Having a passion for the sport of stock car racing is something that often gets handed down from one generation to the next. One would need more than their fingers and toes to tally up the amount of father-son duos to have success in the sport. Earnhardt, Petty, Jarrett, Elliott and Kenseth are just a few of the names we hear on a national level. At the short track level you have names like Rowe, Dragon and Grissom.
But what about a father, son and daughter trio finding success in the short track racing ranks? Look no further than Oxford Plains Speedway and a name that fills the record books at the 3/8-mile Maine oval.
You will find father Tim Brackett, son TJ Brackett and daughter Vanna Brackett.
Tim has been a mainstay at Oxford Plains Speedway for many years, nearly always being a threat to win in the track’s top class. The 53-year-old has recorded 46 career wins at the track, two track championships (one Pro Stock and one Late Model) and has taken the green flag in the Oxford 250 on 18 different occasions.
Son TJ jumped into a Late Model at a young age and has recently been one of the fiercest competitors in the track’s premier divisions. He has 13 career wins at the track, two Pro Late Model championships and one Oxford 250 pole to his name.
Meanwhile, TJ’s younger sister Vanna made her way into the Late Model ranks in recent years. She began her racing career by dominating the Ladies division at the track and becoming one of the division’s most successful drivers ever with 35 career wins and two championships. She then moved up to the Strictly Stock division before making the jump to Pro Late Model competition and scoring her first PLM win in 2013.
Despite all taking different paths to the track’s premier division, all three now compete weekly in the Super Late Model class. All three Brackett’s shared the same conclusion that while it is fun racing against each other every week, it does become stressful at times.
“You’re so proud of what they’re doing, but at the same time you’re trying to beat them and that’s been pretty tough,” Tim Brackett told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m not going to say that I definitely haven’t cut them a break, but they both do pretty damn well for themselves. It’s just fun to be around them. You know you’re not going to get wrecked and when you beat them you’ve done something.”
While Tim says that he’s more likely to give his son and daughter a break than any other competitor out on the race track, TJ takes as much as he can get when it comes to racing his dad.
“My father I don’t,” TJ said when asked about whether or not he gives his family members any breaks out on the race track. “We race each other pretty hard. We don’t beat and bang, but if there is a hole we fill it. I feel like I don’t really ever take the chance of driving under my sister. I always seem to, if I get to her, go around her or vice versa.”
Vanna, who is still in the early stages of her Late Model racing career, grew up with her dad and brother at the race track but never imagined racing against both of them in Oxford’s premier division. She said she owes it to her dad, as well as her brother who sets up her cars, for most of the success she has experienced up to this point.
“He’s been a lot of help, especially when I started out in the Ladies,” she said. “He taught me how to race, so he’s been the one to look up to. I’ve followed him on the track or had him follow me to tell me what I’m doing right or wrong. It’s always fun to pass him, still.”
Thus far, despite being three of the strongest competitors weekly at the track, the trio of Bracketts has been lucky enough to avoid any type of on-track incidents with each other. But that doesn’t mean it still isn’t stressful for them when they’re running door-to-door next to their father, sister or brother.
“It’s fun and stressful at the same time,” said TJ. “If you mess up a little bit it can make for a long couple weeks dealing with your family, but it’s been pretty good. We haven’t really had any altercations.
“It’s cool to race against your father and your sister, but it also in a sense kind of sucks, too. You want to go, but you kind of give them a little more breaks than you would someone else.”
Although each driver may be more likely to give their family member a break, they are all still racers and want to win. They want to see each other succeed, but they would rather bask in the glory of holding the checkered flag.
“When I’m having a bad night and I see them, I think it makes me drive harder if they’re in front of me and I’m trying to get to them,” Vanna explalined. “It’s a little bit more motivation. Can’t let them have all the glory.”
In July of the 2013 racing season, the Brackett trio made history at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) by becoming the first father-son-daughter combination to sweep a podium at the track. It was only fitting that Tim won that race with his son T.J. finishing second and daughter Vanna coming home third.
“It was very special, especially with me coming home first,” said the elder Brackett. “Two years ago, we finished first, second and third in points. I can’t believe that that’s been done anywhere else either. Maybe a father and son, but not a daughter, too.”
If competing against two family members at the track each week wasn’t enough, the family has recently welcomed another member into the “Brackett Clan.” Kyle Treadwell, a former Outlaw Sportsman racer at the track, is currently dating Vanna and is now driving one of Tim’s old Super Late Models.
Entering Saturday’s race, the four drivers owned the top four spots in the point standings and were separated by just 24 points with Tim leading Vanna, Treadwell and TJ. While TJ doesn’t like where he is in the point standings, having the four cars at the top of the standings is good for business. TJ, who owns and operates TJ Brackett Motorsports, sets up all four cars at his Buckfield, Maine shop.
“If I’m going to beat by any of them, I’m glad it’s those three,” he said. “From a business standpoint, that’s awesome. I’m sure that they feel better that they’re getting the same stuff I got when they’re out there beating me.”
On a weekly basis, the most stressed out member of the Brackett family may be one that is not behind the wheel of a race car. Tim’s wife Jennifer, also the mother of both TJ and Vanna, watches from the grandstands each week as her family members compete at the Oxford oval.
“The one thing about this whole deal with the three or four us, can you imagine what Jennifer is going through? When you’re behind the wheel you’re fairly busy and not watching really what they are doing, but sitting up in the stands watching all four of us must be tough,” said Tim Brackett.
Who does Jennifer cheer for if a battle ensues between family members? Tim wasn’t quite sure.
“I don’t know that she has a favorite. I think she’s pretty neutral.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Sandy Haley