KEMPNER, Texas — Among the latest crop of aspiring young racers out there making a name for themselves on the Texas short track scene is a shining example of dedication. Already in his eighth year of racing, he has the natural talent and will to succeed it takes to go places.
For 13-year-old fourth generation racer PJ Egbert, the Jr. Limited division is a classroom, one where he can soak up knowledge, hone his skills and advance his career. This year, that laser-sharp focus is paying off, with three wins and six top-five finishes in six starts. With help from his Dad, life is good.
“We're just having a lot of fun right now, and I'm learning more every weekend,” the young driver said. “It isn't an easy class to run; we have to get the car setup right and I have to stay focused in qualifying and the feature. We're off to a great start, but there is a ton of racing left to do this year.”
With a last name like his, there are bound to be expectations. The name Egbert is synonymous with success on the Texas ovals, and has been for many years. Yet PJ isn't intimidated by any of that stuff.
“I'm just focused on my own driving, something I can control,” he explained. “If people think I can go out and win just because of my last name, they are wrong. I have that family reputation to protect, so I do race to win. That's why we go to the track every week. I work very hard to be fast and consistent.”
PJ got his start in Karts, and progressed through the ranks before making this move to big cars.
It's still amazing to think about how close to a regular Limited Modified/Sport Mod these cars are, and how many young drivers are out there wheeling them now. And some, like PJ, have adapted quickly.
“My son drives a 2018 IRP chassis, built by Jason Ingalls,” the elder PJ said. “And yes, a Jr. Limited is a lot like a Sport Mod, with a smaller carburetor (350 vs. 500 cfm) and different tires. If you look at their lap times in certain track conditions, they aren't far off the Sport Mods. They carry good speed.
“This chassis may be a little older, but we went all through it and it has the latest updates. So he's wheeling a pretty competitive piece, and it really shows with his natural talent. I'm super proud of how serious he takes this, how hard he works and the results he's been getting. I couldn't be any happier.”
You see, part of the reason this fine young man does so well is that both of his parents have lived it.
“My wife's maiden name is McElroy, so PJ has that racing gene from both sides,” Dad explained. “Brandon McElroy is my brother-in-law, in fact he's been doing pretty well in his own car this year. PJ was never pressured to do this, it was predetermined I guess before he was born. And he loves it.”
The skilled son echoed his father's sentiments.
“I just really enjoy being out there doing my best, plus working on the car with my Dad,” he added. “I could be off doing other things, yes; but the time I spend with my Dad and family means a lot. I still do normal kid things sometimes. But during race season, it's all about family and my car. We're into it.”
Along with that amazing raw natural talent behind the wheel and a super-supportive family, little PJ also has several key people and sponsors in his corner.
“I have to thank a lot of good people, including my Mom, Dad, Preston, Grandma and PaPa; NateMare Wraps, JHR, Brandon McElroy, Allan Essenburg, Dirt Defender, D&D Cabinets, Pit Stop Beer and Liquor, Scotty's Auto Repair, FastLane, Sims Automotive, Phil's Motorsports, Abilene Powder Coating, Speed Secrets, Temple Iron and Metal, Lakeside Ice, MidTex Paint & Body and Spillman Excavating.
“I also need to thank ASAP Towing, Seale Livestock, Stephenville Starter & Electric, Premier Paint & Body, Merritt Motorsports, Action Towing, Seven1Nine Motorsports, Reliant Motors and Colonel Sanders. I couldn't do this without their support.”
With summer just around the corner and racing at full throttle, Egbert has his sights set on a clear goal.
“I'm working towards the goal of winning the Jr. Limited points championship at Heart O' Texas and Kennedale,” he said with confidence and without hesitation. “It will take a lot of work, but that's the goal. We've had a strong start, now we have to keep up this pace. If I don't win the points, I will still have had a blast trying.
“As much as I've learned about the car, I've also learned this sport is about more than winning races. It teaches life lessons and allows us to be together as a family every weekend. I'm pretty hooked for life.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass Photography