MAYPEARL, Texas — Whenever a promising young racer starts to gather momentum and put himself in a position to win, it's exciting to watch it unfold. They study their setups, talk to older drivers for tips and utilize the expertise of industry veterans to improve their chances.
For 18-year-old Blayne Murphy, the Factory Stock division at Devil's Bowl Speedway is a classroom. He's learning at a fast pace on the historic 1/2-mile oval, and has done just about everything but carry the checkered flag. He's earned three top-five finishes in four starts, yet there's still more work to do.
“I won't say we've been struggling, we just haven't had the best of luck this year,” Murphy said. “It's so close, it's like I have this big weight on my shoulders. I want to get that monkey off my back in the worst way. A couple of years ago, I won a race out at Kennedale.
“Unfortunately, we got disqualified for not having the mandatory mufflers on our car. So, it's been one thing after another. But we've been catching up; we're working with Jeffrey Abbey at CRS to get us up to speed. He went over the whole car over the winter, I think we'll have something for them this year.”
Murphy is a third-generation driver with short track racing in his blood. This is no temporary phase.
“My grandfather and father raced a lot back in their day,” Murphy explained. “Grandpa raced at the old Thunderbird Speedway; he has some cool stories from his era. My Dad is the one who got me into it; I started out in Karts back in 2013 and have been going strong ever since.
“I made the jump from a 300 pound Kart to a 3,000 Factory Sock in 2020, and it was huge. There was, and still is, really, a big learning curve. I had to learn all the factors in getting a chassis setup right, how changes can affect the car's handling. I'm starting to get a handle on it, but there's lots more to learn.”
Just as it is at most of the other tracks in North Texas, Factory Stock is super tough at Devil's Bowl.
“The competition is pretty stiff in Mesquite,” Murphy said. “When you have guys like Chris Davis and his brother, Tommy Davis Jr., you better be dialed in and get up on the wheel. After this past weekend, I think we're getting even closer. Everything has to come together, but we'll find that sweet spot.”
When Murphy suits up and gets ready to race, he climbs into a used machine, yet one with potential.
“This is a home-built car we got in 2020 from Kenny Montgomery at KMO Racing,” he explained. “I think it was built by Layne and Matt Dosser, and it's a very good piece. It isn't some state-of-the-art high dollar car; but with Jeffrey Abbey's help, it's starting to handle like a dream. It's a good car.”
“If I was racing a Modified or even a SportMod, having new equipment would be critical since so much changes on those cars. With Factory Stock, it all stays about the same each year. Once an older car gets updated, you can easily make it competitive with the right shock and overall setup package.”
Along with his immense natural talent behind the wheel and unique, updated race car, Murphy also has several key people who keep his program on-track and successful.
“First off, I want to thank my parents, Michael and Angie Murphy, for all they do for me,” Murphy said. “I also want to thank Judy Moore Williams and DC Williams; along with Diana and Gary Harris. All of these folks are supportive of my race team and I'm truly grateful.”
Not only does he have great people in his corner, Murphy also has a long list of marketing partners.
“I'm fortunate to have some great sponsors, and need to thank Dylan Ramey at Jambo Pits; Billy Vest at Dirt Defender; Astin Lori Robertson at Factory Repair Services; Keith Satterwhite at Riteway Trucking; and David Montgomery at Montgomery Sand & Gravel.
“I'm also lucky to have Jerry Powell and Cynthia Matthews Powell at Kay's Custom Designs; Jeffrey Abbey at CRS Suspension; Kimberly Rumfield Reality, Charlie Maze and Randy Castillo at Dusty Attic Toy Show; Kevin Speaks at Speaks Automotive, Candice Renae at On-Site General Contracting; and Jeremy Collins at X-treme Graphics. I'm grateful for the support of these great companies.”
Now that the 2023 season is in full swing at Lanny Edwards' historic Devil's Bowl, Murphy has his sights set squarely on a singular goal.
“I'm working towards getting that first feature win in Factory Stock,” he concluded. “We're top-fiving them to death; trying to stay fast, consistent and put ourselves in a position to win when the opportunity presents itself. I feel like we're making great gains, but obviously we aren't quite where we want to be.
“It's just so difficult to get there, but I love the challenge. I also love the time spent with family and friends in this incredible hobby handed down to me from two generations. I'm in love with the sport, enjoy racing at Devil's Bowl, and will continue to have fun as we strive to land in Victory Lane.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Hal Samples