By BILL FOLEY
Dean Reynolds is a man that wears many hats in the racing world. His duties including working with the Empire Super Sprints as well as DIRTcar Northeast.
He’s been around racing from childhood. In this edition of Dirt Track Digest’s we go Behind the Scenes with Reynolds.
Dirt Track Digest: How did you become involved with racing?
Dean Reynolds: “My father was a race fan and went to the Orange County Fair Speedway regularly. He said I went to my first race when I was about 6 months old at the drive-in section. I became a race fan immediately.
“When I got older he took me to Flemington, Nazareth, Pocono, Accord and then Upstate NY. We did Daytona and Speedweeks for two years also. I guess I knew then I wanted to travel and be a race fan.
“I graduated Morrisville College in Upstate New York in 1986 and the day after graduation I moved to Syracuse. The simple reason was that I wanted to live in the town where Super DIRT Week was and where there were so many race tracks around in a short distance. I soon started looking for ways to get into racing in some way
“It’s safe to say racing filled my life at an young age.”
DTD: What are you doing at track you? Explain those duties as if no one understood what you do.
DR: “I know it’s not exactly at the race tracks, as Director of DIRTcar Northeast I try to help in any way I can for the 26 sanctioned DIRTcar Tracks and the four different series that we have as well. That is first and foremost.
“I helped in setting up all the series schedules which is about 90 races total each year. You want to help find the best dates possible for the tracks and the competitors. That does take quite a bit of time each year.
“I’m involved with the setting up of the rulebook for all four divisions and that’s a very long process, a process that never ends. However, it’s very important. I work side by side with the DIRTcar technical staff. I’ll admit I’m not the best when it comes to tech detail, but I sit in or on the calls with every meeting that we have. I’ve driven five hours to oversee a crate motor being teched. You have to do whatever needs to be done in this area. I have a lot of input, but I put the trust in the people that do this daily.
“Then I try to be at as many events as I can. I feel that I need to make a presence to the tracks and competitors. I had a goal to visit every DIRTcar sanctioned track last year and I missed by two. I didn’t get to Humberstone and Bear Ridge, but will do so this year. I went to 99 races last year and only about five or six was just to be a fan. When I’m there I’ll help out in any way. I’ve lined up cars, score, race directed whatever they need when I visit.
“I’m also with the Empire Super Sprints where I still set up the scheduling, do the press releases, designing and ordering of the merchandise, help gain the sponsorships and on race night I am the guy on the one-way radio. I do miss being in turn four on the 4-wheeler like I did for years but was needed in the tower.”
DTD: What is your favorite part of the job?
DR: “I really enjoy traveling to all the different tracks meeting the promoters, officials, race teams and fans.
“Helping run events with your teams is a ton of fun. We have four race directors with DIRTcar, Doug Leonard, John Nelson, Denis Moquin and Cory Reed and to work side-by-side with them is a pleasure. They know their stuff and are the best, you just let them do what they do. Then you have the other officials that help you and they are the ones that will be in the trenches. Without them it can be real tough.
“Whether it’s DIRTcar or ESS to run what you hope are successful and most of all safe events is the best feeling you can have. Then you can hang a bit with your team afterwards or stay overnight is what really keeps the fun in it. I think I can speak for most, if you’re not having fun then you will be thinking whether you want to stay in the sport or not.”
DTD: What is your least favorite part of the job?
DR: “When it started up I thought this was going to be the coolest way to promote and support the sport, but I’m afraid it’s gone the other way and that’s social media. I literally read a shake my head at some of the posts on Facebook, Twitter, message boards, etc.. And then it comes from a person that calls them self “a race fan.”
“You can literally have an almost perfect event and then you will have one or a group of people where their posts will be of the one or two negatives that came during the night. Or the ones that baffles me are the posts by the people that weren’t even there. They just felt the need to chime in and pile on.
“The one type of post that will have me want to throw the computer is where a certain track will put up a mention or flyer of their upcoming event say on Saturday and do it the Monday before. There will be “that person” that will put up the post “it’s going to rain.” On that MONDAY!! Maybe I should know better, but I’m just so confused on what compels that person to go through the effort to make that type of post…and they are a race fan.
“I can go on and on and get so worked up on it. But local motorsports IS a tough business and when you have your “supporters” not helping it just makes it that much harder. Hey, tracks aren’t perfect, series and sanctions aren’t perfect, drivers aren’t perfect, I’M not perfect, but man why does it go on and on. I get constructive criticism, but it’s way beyond that sometimes.”
DTD: Are you a fan and how hard is it to be one in relation to what you do?
DR: “I think we all are race fans, that’s why we do it. Motorsports is made up of so many people that put an extraordinary amount of effort and money for what can be very little in return, but you do it cause you’re a fan.
“Back in the day I worked as head of installations at a sign company for 18 years, 7:00-3:30, I was the guy on the lift or ladder drilling holes into concrete buildings or using a post hole digger to plant a sign, you name it. When it came to 3:30 I would drive to any race within three hours, drive back that night and back to work. Why? Because you’re a fan and there are so many out there that do the very same thing
“It does get tough to be a fan at the events you’re involved with. You try to maybe catch a breath and watch a support division race or maybe the feature after yours, but that’s really all you can do.
