Texas Motor Speedway

Texas teenager hopes to use dirt track to jump-start racing career

Tyler Erb, left, with points leader Jon Mitchell.
Tyler Erb, left, with points leader Jon Mitchell. Courtesy

Tyler Erb quit playing baseball and football his sophomore year of high school, shifting his full attention to dirt-track racing. Now, he’s hoping to make a career of it.

Erb, a Magnolia native, is graduating from high school in two weeks, but isn’t quite ready to dive into studying for finals yet. Instead, he’s making the trek to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the Portacool Texas World Dirt Track Championship, racing in the SUPR Late Model division.

Erb, 18, is third in the series’ standings, and is feeling good about his decision to focus more on racing than other sports.

“I figured this was going to be my best shot to do something and be successful in it,” Erb said. “This is all I do and what I’m trying to do.”

Racing is the reason Erb opted to go to nearby Sam Houston State, rather than going to Texas A&M or the University of Texas. He wants to stay close to his family’s shop, and made a deal with his parents.

“My parents said as long as I go to school, they’ll pay for racing for four more years,” said Erb, who intends to study business management in college.

“So that’s why I chose to go to school like 15 minutes away from our house.”

This weekend, Erb is focused on putting together a better showing at TMS. It’ll mark his third time at the track, but he has yet to run well there.

He wrecked two years ago, and was in the middle of the pack all race last year. This year, Erb feels better about his chances to win a race in his home state.

“This is a really big race for everyone because of the prestige of Texas Motor Speedway and having the dirt track right next to the NASCAR track,” Erb said. “Everyone wants to win that cowboy hat, too. That’s a really big deal for all of us.”

Erb isn’t the only one eyeing the cowboy hat, of course.

Jon Mitchell of Texarkana would love to win this race, too. He is the defending series champion of Southern United Professional Racing and points leader, and has won four of the last five races.

But, for whatever reason, Mitchell simply hasn’t brought his winning ways to TMS.

“It’d be a huge deal for us, we’d love to get that cowboy hat,” Mitchell said. “Everyone is pumped up about this race, and we’re ready to try it again this weekend.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

2015 Portacool Texas World Dirt Track Championship

At Texas Motor Speedway’s dirt track

6:45 p.m. Friday: Practice, heats and qualifiers

6:45 p.m. Saturday: Qualifiers, pole dashes, last-chance races and championship races