TUCSON, Ariz. – A pair of drivers will be taking their talents to the Tucson Speedway’s eighth annual Chilly Willy 150 and look to be among the favorites even before taking their first lap around the three-eighths-mile oval.
The wealth of expertise and experience they have consulted or will have available come race weekend are a large part of that consideration.
Tyler Tanner went to college at Arizona State University and, around that time, had the opportunity to compete in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix Raceway, but does not recall previously attending any events at the Tucson short track located about two hours south.
That comes despite the fact that his father, two-time former NASCAR Northwest Tour champion Kelly Tanner, won at the facility in 1997 during the popular and well-known Winter Heat program that used to occur over the winter months each year.
“To be honest, we haven’t really even talked about it at all, considering the driving aspect is approaching 25 years,” Tyler Tanner, the 2019 Super Late Model track champion at Washington’s Evergreen Speedway, recently noted. “But I’m sure we will as it gets closer or on our way there.”
Instead, Tanner has relied on feedback from recent races in which he has participated elsewhere, as well as some basic guidance from a past Chilly Willy event winner.
“I texted Chris Eggleston about things like what gear to run, just to make sure we have the pit box properly equipped,” Tanner mentioned. “We’ve been leaving all our equipment in Arizona after Vegas last November to do Irwindale and Chilly Willy.”
The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of the Spears SRL Southwest Tour’s penultimate race in 2020, and this year’s opener at Irwindale Speedway’s All-Star Showdown were a prime tune-up for the upcoming event.
Tanner’s improvement was noticeable.
“We went to Vegas and struggled and weren’t one hundred percent prepared, so the biggest thing about Irwindale was going and being competitive,” Tanner documented about his turnaround from missing the main event field at the Bullring to finishing a solid seventh within an 80-day span at Irwindale, a track layout similar to Tucson in size and banking.
“Realistically it wasn’t perfect, but I was happy with it and confidence-wise it was reassuring.”
The 29-year-old competitor has recently been balancing life between locations more than 2,000 miles apart after moving from his hometown of Auburn, Wash. to Mooresville, N.C.
Currently working for Magnus Performance Products, designing and engineering drivetrain components, it is a one race at a time approach at the moment for when the No. 65 Hamke race car sponsored by 9D Creative (a fast-growing multimedia business founded by his girlfriend Molly Helmuth, also a past Super Late Model racer on both coasts), Floor Coverings International, and HyperCo will appear next.
“We’ll see how Tucson goes and whatever makes most sense we’ll do next,” Tanner predicted. “The motivation for relocating was to do some racing here, but timing hasn’t been right yet. I want to do it right. It’s easier to race on the west coast when you have guys to go with you to the race track, so for now it’s more practical to just buy a plane ticket and do that.”
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