Craig Murto: Young racer making history

History is being made at Shenandoah Speedway, and this Saturday is a good night to see it for yourself.

On July 25, Timmy “Mini” Tyrell crossed the finish line in second place in the Late Model feature. It was at the time the best finish for the 10-year-old racer from Manassas. But by midweek it became the youngster’s first win, following the disqualification of the apparent winner due to post-race tech inspection.

Following some investigation, it was determined that the win made Mini Tyrell the youngest driver in the country to win a Late Model feature. Last year, at the age of 9, he became the youngest driver to race in a full-blown Late Model.

“I can’t thank everyone involved enough for making this happen,” said Timmy once his win was awarded, according to a release distributed by track Marketing Director Russell Schmidt. “To be allowed to race at this level is just amazing, and I appreciate (car owner) Sam Beaty having faith in me for doing this, as well as (track owner) Jeff Vaughan for allowing me to compete at his track. It’s really amazing.”

Timmy competed in numerous Go-Kart venues, Bandoleros, then to Arena Mini-Cup races in Richmond, with much success. It’s unheard of for him to go straight into a Late Model at such an early age. Technically he’s not allowed to compete in national Legends Cars competition because he’s too young.

The parents of this 4-foot-6, 100-pound star in the making, Tim and Tina Tyrell, have provided a path for Timmy to progress into NASCAR’s upper leagues as he gains more experience behind the wheel. There have been many private practice sessions and coaches, such as veteran Late Model driver, Camping World Truck competitor and crew chief Brandon Butler on hand to provide expert advice. Butler takes care of all the maintenance on the car, as well as transport of the car, which competes under Beaty’s B&B Racing stable.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Beaty. “When we first had a special seat designed for him, people were saying you’re crazy to put a kid that young into a 3,100-pound racecar. We are extremely proud of Mini’s accomplishment and can only look forward to more wins and more success as the years go on.”

According to Schmidt’s release, Vaughan granted permission to the Tyrrells with their signatures last year to get things started.

“It’s amazing how well this young man can wheel a big racecar,” Vaughan said. “I’m proud that this new record was established at our racetrack, and encourage race fans to come out and watch this new talent compete.”

Those who came out last Saturday got to see that Timmy can cross the line first. Starting on the pole — his first — he led 27 laps before losing the lead to Keith Carpenter. But with nine laps to go in the usual 75-lap feature, Timmy proved he can race — not just ride around — when he wrestled the lead away from Carpenter and scored his second win in a row.

This isn’t the first time Timmy has made national news. Since he was 7 or 8 he’s spearheaded his own charity to help battle childhood cancer, Mini’s Mission, whose slogan is “Burn rubber to help another.” Visit www.minismission.com for information. The charity has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which has gone to Jeff Gordon’s foundation for distribution. Timmy has often been a guest of Gordon’s, and since Gordon called to congratulate him on his first Late Model ride last year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to know that Gordon called to congratulate Timmy on his win.

Timmy enters sixth grade at Mayfield Intermediate School in Manassas in less than a month. And now, at 10 years old, he’s a Late Model winner.

Most Super Late Model tours require drivers to be 12 to compete. NASCAR-sanctioned tracks require drivers be 14 to race. Whichever direction Timmy goes to move up, he’ll have a huge advantage over other kids his age.

And he’s well-spoken for a 10-year-old. Actually, he’d be considered well-spoken if he were 20. He is unique in the world of racing, and he’s right here in our backyard. Be sure to see him now, so that one day you can say, “I saw him when …”

You can see Timmy compete at Shenandoah Speedway in Shenandoah on Saturday night. It’s the perfect night to go, because not only are Late Models headlining the show, but the Virginia Sprint Series and USAC Midgets will compete. See you at the track.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.