Tyson Lang is driving for a championship.
No, that doesn’t mean the Glacier Peak High School football team’s senior quarterback is leading the Grizzlies down the field as they try to knock Lake Stevens off its pedestal atop Wesco 4A. Indeed, Lang’s high school football pursuits have been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So Lang has instead been directing his efforts toward his alternative competitive outlet. Evergreen Speedway’s 2020 season for its regular classes concludes Saturday with the running of the Central Welding Supply 125 for Pro Late Models. And the teenage Lang finds himself in poll position for a points championship in the Monroe racetrack’s premier class.
In this year’s coronavirus-adjusted schedule, the Central Welding Supply 125 is serving as Evergreen Speedway’s Championship Night No. 2. While the race is scheduled for Saturday, there is a possibility it will be postponed because of weather.
Lang heads into the final race in first place in the Pro Late Models standings. His 255 points lead former track champion Daniel Moore by 10, while Jeff Knight lurks just a further point behind in third.
This gives Lang a chance to join the ranks of his father, Evergreen Speedway legend Naima Lang. Naima Lang is a five-time track champion in Super Late Models, which was the tracks premier class prior to this year.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect coming into this year,” Tyson Lang said when asked if he’d imagined being the points leader heading into the final race. “I knew I’d have a good car and a good crew behind me. I knew it would come down to how I performed, and I feel like I’m doing pretty well.”
“It’s great,” Naima Lang said about watching his son excel on the track. “It’s a limited year, so it’s kind of unnormal, but it’s been a good process for him learning-wise. He’s been watching me race since he was born, so it’s just been getting used to getting the car right and learning how to race. All that’s coming at him is new, but he’s learning fast.”
However, in a normal year there’s a good chance Tyson Lang doesn’t find himself in this lofty position. That’s because he’d be prioritizing pass accuracy and reading defenses over car setup and qualifying times.
Last year Tyson Lang, as a junior, took over as Glacier Peak’s starting quarterback. Through the Grizzlies’ first eight games he was 96-for-173 for 1,017 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. He threw two more TDs in Glacier Peak’s victory over Mount Vernon that advanced the Grizzlies to the Week 10 playoffs, and Glacier Peak finished the season 7-3 with him at the helm.
And Tyson Lang readily acknowledges that for him, football is No. 1 and auto racing No. 2, despite his lineage. He wasn’t the kid who was racing go-karts at age five, as he didn’t begin racing on asphalt until competing in Youth Hornets at Evergreen Speedway in his mid-teens. Meanwhile, he’s played football since first grade and was a quarterback all but one of those years.
“I would have definitely gone with football over racing,” Tyson Lang said. “If I had a football event I’d definitely choose that over a race. I’m not sure that I would have missed any races, we race on Saturdays while football games are on Fridays. But racing is basically a weekend thing for me.
“I just like football more,” added Tyson Lang, who so far has received offers to play football from NCAA Division III Linfield University and NAIA University of Montana Western. “Football is not always going to be there, and racing I know always will be. I can go back to racing later down the road in life, but football is limited.”
But with football on hold, Tyson Lang is putting his full concentration into racing. The result has been a big step forward. Last year, racing Super Late Models for the first time, he finished 10th in Evergreen Speedway’s points standings. That included a fourth-place finish at Summer Showdown, the track’s biggest race, in what was just his fourth time ever racing a Late Model.
This year, running a new car and with his father — who chose not to race Pro Late Models this year — serving as crew chief, he’s made significant improvements on the track.
“I’d say (his biggest improvement) has been learning to pass fast guys,” Naima Lang said. “It’s one thing passing guys who are a lot slower than you. But when you’re working on passing guys who are just as fast, it takes a lot of talent and actual driving skills.
“I knew he’d pick up (driving) quick,” Naima Lang added. “He picks up everything quick. Growing up sports-wise he was a quick learner and that hasn’t ceased.”
Tyson Lang may prefer football, but which does he consider more challenging: driving a race car or quarterbacking a football team?
“That’s a tough question,” Tyson Lang answered. “Probably being a quarterback, just because there’s more pressure, more eyes on you and more people expecting you to perform well. When it comes to racing, all I care about is what my family thinks, I don’t care what anyone else says.”
While Tyson Lang finds himself on the brink of a points championship, one thing he hasn’t accomplished this season is winning a race. He’s been close, with two second-place finishes and one third, but he has yet to cross the finish line first. Therefore, when the Central Welding Supply 125 begins, his goal isn’t to win a points championship, it’s to win the race.
“Winning is the most important thing to me,” Tyson Lang said. “I’m not really worried about the championship. I might look to be more aggressive for this race just because I want to win it so bad.”