In Their Words - Volume 4 - "Courtesy of Chateau Speedway History" Facebook Group Page

April 16, 2019

“In Their Words” Volume 4

In our 4th installment we visit with 3 time WISSOTA Midwest Modified Track Champion Bryan Hernandez (2002, 2004, and 2009).  Started in the Bomber/Street Stock Class, moved to WISSOTA Super Stock for a time and then onto WISSOTA Midwest Modified where he ran the rest of his career.


Webpage:  So what was your first contact with the Sport?

Bryan: Went to races as a kid.  I grew up in Corning which was only six miles from Lansing.  As a young kid my dad would take me.  Then I f I couldn’t get there by him I’d bicycle or hitchhike (laughs).   So that’s how I got into it, then as time went on I got older, well I didn’t start racing until 1981or 1982 I think, I just wanted to race.  Put an old car together and went at it.  Lansing’s the only place I ever ran up until Deer Creek opened up.   Started out with an old Galaxie 500 Ford, in the Bomber Class they called it then.  It was fun

Webpage: Your first win was an Enduro in 1986.

Bryan: That sounds about right. Actually that would have been the Chevelle that I think I bought from Tom Jensen.  I think it was Kim Crawford’s old car back in the day.  He ended up with it somehow and he just had it out in the woods so I just put an old motor in it, just a regular junk yard motor, put it in it and went racing

Webpage: Than you got your First Feature win in a Street Stock in 92.

Bryan: I built that out at John Van Willigen’s, Sonny’s; of course his family helped me a lot on it.  I had never scaled my car or nothing so Roger Stoa says” tell you what I’ll make a deal with you.  I’ll scale your car and you don’t pay me until you win a Feature”.  I said all right, I’d never done it, just went out racing.  So he scaled it and two weeks later I won a Feature so I had to pay him.  (Laughs)  Ya I remember that was my first win in Street Stock, which I don’t think I won that many in Street Stock.  A lot of heat races. 

Web Page: Then two years later, 1994 you went to Super Stocks what was the idea there?

Bryan: I don’t know (laughs) I really don’t know, that was one class I wish I’d never went to. Of course I didn’t spend the money either.  I don’t know, Jason Slegh went to it and for some reason I thought I’d try, go to a different class.  I’d been in Street Stock, well Bomber if you want to call them the same thing, since 81.  So I just thought something for a change.  I like the Supers, I like watching them, but because he did it, and Sonny went to it.  Actually we bought Charlie Giesler’s car.  I didn’t have the money to do it that a lot of ‘em did.  I ran an old motor, we built our own stuff, ran a lot of junk yard stuff.  Of course had Crews as a sponsor.

Webpage: Things have changed a lot from building your own stuff.

Bryan: Ya big time, I don’t think you can compete doing your own stuff now.  Well like Brandon Davis he builds his own cars.  He don’t build his motors.  You don’t build your own parts, “A” frames, I mean it’s all store bought stuff now.  You don’t go to the salvage yard

Webpage:  2001 you get into a Midwest Mod in a Mechanic’s Race and the next year you’re racing one.

Bryan: Ya Jerry Young’s car.  (Laughing) I was gonna be done racing, I think I’d quit for a couple years, I didn’t have nothing left.  In fact we’d just moved to town in Blooming and Jerry was working on his car here,  he had my motor in it, a lot of my stuff in it, so I wanted to race the mechanics race  (laughing)  There I go, hooked again, ya,   That was the best class, I liked that class. 

Webpage:  3 track championships 02, 04 and 09 in that Class.

Bryan: Two of em came with -- I went and bought an old dirt works car --that was a 94 dirt works 2-link, it was an old WISSOTA Modified car, full frame, that car, had a lot of fun in.  Won a lot of races with that. Then I bought Wheelers car, must have been 09, than I won the Championship there with Wheelers car.

Webpage: When was your last race?

Bryan: 2 years ago, 3 years ago.  Think this is starting my third year

Webpage: Than you help your son Jessie run awhile, but haven’t seen him much. 

Bryan: He traveled a lot so he’s only ran 5 or 6 times.  Ya so I helped him. That’s one thing, I don’t mind working on em.   But like they say it gets to be a job.  Last summer I took over the low boy job hauling equipment around for Ulland’s.  I just don’t have the time to do it right  especially like the last two years I raced, I didn’t have the time to work on the car and it was just me and a friend of mine so we’d work on it on Sunday, well what do you get done on Sunday.

Webpage: How did you decide to hang it up?

 The older you get you don’t really want to be out there.   You know, and I sucked.  I went to that 20 thousand dollar race at Fountain City the last year I raced and (laughing) I got lapped, I spun out, it was terrible, and I said I am done.   Never in my life, in that whole time in being in Midwest Mods and even being in Street Stock I don’t remember getting lapped so many times in my life.  Them three nights there I got lapped every race.  Even in a heat race.  (Laughing) I said I’m done.  I’m not paying enough attention to it.  You know if you don’t pay attention

Webpage:  It takes almost every night.

