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THR driver Doug Ayers' story...

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by Chuck Licata


As many of you know, I’m very involved in auto racing, both as a series announcer and host of “The Motorsports Zone” on KVET-AM 1300 every Saturday morning.


But I take my hat off to guys like Pflugerville’s Doug Ayers, who actually suits up and drives on the local racing circuit.


Ayers runs his #02 car at Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle. He drives in the track’s most “populated” class, the street stock class.


“We start about 20 cars each night in the feature race,” Ayers said. “It’s a very competitive class and there are quite a few experienced drivers in the class.”


Going into this Saturday night’s race, Ayers sits in third place in the 2003 street stock points standings. As of today, he sits 40 points behind Cary Stapp for the lead. In case you’re not familiar with auto racing, you need to understand this: a race car driver wants one thing – more than any other – from his driving exploits on the racetrack.


That one thing is to win the season-long points championship.


“That’s what all drivers shoot for – the points championship,” Ayers confirmed. “That can happen at either a local race track or in a specific racing series. There are so many things that can happen to a driver and his team during a season. You really need some good luck to win a points championship.”


And, you need some talent, along with a good race team and a good support group. Ayers is fortunate to have all three going for him as he makes a run at the 2003 street stock championship.


Doug Martin Ayers was born to Terry and Barbara Ayers right outside of San Diego, Ca. on March 31, 1968. He moved with his parents and brother Chris to Austin soon after. The family was drawn into the local racing scene by Barbara’s brother, Don Drews, who helped build race cars that ran at Austin Speed-O-Rama (which later became Longhorn Speedway).


“I was hooked right then and there,” Ayers recalled. “I was only three years old at the time, but all I wanted to do was to go racing. My favorite driver at the time was Leroy Brooks, who ran in the #02 car. That’s why I run the #02 on my car.”


Don Drews was killed in a car accident – on the highway, not on the race track – when Doug was only five. “I still think about him every time I get in a race car,” Ayers declared. “He really meant a lot to me, and he was the one who was my inspiration to go to the races.”


Ayers soon started working in the pits at Longhorn Speedway. He would work for whatever race team would have him. “I really learned a lot by pitting for different crews,” Ayers said.


The Pflugerville resident finally made the jump to race car driver in 1995. He entered a Chevy Camaro into the street stock class at Longhorn Speedway, but would soon learn a valuable lesson about racing at the local level.


“It’s so funny,” Ayers chuckled. “We were looking to enter the street stock class, but Longhorn dumped that class before the season started. Thus, we were forced to run in the super stock class – a class that had the most experienced drivers out on the track. I found myself overmatched on the track. We did the best we could with what we had, but it was quite the experience.”


Ayers drove again in 1997 for ten races in the super stock class, finishing 14th in the points standings. He then made a fulltime commitment to driving in 1999, the year that Thunder Hill opened its gates. He’s been driving the blue-and-yellow #02 at THR ever since.


In his first three years on the track at Thunder Hill, Ayers placed seventh, third and fourth in points, respectively. The #02 team claimed six feature race wins in that time, and it seemed like everything was in place for a title run in 2002.


But, as so many racers know too well, there are some years when everything seems to go by Murphy’s Law – if something can go wrong, it will.


“That year (2002) was just one of those years,” Ayers stated. “The bad signs started early on, too. We were leading the second race of the year when the engine blew. It was a brand new motor, too. That really put us behind the 8-ball, because we didn’t have a backup motor. We sat out three weeks while we were building a new one.


“That was just the start, too. During the season, we broke a transmission, we broke the rear end gear, we broke the right front rotar – you name it, we broke it.”


Ayers wound up in ninth place that disastrous season. He admitted there were times he wondered if all of the sacrifices he made, and the sacrifices his crew made, were all worth it.


“Sometimes I’ll be driving down the road and see a family with a boat hooked to their car, heading out to the lake,” Ayers said. “Racing is a very expensive sport, and I’ve spent a lot of money over the years. Plus, my parents, my girlfriend Lori, her kids (Brandi, 12, and Brandon, 9) – they give up their Saturday nights during the spring and summer supporting the race team. I can tell you this, I wouldn’t be out there this year doing as well as I am without their undying support. If it wasn’t for them, I’d have probably quit racing. Words can’t express what their support has meant to me.”


As Ayers mentioned, auto racing can be costly, and sponsorship is not only important, but very necessary for any driver on any level.


“Clay Ballentine at Private Warehouse Mini Storage in Pflugerville has been with me from the start,” Ayers stated. “He’s sponsored me every single year, and has also gone out of his way to help us any way he can. He’s given our team some storage space, and he usually holds a ‘Driver Appreciation Day’ at his place. That’s when we bring out the car and Clay provides food and drink for people in the community. Our team enjoys the chance to get out and mingle with people in the community.”


Along with Private Warehouse Mini Storage, Ayers lists the following as #02 team sponsors: Sign Shop, Highway 71 Auto Salvage, Rogers Collision of Burnet, Performance Plus Machines, Ultimate Exhaust, Monarch Transmissions, Hughes Building and Classic Auto Restoration Services of Georgetown, as well as Nancy Hanes and Betsy Henson.


Ayers, who has 10 feature race wins in his driving career, has worked at Dell for over 15 years; he works in the information technology department. He said that the one thing that remains constant in his life is the support he receives both on and off the track.


“Last Saturday night, we were running in the middle of the pack,” Ayers started, “when we got caught in a three-car (accident). Our car suffered a little sheet-metal damage, but the biggest thing was a flat tire. My crew hustled their butts off – they got most of the damage taken care of and changed the tire very quickly. Because of their hard work, I made it back out and finished in eighth place. That kind of hard work means a lot when you’re battling for a points championship.”


Members of Ayers’ crew include Charles Reed, James Reed, Donnie Bonham, Brad White, Billy Hughes, Shawn Holloway, Eric Holloway, Jarret Kucera, Ron Sowell, Wes Claire, Robert Drabb, as well as Jennifer and Ervin.


Ayers said he hopes to move up to the next level of racing – the late model class – sometime soon. However, he feels he has some unfinished business to tend to before that. He’d really like to drive off with this year’s street stock points championship.


It’ll be an exciting last eight races for Ayers and his crew. Whether he wins the championship or not, Ayers has already won the support of many in the Pflugerville community.


There should be some kind of trophy for community support

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