WACO, Texas — As much as we tend to focus on the “big three” most popular divisions that dominate the Texas short track landscape, there's actually a whole lot more to weekly racing than just Modifieds, Southern SportMods and that mysterious, magical class known as Factory Stock.
For 41-year-old veteran racer Cody Daniel, the Outlaw Street Stock class is the place to be. This third-generation driver won the points title last year at Heart O' Texas Speedway in his 25th year in the sport. This year, he's yet to visit Victory Lane, but has earned six top-five finishes in 10 starts to date.
“This year started off a little rocky after winning the championship in 2021,” Daniel said. “Everybody had real high expectations. We won three features, and actually should have won five. Now, it's like we've had to keep reminding each other that things don't always happen like they did the previous year.
“Last year was truly a stellar season, one we may not repeat. This year, we faced a lot of adversity right off the bat. I thought we would be able to pick up where we left off, but that hasn't been the case. We're kind of bouncing back, trying to work our way back up to the front. I'm confident the wins will come.”
During that quarter century of racing, Daniel has won in just about everything he's ever driven.
“I got started back in 1996 in the old Bomber division,” Daniel explained. “Success was hard to come by for me back in those days. When I started out, I was 15 years old and had to race against the adults because they didn't have Junior classes back then.
“The 1990s were very tough on us. We were able to pick up a win here or there, but they were few and far between. As we progressed into the 2000s, I ran some Street Stock and Hot Stock classes. I went back to the Pure Stocks for some reason and did that for a while, as well.”
Shortly after, opportunity came knocking at the door.
“In 2005, I was asked to drive an IMCA Modified for a guy. From there on, we stuck with the IMCA Modified all the way up until 2019. I was active when Keith White was there. You run second to that guy so many times, it kind of hurts your feelings. Yet that was an accomplishment in itself, really.”
Without argument, finishing second to the great Keith White was a stroke of business, indeed. Daniel may not have outgunned him, but he has visited Victory Lane on many occasions in a number of cars.
“I'd have to say my most memorable career highlight was fueled by a roller-coaster of emotions,” he explained. “My best friend David Sawyer passed away at the age of 32. My daughter was born that same week; so I had the highs of her birth coupled with losing my closest friend at the same time.
“My daughter was born on a Friday morning at 12:03 a.m., and I had to go run his Memorial race, in his car that I owned, later that night. We came from 13th on the grid and drove up to win that night, and I had to load the car immediately so I could get back to the hospital and see my newborn daughter.”
Daniel has experienced the full gamut of emotions, and he values all the good times he's enjoyed.
“I can honestly say I've actually won races in every class I've raced in. I've been very fortunate to have good equipment and smart people in my corner. That's what it takes, good parts and good people to make it all come together. Ask any champion, success in this sport is never achieved without people.”
It isn't just the SportMods and Factory Stocks that have stiff competition every week. At HOT, Daniel has plenty of big guns to battle in that Outlaw Street Stock class.
“There are a ton of heavy hitters in our division,” Daniel added. “It's never easy to land on the podium or score a victory. I remember when Wade White was dominating this thing, I was still driving Mods when he was winning championships.
“This year, you have former Modified racer and longtime I-Stock competitor Benji Kirkpatrick to battle. He's dominating the scene and really making us do our homework. Tommy Honey is another guy who's always fast, as is Brandon Hood. This class has the highest car count most nights, and always puts on a great show.”
When Daniel grabs his helmet, suits up and gets ready for battle, he straps into a well-crafted machine.
“My car is a 2021 SR-17 chassis built by Jeff Sheppard,” Daniel said. “Jeff built this car in 2017, and it sat idle right up until 2020. We actually had to sandblast everything and re-do some welds, which is why we call it a 2021. That's when we revamped it and got it ready for battle.
“This was the seventh car Jeff had ever built. We won our Heat race and the feature the first night we ran it, and Jeff came over to me and wanted to know what was going on. Me and this car just click. Our engine is from Robins Racing Engines, and it has a Jack Jenkins Performance carburetor on it. When I have a Robins engine under the hood with a Jenkins Carb, I have all the power I'll ever need.”
Along with his raw natural talent behind the wheel and wonderful personality, Daniel also has an extensive support network of family and marketing partners who keep his program running properly.
“First off, I need to thank my uncle, Mom, wife and children for all they do for me,” Daniel said with an open heart. “I couldn't do this without their support. Family is what makes this whole thing go. I also want to thank those who help in the shop, including Brody, Unc, Benny, Erik, Jake, R.J., Levi, Chris, Flaco and Brenner, along with Race Wives Kristen, Lori and Amanda. I appreciate each one.
“I also want to thank our great partners, including EWB Leasing, Benny Doss at Cen-Tex Roofing; Chapman's Bail Bonds, Oasis Heating & Air; Jenkins Performance, Wicked Fast Transmissions, White Rock Trophy Ranch, Xpress Dry Cleaning, W.E. Electric, Roberts Truck & Trailer Repair, Pizza Junction, I-35 Transport, Waco Goodfellas, Break 'Em Out Bail Bonds and Robins Performance Engines. I greatly appreciate the support they all provide this team.”
As the heat of summer cranks up and racing hits high gear across the state, Daniel knows what he wants to accomplish between now and this fall.
“I think the most important thing not to forget is you have to be able to have fun here. We race to win and always want the best results for those great partners; but in the end this is a hobby and a place to enjoy quality time with family and friends. If you've ever been by our trailer, you know we do that.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass Photography