It is, perhaps, the greatest stretch of Super Late Models domination in Evergreen Speedway history.
Tyler Tanner has been virtually unbeatable this season. In five Super Late Models races at the Monroe racetrack this year, the Auburn driver won four times and finished second in the fifth — and the time he placed second he wasn’t even driving his own car.
Now Tanner is hoping that domination translates into track history as the first ever track regular to win Evergreen’s premier event.
The eighth annual Summer Showdown, Evergreen’s biggest race, takes place Sunday afternoon, and Tanner is as primed as any driver has ever been to become the first track regular to take home the first-place trophy.
“We go into the season thinking we’re capable of winning every race we go to,” Tanner said. “We put a lot of work in at the shop, and our objective is to win no matter where we’re racing or who we’re racing against. You never know where luck is going to be, but I always thought we had the potential to win every race we go to.”
That potential has turned into reality this season. Tanner is the reigning Super Late Models points champion at Evergreen, but last season he had just one win and four podiums in 11 races. This season has been a different story as Tanner has been head and shoulders above the field. Four times he’s pulled off the double, qualifying with the fast time and going on to win the race comfortably, and he has a significant points lead over second-placed Naima Lang (283-234).
Tanner’s only “loss” at Evergreen this year came last month when he was edged by Gracin Raz in the Galloway 150. However, Tanner wasn’t in his own car for that race. His motor blew up during morning practice and he ended up racing Trenton Moriarity’s car. Moriarity wasn’t competing that week and his car is stationed just across the street from Evergreen. Even without having driven the car before Tanner qualified fifth out of 23 and placed second in the race.
“Our car has just been really good,” Tanner said of his success this season. “We’ve had good cars in the past, but there are just so many things in auto racing that have to align for you to be successful, and everything has been falling into place this year. We’ve had a good car every race, but we also haven’t been involved in any wrecks. In the past, we’d show up in a dominant car and something would happen, whether it was someone blowing up in front of us and us getting caught up in it, or whether it was a part failure. We’ve been fortunate so far this year to avoid any of that.”
Track president Doug Hobbs, who took over in 2011, said he’s unaware of anyone starting the season the way Tanner has started.
“I’ve been trying to find historical records, which we don’t really have, and talking to historians in the background, and there’s no question that Tyler has had a phenomenal start,” Hobbs said. “I haven’t seen this kind of dominance. Literally everything he’s doing at this point in time has his car hooked up like it’s on a rail. I’m sure someone will catch him, they always do. But right now he’s far superior and it’s not luck, there’s a lot of skill and craftsmanship that goes into it.”
Part of the reason for Tanner’s success could be attributed to the new car he purchased during the offseason. However, Tanner has raced both his old car and his new car at Evergreen this season — he’s racing his old car on the 5/8-mile track and his new car on the 3/8-mile track — and won in both.
“I think the biggest difference (having two cars) has made is alleviating some of the pressure of trying with one car, one motor, one of everything, to constantly turn it around,” Tanner said. “When you have two cars, it makes the day-to-day maintenance a lot easier. But probably it’s more of a mental release knowing you have another car sitting there in case one gets wrecked or work doesn’t get done.”
The Summer Showdown is Tanner’s next target. Tanner has never been on the podium at Summer Showdown, but he’s been close, finishing fourth in both 2016 and 2017. Last year he qualified third, and he was leading in the early going when he suffered engine failure on lap 23 of the 200-lap race.
“You don’t really know how the race would have played out and I hate to speculate, but if the engine hadn’t blown up, I think we had a pretty dominant car,” Tanner said. “I know (Preston Peltier) ended up winning, but judging from the entire weekend and the start of the race, we definitely had one of the top two or three cars in the race, if not the best.
“This year is probably the best opportunity we’ve had to win the race,” Tanner added. “You can only control so much and you hope it goes in your favor. That’s the excitement of it, never knowing what’s going to happen, and I always look forward to the more competitive races. That’s what motivates me and I think a lot of guys on our team, to race against some of the best guys in the country, and I’d love to be the first one to keep the trophy here.”
If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.