Volume X, Issue 3, Page 82

Ups and Downs

Jack Wyatt heard the noise behind him, and it sounded like a race car engine. He knew that deep, grinding, throaty rattle. It sounded like a Pro Stock car.

But no, it couldn't be. He was cruising leisurely through an industrial park in Mooresville, North Carolina, gawking at some of the NASCAR shops. The IHRA Nitro Funny Car driver's eyes darted to his rear-view mirror, and in the midst of the overwhelming circle-track splendor -- Pro Mod wizard Jim Oddy just had shown him a $40 million team headquarters -- he saw NHRA Pro Stock dominator Greg Anderson on his tail -- in his new Pontiac GXP. Anderson was driving from his garage to the eighth-mile test track just a few yards away.

"Looking at all the NASCAR shops, that humbled me," Wyatt said. "One team has 35 cars. Good grief! And a shop that costs $40 million to build -- How can you spend $40 million?!"

Wyatt is a quiet, hard-working man from Corydon, Iowa, who lives simply and within his means. But he's liable to show up in the darndest places.

Take, for example, why he was in Mooresville in the first place. This winter, he helped a friend deliver a fire truck from Norfolk, Virginia, to Galveston, Texas, where it was shipped out on a barge bound for Southeast Asia, for a small village in Vietnam. How times have changed. Vietnam was a place rife with war and heartache as Wyatt was transitioning from teenager to adult, and during that time, drag racing was a craze sweeping across America while NASCAR still transmitted "Hee Haw" vibes.

On the track, Wyatt has found himself in some unpredictable places. The journeyman driver, who like so many earnest drag racers, has struggled to build sustainable sponsorship through the years, has finished as runner-up to Dale Creasy Jr. in both seasons since the IHRA brought back the Nitro Funny Car class.

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