DTD: How many years and what tracks have you worked at?
DR: “Since the early 80’s I always wanted to do something in racing and for some reason writing interested me. I’m really not sure what triggered that as I was a C English student at best, but I just wanted to write.
Right after college I started to hang around Dave Wright when he started Auto Rac’r Magazine. He gave me a shot at writing and actually printed my second story. At that same time, I also got a column in DIRT Trackin Magazine when Dan Harpell gave me a shot.
“I guess the hanging around Dave as much as I did he had to put me to work. I was probably bugging the hell out of him anyway. Soon, I started to help lay out the magazine, then in short time I became the editor of the magazine and Dave hired me. It was a dream job, full-time in racing. I designed and laid out the magazine from cover to cover, I loved it! Unfortunately, the funding wasn’t there and Dave had to close the doors. But I was always grateful to him for putting his trust in me, he got me started.
“In ‘88 I became both the Public Relations director of Brewerton Speedway when Jim Ferlito bought in with Chuck Trump and became a columnist for Area Auto Racing News. Brewerton was just one year as I really didn’t want to be at the same track week in/week out.
“I did start to travel and became Area Auto’s main big-block writer. I followed the DIRT Series back then (little irony) while going to my job every day. You got tired sometimes but was that ever fun.
“In ’92 I noticed ESS wasn’t getting any results stories or PR out. I really enjoyed watching the Sprint Cars run with the Modifieds so I approached Dick Carbery and Chuck Miller about possibly being the PR Director. They took me on and at $25 an event, I thought that was the coolest thing. As many know, I’ve been with ESS ever since. When Dick retired in 2006 I became the Vice President and took on a bigger role which I still have now. The only difference is I do miss a few races as DIRTcar, of course, comes first. But, we have a great crew, they do awesome.
“Of course, now, I started with World Racing Group in September of 2018 and hope to be around for a long time. Every day, I mean every day I consider myself so fortunate that this fan for all these years has now found a career in the sport I grew up with and loved.”
DTD: What are some of your best memories?
DR: “While I mentioned earlier that any event you’re a part of is successful and safe is a good memory, I have to say what transpired recently.
“My father has been semi-retired for a while and he got himself a motorhome. We decided to meet at the Williams Grove National Open a few years ago. He brought the motorhome and I drove down, it was so much fun.
My mom passed away when I was at a very young age, so it was me and my dad growing up. We were at each other’s throat more than anything. While I guess it shouldn’t have taken about 25 years later to get closer, but we started doing racing trips in the motorhome.
“Our yearly deal was to go to Eldora for the Kings Royal, then stay for the NASCAR trucks/Super DIRTcar Series and hit races on the way back. Mike Mallett and some other friends would go, it was a great time. It brought us close that we probably didn’t have much before even though we lived in the same house.”
DTD: What are some of your toughest ones?
DR: “Unfortunately, this probably the easiest to answer. The Kevin Ward incident at Canandaigua…. I was there, I was one of the first to the scene and it’s something that I will never forget. I can’t even count how many sleepless nights there were, and you just wish somehow, someway you can rewind life and not have that part of it.”
DTD: Why do you keep doing what you do?
DR: “I guess the simplest way to say it is that I just love this sport and especially local auto racing. I wrapped my whole life around it and now very fortunate to live it full-time. Looking back, I guess you can say that racing is where I am today.
I still rent, still live near Syracuse, no wife, no kids, it’s not to express a sad story or anything like that, it is what I chose. I do have another hobby in that I played sports from when I was five to when I hung up the glove as I turned 50. There are lot friends I have fun with there. However, when they would go on their boats, hang around their pools or go to a rock concert, I got in the car and went racing.
“When I finally do step away from the sport I just hope I helped it a little. I have cared for it for so long and I do realize that I have an effect with my choices, you hope you made the right ones and they helped. If I do sit back one day old, in a rocking chair and see that I did have a positive effect, that would make me smile. That’s all I need.”
DTD: Was your family involved with racing?
DR: “It was of course my dad and just my dad. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, they would go sometimes but they weren’t big fans. My dad and his girlfriend still go as much as they can today. Getting around is starting to getting tougher but when he can he will go to Orange County or come upstate for a Super DIRTcar race or an ESS show.
DTD: Who influenced you in regards to racing and why?
DR: “There’s a few, although pops will probably disagree on this one, I like to listen and absorb. It started with Dave Wright of course, he gave me the crash course and learned so much in such a short time. I remember listening to Glenn Donnelly back in the day. I might have been a 19-year-old kid at the time but I knew listening to him at that time would help down the road.
“Dick Carbery also, I still talk to him quite often today. He is always the voice of reason for me, anytime I was looking for an opinion or a little guidance I would call him. Even today there are people that can influence you. This sport you learn something every day, every day. I know in my position that I will be offering those traits to others, but you need to keep an open mind as well. If you think you know all in this sport, well, need to take a breath and think again.”
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