Some people in our great country, the United States of America, may believe that the American Dream has died. Some have tried hard to convince others that the Dream is no longer worth pursuing. Tyler Tanner, an aspiring stock car driver from Auburn, Washington, does not fall into either of those categories. Tanner is still pursuing his dream, even though at times it has been a bit of a struggle.
If you’re unfamiliar with Tyler Tanner’s name, that’s understandable. It’s fair to say that a lot of people are. Tanner finished fourth in this past Sunday’s SRL Winter Showdown at California’s Kern County Raceway, and had a lot of people saying “Tyler who?”
Tanner is a 24-year-old driver out of the Pacific Northwest, and even he was surprised by his fourth-place finish on Sunday. Partially because he started 39th, but mostly because he wasn’t even planning to run the race.
“Being there kind of came about last minute,” Tanner told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I wasn’t planning on being there until maybe a week and a half prior. An opportunity came up so I could drive someone else’s car.”
He explained that the car he was racing was a new car, and that contributed to some of the struggles the team had in the practice sessions and qualifying races leading up to the 250-lap big dance on Sunday afternoon. That 250-lap show was full of attrition, but as front-runners dropped out one-by-one, Tanner was able to survive it all to finish up near the front.
“We weren’t one of the better cars, but we did find some speed in the last practice and got better throughout the race,” he said. “We still were maybe somewhere between a fifth and 10th-place car. When I was running up there I knew we weren’t in a position to just run up and try and contend. I just know that in these races sometimes only 10 to 15 cars have a shot at the end and I knew we had to be one of them.”
Tanner grew up in a “100-percent racing family.” Both of his parents raced. Multiple uncles raced. His grandparents raced. For Tanner himself, his journey started about 20 years ago.
“I started racing quarter-midgets when I was five,” said Tanner. “I’ve raced every year since in something. I ran quarter-midgets until I was about 15 and then started in Late Models when I was 16. I’ve just always tried to keep racing.”
Unfortunately for Tanner, racing is the one thing he really wants to do it, but it’s also the one thing he doesn’t get to do all that often. A lack of funding has shortened Tanner’s racing schedule drastically.
“We’ve always owned our own race cars and ran our own Late Models as much as we can,” he said. “We don’t have the means to run a lot of races so unfortunately I only get to run eight to ten races every year. I’d love to do more, but that’s what it’s come down to.”
With that in mind, Tanner made the decision to go to college and get his degree. He graduated from Arizona State in 2013 with a degree in Industrial Engineering and immediately landed a job as a manufacturing engineer.
However, that didn’t last long once Tanner experienced “one of his prouder moments.” That moment was a phone call from NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner Mike Mittler, who offered him a part-time ride one year ago.
“Even though it was only part time and some start-and-parks, I kind of dropped everything and went and did it,” he said. “I quit my job, actually lived in a hotel the whole year, and went to the truck races.”
Tanner ran 12 of the 23 races on the Truck Series schedule last year, with a best finish of 15th at Kansas Speedway, and he actually led five laps at Texas Motor Speedway. He’s very open and honest about what he had for equipment, and that’s why he’s so proud of that opportunity.
“Getting to run a Truck race, and yes it’s a low-budget team and realistically you aren’t going to run for top-10’s, but just getting to go to all those race tracks and experience that was pretty cool,” said Tanner. “Not a lot of people get the opportunity to do that, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do more.”
For now, Tanner said he has a couple more years to continue to pursue more opportunities, and to continue to try to live the dream. He doesn’t know when his next race will be. He doesn’t know if it’ll be one month from now or six months from now. But no matter when it is, he said he can guarantee he’ll make the most of it, like he and his family always have.
“I’d like to tell you I’m going to be at a bunch of big Late Model races, but there’s nothing certain,” Tanner said. “I’d like to race every day of the year. I don’t care what it is. If I could race every day I would. I guess it’s a matter of finding the right opportunity, but for now I feel that we’ve done everything we can with what we’ve been provided with.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Tyler Tanner Motorsports Facebook