While many first-year racecar drivers start at an early age, Tyler Collins of North Vernon decided he was going to jump into a late model last year at the age of 24.
Forgoing a start in any other form of racing, Collins is a rarity in today’s racing world, where youngsters still in their single-digits decide to start a career.
Collins’ entire life and family has evolved around racing. His grandparents, Ted and Sue Collins, promoted both Brownstown Speedway and Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon for several years. His father, Trent, and uncle Tory have raced together for several years, with Tory winning the 1991 late models track championship at Twin Cities.
In Tyler Collins’ first year of racing competition, he finished an admirable fifth in the Indiana Late Model Series points standings. The series for crate late models competes most weekends at Brownstown and travels to other tracks throughout Indiana.
Having been around racetracks since the day he was born, and with his family’s racing heritage, it’s only natural the way Collins feels when he pulls into a racetrack on any given night.
“There’s just something special about being at a racetrack that makes me feel an incredible amount of excitement, but also very comfortable like I’m at home. I’ve helped my uncle and dad on their car since I was able to walk, and I’ve been wanting to be a driver for as long as I can remember. I almost think I was born wanting to race. I decided to just buy a late model, even though I had never raced anything before because I just wanted to drive so badly, and I could just feel that it was something I could be good at.
“My racing heritage is one of the things I am most proud of in my life. Talking to people at racetracks that tell me how much respect they have for my grandparents and my dad and uncle really gives me a strong sense of purpose for wanting to continue our involvement in racing. Even if being a driver doesn’t pan out how I want, and I end up not making it where I intended, I will always be involved in racing. Maybe one day I’ll even own or promote my own track or series, but my family’s passion for this sport has been passed on to me.”
Collins, the son of Trent and Debbie Collins of North Vernon, is employed by Cummins, Inc. He is looking forward to the new racing season which starts in March at Brownstown Speedway, but he hasn’t decided whether he will compete regularly with the Indiana Late Model Series or run an independent schedule this year.
“I’m still undecided on my direction for the 2018 season,” he said. “I know I will be running an updated MasterSbilt car as a crate again, but am not sure if I will race the Indiana Late Model series again or travel around and pick races at random that I would like to go to. I really want to win races this year, like every driver, but I know that the competition in the crate late models all around the United States only gets greater every year.
“I really want to prove myself against the toughest competition around and figure out coming off my rookie year if this could be something I’m talented at or not. Traveling is something I have a lot of fun doing, and I want to be able to show up at a track I’ve never raced at before and be competitive for the top spot. I think the biggest thing I would like to accomplish this year though would be to really earn the respect of my competitors. I want to be known as a fast driver, but also a clean racer and friendly competitor.”
“Moving up to the top level is always the dream. I know being 24 years old kind of puts me at a later start than some people, which is a big reason that I wanted to immediately start out in a late model and not work my way up from the lower classes. I know there is still a ton I need to learn, but yes, eventually I’d like to move up to a super late model car and hopefully one day even be able to race for a World 100 win or run in one of the national touring series.”
Collins’ sponsors include Iron Valley Barbell, Valvoline, Tri- County Machine, Right Auto Parts, New Edge Auto Detail, Tailfeather Farm Market, Earl’s Garage and Lula Roe by Debbie Collins. He runs a Mastersbilt Chassis with a GM 604 crate engine. His crew consists of Trent Collins, Tory Collins, Toby Taylor, Alex Taylor, Zach Taylor and Jacob Miller.
James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Republic. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.