about the cost of racing and then there are drivers that do the best they can with what they can afford; Huber is certainly the latter of the two.
“Any time we finish inside the top-ten there’s a huge sense of accomplishment,” continued Huber. “There are guys that pull into trailers that cost more than my entire race team so yeah; to be running with them and passing some of them on the track is a win for us. Don’t get me wrong, you have to have some money but everyone thinks you have to have the big hauler or the big motor or the newest car and the truth is that you don’t. If you have the drive, the passion and the work ethic, you don’t need any of that stuff. You just have to be willing to put the hard work in, it’s as simple as that.”
To be a father and a husband, one has to be selfless; to be a racer, one has to be selfish. It’s a conundrum that more often than not isn’t easily balanced and yet despite his passion and drive, Huber has found the magic combination to keep everything life has to throw at him in check.
“Being remembered as a racer doesn’t mean anything to me,” Huber concluded. “I like to think that since I was a kid once and I loved the driver interaction, I try to make sure that I’m the picture of that. I’m usually one of the last guys to leave at the end of the night so that if a kid wants to sit in the car, they can. I want to be there for my kids and for all the kids that go to the races; that means the most to me and if we can knock off a win or two in the process then that would be the whole deal for us.”
Scott Huber isn’t a household name and he may never become one but he is a racer’s racer and what he lacks in victories or track titles he makes up for with passion, drive, authenticity and determination. Those items – at the very least – he has in spades.
Matt Noles is a contributing writer for Dirt Track Digest and Racer’s Guide. He currently resides in Sprakers, New York and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.