Bryan: Ya You do.  It’s a job.  That’s what I try telling Jessie, if you want to do good in it and compete and at least be in the top 5 it’s an every night deal, whether its 2 hours or 4 hours.  You come home from work eat your supper and you go out there.  Whether you wrecked anything or not you got to look the car over, pay attention to it, otherwise you’re not gonna win.  He found that out.  He’s tried to race now seven years, or six years and he’ll run good one night but the next time, you don’t look at the car till Thursday night and you’re going to go race on Friday, don’t work.  And he’s finding that out, things are breaking, things are just not jiving, and you’re not in it.  It’s a commitment if you want to win races.  It’s done out there, not just on the track.  Talk to anybody, they work every night on it. 

Webpage: Would it surprise you to know your still top 10 in Feature wins all time at Chateau?

Bryan: Really? In Feature wins? Really?  I knew I was up there a ways but didn’t realize that far.  Figured over the years there would be a lot more who won.  That’s cool

Webpage: How did you feel about the differences in the cars you raced and the success difference?

Bryan: Come to find out I ran better with the open wheel for some odd reason.  From the full body, to my first Midwest Mod the suspension was basically the same.  But don’t know what the difference was.  Well I think what it was, is I could afford better stuff.  When I started back into racing I told the wife if I’m gonna race, no more junk yard stuff,  I’m gonna  have a new motor, everything what your suppose to have, so we’re going to spend some money on it.  And I had Sputs build me a motor, I had an old car but it had all the good parts in it.  So I think that’s what made the difference.  But my best deal was Midwest Mods.  That’s where I ran the best.  Like I said that’s because I could afford to do it

Webpage: Remember any fun battles you had with anyone?

Bryan:  Back in the Street Stock days with Sonny, even though he helped me.  Actually he’s the one that made me pay attention.  Of course Kenny Wytaske, I always like to race next to him, he was fast in the Midwest Mods, Dan Wheeler and that ya, those were the guys you wanted to beat you know cause they were beating you.  Little Brandon Davis he was always a challenge in the Midwest Mod towards the middle there.  That was a guy you had to beat.  That kid was smart; he knew his craft…still does. 

Webpage: Any big moments stand out?

Bryan: That one night when Toot had that $5000 dollar 2 day deal, well it was $1000 to win on Friday night than $2000 to win on Saturday night.  But if you won both of em you got paid 5 grand.  That is one that really stood out because; well then again, with Kenny.  I started 14th the first night, I got up to Kenny, which I was in third, and Kenny spun and I just nipped him as I swerved, so I wouldn’t really hit him.  Well they put me to the back, oh I was mad, so I quit, I pitted it that night because they put me to the back and I was mad, pouting.  So than the next night I came back.  That was actually the year I didn’t race Lansing because we had butted heads.  But anyway I came back Saturday started like 14th in the Feature and I ended up winning it.  Passed old Wheeler (laughs) I went up on the high side, that one I really remember.  There’s always good racing at Lansing, Lansing is my favorite track. 

(***Side Note **** During our long Minnesota Good Bye – You know turn the tape recorder off and get ready to head out and you talk for another hour, his wife Cheryl came in and joined the conversation at this point as well –anyway he came back to this topic, related how a few months later he ran into someone from the track  and they said, Hey you know you were right, you got a bad call on that Friday Night deal.  He said they would have been better off not to tell me anything and left it alone at that point, that just made me angrier all over again (Laughing).  Told them “You cost be $3000 because I was on my way to winning that race, I’d of had the $1000 for that win plus the $2000 bonus`)

Webpage:  You race much anywhere else?

I went to Deer Creek too, but it’s a speedway.  You really got to have power and need your car to hook up.   Ya, its drivers when its slick.  But when you come to Lansing you got to have patience.  Your cars got to be good and you got to use your head because, well  Lansing is a bull ring, but you have to pay attention and you know, its finessing it, I just love Lansing, the only track I raced for $%^#.  I raced 30 some years, and the only track for the first 15 or so.   Most of the time it was one night a week, it was Chateau.  Deer Creek you could just tap your brake and go, not at Lansing, you have to know when to use your brake so you can set your car to go in.  That’s why some guys don’t go, they say you just wreck your car, well no you got to use your head, it’s not just wide open.  It’s a driver’s track I think       

Webpage: Get to many races?

Bryan: In the beginning of the year I’ll get to Lansing pretty much all of May I’ll go but when summer comes we get rolling at work, I don’t get out much after that.  I might make some of the specials.  I got out there last summer when Mark got it and opened it up.  Not as often.  I buy a lot of it off the internet.

Bryan: See many of the old drivers you competed with?

Bryan: Not really.  If you don’t get to the track you don’t see em.  You know a lot of racers once they quit racing they don’t go to the races.  There’s quite a few that don’t go.

Webpage: Make a lot of good Friendships over the years at the track?

Bryan: Big time Big time, ya, I met a lot of good guys,   I can’t even think, I mean Jason Augustin, Sonny Van Willigen, Jason Slegh, the Wytaske’s.   I mean we butted heads, I mean were still --- I still consider them as friends.  It’s just when you’re on the track and you put a helmet on your not friends (laughing) you know what I mean you’re just another car.  You’re out there to win and you always try to drive as clean as you can.  Some nights it don’t work that way.  Ya I met a lot of people.  Actually I wouldn’t change nothing, its racing.  I mean it took a lot of my time away from kids but it’s what you want to do.  It’s an addiction to, that’s the sad part, when you’re young and that, it’s an addiction, you just, whether or not you can afford it or not, you find a way to go racing.