“Even today, I cannot drive a tight race car because back then if our car got too tight, I could not physically hold on to the wheel. At the end of the feature, it felt like my arms were falling off. That is where I learned to hustle a loose race car and I still drive like that today.”
Cisney was adjusting to a new car while taking on real pros such as Frankie Herr, Rich Eichelberger and Carmen Perigo at some of the fastest tracks in the region.
“We just kind of winged it,” Dylan Cisney said. “From there I learned on my own how to make a car go. Back then we had Steve Smith’s ‘Sprint Car Chassis Technology’ book in the trailer. I would go out there and run hot laps at Williams Grove and I would come in and take my helmet off and say, ‘OK, I am a little tight on entry.’ I would get out the book and go to the section that said, ‘Tight on entry.’ That is how we figured it out the whole way through 410 racing.”
His pragmatic approach was effective and led to rookie-of-the-year honors at Williams Grove. After one more year in a super sportsman car, the team dove into 410 sprint car racing.
To get going, the Cisneys followed the same gameplan they used when they stepped up to a super sportsman. They sought out a race-ready car from an established team. This time they turned to owners Jim and Sandy Kline, who were fielding a car for Greg Hodnett with talented Lee Stauffer on the wrenches.
“They had a frame and stuff they wanted to get rid of and Greg Hodnett and Lee Stauffer personally assembled my first 410 for me,” Cisney said. “They were good to me and put it together ready to hit the track. They had a brand-new body to put on and I said it would be a shame to turn around and paint that. That is why we have had yellow cars forever.”
In 2010, Cisney was a 17-year-old high school senior preparing to race a 410 sprint car for the first time. He feels he might have been over his head.
Not long after graduation from Juniata High School he packed up a few belongings and headed to the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima. While in the Buckeye State he met key players in the sport like Marshall Campbell and Jim Burgoon.
Cisney learned from Campbell, one of the great mechanical minds, while Burgoon gave him a chance to race a 360 sprint car. If that were not enough, he would routinely head back to Pennsylvania and jump into a 410. He admits his overall approach was a bit foolhardy.
“Instead of coming home to run a regular show,” he said. “I would come home and run the Speedweek show at Port Royal. That is how I cut my teeth. I ran the 15 toughest races at home. It meant I got to race with all my heroes like Keith Kaufman, Fred Rahmer and Steve Smith. Tyler Walker had a full-time ride then and Todd Shaffer was there, too.”
Cisney earned a degree in High Performance Motorsports and by 2013 he was racing in the Keystone State every weekend and working with crew chief Jim Shreiner. In an unusual situation, Shreiner worked with Jason Leffler at Williams Grove on Friday night and twisted wrenches for Cisney on Saturday at Port Royal.
The ability to concentrate on one task began to pay off. On June 15, 2013, Cisney scored his first 410 victory at Port Royal and by the end of the season he was named the track’s most improved driver.
Wisconsin-based Scott Cowman began lending a hand with engines in 2018.
“He was a main part in making our team better,” Cisney said. “It relieved the motor-program stress, so that money went to better cars and better parts. From there we were running better, and then sponsors started coming in.”
Cowman was pleased with the results and decided it was time he made a move as well.
“Scott presented the option of having his own car on the track full time and so it was up to me if I wanted that deal and wanted to bring it to Pennsylvania,” Cisney explained. “If I said no, he probably would have taken his car back to Wisconsin. Everything came together at the right time. We sold dad’s stuff and I am a full-time hired driver. It was an easy transition because we are still in the same shop, it is the same guys and overall, it gives us some leeway to do things.”
Cisney remains disappointed at the way the 2017 Port Royal Speedway concluded.