By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Todd Boyd
HOCKLEY, Texas — Not all drivers across the beautiful Lone Star State are basking in the glory, hauling in the trophies, or needing a wheelbarrow to make their Monday morning deposit. Some, in fact, have very little to show for months of sweat, hard work and sacrifice. Yet they keep on digging.
For 24-year-old Super Late Model driver Austin Theiss, the 2020 season has seen few high points. Yet Theiss is a perfect example of how a burning desire to win and a positive attitude can keep a racer focused. Things don't always go as planned on the ovals, but you dig deeper and search for more speed.
Theiss competes on the Southern Touring Late Model Series (STLMS), and did earn a couple of second place finishes back in late May. Since that time, it has been what you might call a significant challenge.
“Things have been a little rough this year,” Theiss said. “We started off strong, then the big pandemic hit and that slowed us down a ton. I really haven't been able to run as many races as I would have liked, but we've been super busy at work. I just haven't had the time to put into my racing program.
“I've reached a new perspective as we approach the end of the year. I've always been determined to win races, and I've hit a point now where I'm more determined to win than ever before. It's driving me crazy that I haven't won this year. Finishing second on back-to-back nights in May just about killed me.”
Theiss is a proud second-generation driver, carrying on a legacy of success on the ovals his father David started years ago. A 16-year veteran racer, Austin came up through the ranks and paid his dues.
“I got an early start when I was only 7 years old,” Theiss explained. “My father raced from the time he was 15 until he got into his early 40s. Once I started getting into racing, he got out of it completely and put all of his efforts into my racing program. Ever since then, it's been a non-stop journey for us.
“I raced Karts until I was nine or 10, then moved into the Mini Stock class from there. We got cars ready and raced a few weeks, then the local tracks dropped that division. So we started traveling up to Waco and Fort Worth to race. We did that deal for about three or four years before moving on again.”
Theiss has driven several types of cars in his career and has amazing car control from that experience.
“I jumped into a Limited Modified next and ran for national points in that class. I ran those for about three years, then I had a half season of running both that Limited and a Modified. But then we went full bore in the Mods, running the USMTS circuit. We ran 40 or 50 races with them and a few locals shows.
“We ran that USMTS deal for two years, then I started racing Late Models late in 2015. From that point on, I've been wide open in these cars. I ran the Comp Cams Super Dirt Series for three years, did a few Lucas Oil Series shows when we could, and now I really enjoy competing on the STLMS tour.”
Theiss utilizes a Rocket XR1 Chassis, powered by a Vic Hill engine. When he talks about his reasons for choosing these world-class brands, he speaks with passion.
“Vic Hill has some of the biggest names in Late Model racing using his engines,” Theiss explained. “Guys like Jimmy Owens, Ricky Weiss and Dennis Erb choose him, and they win a ton of races. I have run his engines since I started in Late Models. Vic is a good friend, I can call him anytime with a question and he's right there with the answer. I'm big on loyalty; so I'll never leave Vic Hill engines.
“As for that Rocket chassis, you simply can't get any more advanced product or better customer service in this business. We switched over to this brand in 2017. They have a great group of people up there; when you call the shop they have a parts department, a setup department, and everybody knows their jobs like clockwork. Mark Richards and his partner Steve Baker take good care of their customers.”
To see the car counts and intense level of competition within the STLMS in 2020 is inspiring. When you look at quality teams across the deep south like Theiss, Bo Day, Patrick Daniel, Jon Mitchell, Brandon Hightower and Brandon Brzozowski, it's clear that Super Late Model racing is coming back.
“As recently as five years ago, Late Model racing in this region was almost extinct,” Theiss said. “Kody Hardage really stuck his neck out when he started this Southern Touring Late Model Series. He has done an amazing job of rebuilding, booking dates at great tracks, and helping his race teams. If anybody else tries to take credit for it, they're full of it. Kody is why we have such a good thing here.”
Along with his immense natural talent behind the wheel, Theiss has a loyal family behind his efforts who keep him moving forward, even when times get rough.
“I am blessed to have such a wonderful family behind me, they are my biggest supporters,” Theiss said. “I want to thank my wife, Oasis, and my parents, David and Lyndsey. I appreciate all they do for me.”
Along with that incredible family in his corner, Theiss also has a fine group of marketing partners who make his program more competitive on race day.
“I'm fortunate to have several fine companies on board this season, including Saye Plumbing Contractors, Theiss Motorsports Customs & Classics, Performance Engineering, Swift Springs, Hassett Trucking, Dynamic Drivelines, Razor Edge Graphics, Vic Hill Race Engines and Rocket Chassis. We couldn't do this without their help, and I appreciate their support more than words can say.”
As the 2020 points season winds down and all eyes shift towards the upcoming 'Fall Specials,' Theiss has some realistic goals in mind, fueled by that unyielding desire to hoist a checkered flag.
“We have about a dozen races left to run in 2020, which takes us all the way into December,” Theiss said. “I'm going to work hard to earn a win this fall, for sure. We're shifting our attention to the bigger races, and will be working to find more speed. If we can do that, I'll have what I need for 2021.
“We'll be headed out to Arizona in January and chase some money out there. Next year, I want to run the bigger races consistently and show we can keep up with the big guns. I'm going to work hard at it.”