By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
EDNA, Texas — For most short track drivers around Texas and neighboring states, the path to success in racing begins in an entry-level division, winds its way through learning curves and frustration before eventually leading into a highly-coveted Victory Lane.
Yet for 33-year-old Factory Stock driver and now race track owner Cord Beard, the road has taken some interesting turns.
The easy-going driver from Edna with only a year and a half of racing under his belt purchased Texana Raceway Park (TRP) from Rachel and Kenny Densman last October, and is already tackling big tasks.
It's no secret what a fabulous job Owen Pittman did promoting and operating TRP in 2020, despite the raging global pandemic. Now, Beard is making major improvements to a facility in need of repair.
“For our first project, we're putting in a new retaining wall to replace the old one,” Beard explained. “It had a wall all around the oval, but the part I'm replacing was part of the original section built back in 1987. It was an old metal wall that didn't have any catch-fence in place. That was just too dangerous.
“We needed a little higher wall, since we're going to try and put some banking into that corner. That was the last section of wall that wasn't cement; now it will be, and will have a good catch-fence above it.You'll be able to have folks standing behind Turns 3 and 4 and not have it be a safety issue.”
There are other improvements on the horizon for TRP, ones the fans will notice right away.
“There was a section of the tallest grandstands on the spectator side that was rotten,” Beard said. “We've already cut those down, and I've ordered new all-aluminum stands similar to the others we have. They probably won't be there for the first race, but they should be in place for the second event.
“There is another section of stands we're going to try and replace within a year or two. They aren't too bad just yet, but they are deteriorating. In the next couple of years, we plan to replace the restrooms and spruce the place up overall so we can attract some new fans to the sport. It'll be nice when we're done.”
You might think owning a racetrack would derail the man's plans behind the wheel for 2021. Yet Beard is not that kind of owner. Passionate about the sport, no question, just not hands-on during race nights.
“During the week, I'll be working on track prep and doing other chores at the track,” Beard said with emphasis. “But on the weekends, I don't want anything to do with it. I'm basically a landlord at that point. I'm going to take care of the improvements and make the place look nice.
“On the weekends, I don't want to hear from anybody about issues at the track. On Saturdays, I just want to be a race car driver only, no exceptions. Owen and his staff will take care of running Texana.”
Beard has witnessed the explosion in Factory Stock since late 2019, and says the trend will continue.
“I don't see any end to this growth for a few years, at least,” Beard said. “You're even seeing a few guys from the faster classes stepping down to run Factory Stock. That raises the level of competition to new heights.
"In just the year and half I've been racing, the cars and drivers have really advanced. Today, if you have one hiccup, you go from top-five to top-10. If you have one more, you're falling back even further. It's some very stout competition now.”
Along with the enhancements he's making at TRP and confidence in how well it is promoted, another thing that has Beard excited about the 2021 season is a brand new race car. In 2020, he ran roughly 27 races, with only three top-five and seven top-10 finishes to his credit. This year, he's looking for more.
“I had an Express chassis that I raffled off this past year, but I have a new car being built now,” Beard said with the excitement you'd expect from a kid on Christmas. “I have a Two Five chassis that just got finished. In fact, I'm supposed to be out picking it up now but this winter weather canceled the trip.
“I'm hoping to get up there toward the end of the week. The car was built by Justin Gilliard, and I feel he has the best chassis on the market right now. I was almost going to go with an Outlaw, but Jesse's craftsmanship is amazing. He's pretty sharp. Dan Finn in Galveston is building my engine; he is just about done and I'm supposed to be picking it up later this week, as well. I'll have a great car for 2021.”
While he may not have a ton of years behind the wheel, Beard sure knows the value of having solid marketing partners involved with his race team.
“I am fortunate to have some fine companies on board my No. 44c ride, including Magnum Services, LP; Tony's Mobile Home Service, John Leita Farms, and T&T Tires. I appreciate all they do for me. I also need to extend a big thanks to Tony Blankenship, GW Hessong, John Leita, Monty Chamberlain and Jacob Burnett for all the help on the cars.”
There are also several key people involved in the operation of his racetrack Beard says are priceless.
“I need to offer a special thanks to all the sponsors of Texana Raceway Park, track manager and promoter Owen Pittman, all the employees for all they do on race nights, and all of the employees of Magnum Services, LP, for all the work they do during the week keeping the facility in tip-top shape.”
As the season openers around south Texas draw closer, Beard has a clear goal in mind for that new car.
“I hope to get a couple of feature wins under my belt this year,” Beard said. “At least one would be nice, although I know everything has to come together just right for it to happen. That's why I have a new car and fresh engine, so I'll be able to run up front this year. I just want to be in contention.”