The word got around Bedford Fairgrounds Speedway quickly on that summer night in 2016 — 11-year-old Drake Troutman was in the UMP Modified field.
To that point, Troutman had raced nothing more than a peewee level go-kart. The next step happened to be a 750-horsepower, full-bodied machine. That’s when the murmurs began.
“You’ve got an 11-year-old kid out there on the track, so everyone’s a little bit leery at first,” Troutman said. “Everyone was like, ‘That’s a kid. There’s the kid.’”
Those murmurs morphed into something more recognizable shortly after, and “The Kid” — the nickname that now rides with the Meyersdale, Pa., racer wherever he goes — had stuck. More than 50 feature victories later, Troutman’s 16-year-old talents have entered the national spotlight.
In January, he collected two wins during a four-day span racing DIRTcar UMP Modifieds at Florida’s East Bay Raceway Park. A month later in the North Carolina Speedweek finale at Fayetteville Motor Speedway, he overtook Matt Crafton and outdueled Nick Hoffman for the victory. In April, he finished on the podium in a dirt late model with Jonathan Davenport and Devin Moran at West Virginia Motor Speedway.
“Right now, we have a really good program on the dirt side of things,” Troutman said. “It’s something I want to hopefully make a career out of.
“Things really took off after East Bay because of the name the track had for itself,” Troutman added. “Obviously, Fayetteville was big, too. I definitely felt like my name was out there. But the days after that, it was all about getting back to work and getting back after it for the next week.”
That last sentence sounds like a cliché dismissal from an athlete who recently accomplished something, but Troutman is true to those words. He’s a worker first and a racer second. Academics don’t fall through the cracks, either. A sophomore at Meyersdale Area High School, Troutman is an honors student.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the restructured model of learning that came with it has allowed Troutman to more readily pursue his racing endeavors. Though the school is back to in-person learning, Meyersdale Area High administrators have allowed Troutman to continue online learning in order to keep racing.
“Obviously, the whole pandemic of what we’ve got going here stinks,” Troutman started. “It’s not a good deal. But you have to look at the bright side of things and that’s on the bright side that came out of it for me.”
It has led to a precise routine, one that begins each weekday with Troutman puttering a mile from home on his dirt bike to be at his race shop by 9 a.m.
He’s usually there through 9 or 10 p.m., while some nights bleed into early morning.
“Then, we go to sleep and do it all over again,” said Troutman, who shoulders the brunt of the responsibilities and takes ownership of them because his family is consumed running multiple businesses.
His dad, D.J., manages the family trucking operation, D&R Trucking. Troutman’s mom, Lori, owns a hair salon.
Through hectic and constantly changing schedules, racing remains the nucleus for the Troutman family. Troutman’s grandfather, Dave, has been racing dirt late models since 1992. D.J. Troutman took that route, too, but quit racing in 2019 to devote attention to his son and the trucking business.
Drake Troutman, meanwhile, has the highest trajectory of the three and he’s foregone the typical high school experience to go all in on a racing career. He’s also dropped sports such as football, baseball and wrestling. He reached the state finals as a freshman wrestler.
“I always tell him, ‘Hey, bud, if you ever want to go play sports because it’s going to be your last years or whatever, feel free,’” D.J. Troutman said. “I’ve been in racing all my life and I was very dedicated at a younger age, and I can’t even explain to you how dedicated he is. He understands his cars, what to do to them. …
“I’m his dad, so people think I’m biased, but I’m not that type of person,” D.J. Troutman added. “I told him, ‘You’re going to learn how to work on your stuff.’ I’m not going to quit everything. He’s not a spoiled kid. … There’s a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into this deal. I’m thankful we have a kid who thinks the same way.”
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