IVANHOE, Texas — One look at the depth of talent in Limited Modifieds across North Texas this year tells the story. To win a feature in 2023 takes more than a little luck; whether you're a 25-year veteran or just getting started. Today, nearly everybody brings a good piece to the oval with fire in their eyes.
For 49-year-old short track ace Shannon Hartline, getting back to Victory Lane was the goal. Now in his 27th year of racing, Hartline returned to his winning ways last Saturday night at Rocket Raceway Park. In eight starts this year, he's earned five top-five finishes. That win felt more than rewarding.
“I love to win, it's always fun,” Hartline said. “The sponsors like it, as well. It had been since last fall; they had a two-night show the week before the last race. We won the Friday night show, but ended up breaking a motor the next night.
“We started out the year with a new motor, but ended up having a camshaft go down. A lot of people have been having that problem these days. But we got another motor together, and we're getting the car dialed in now, I believe. Everything is a little different, but we're finding the speed little by little.”
Hartline has been around the horn and back again, having paid his dues coming up through the ranks.
“I got started back in 1996 in the Hot Stocks,” he explained. “I drove an old Camaro for a couple years, it was pretty cool. They allowed weight jacks, headers and we ran alcohol for fuel. We won a couple championships in that in 1998 and 1999; then I moved on.
“I raced Modifieds from 2000 to 2014 in my own car. I also drove for a buddy of mine a couple years here and there, we ran some TOMS races together. I've always loved the Modifieds, but you've got to stay on top of those things all the time. At my age, I'd rather just put a round or two in the weight jack.”
As mentioned earlier, the level of competition in Limiteds across North Texas is extremely high.
“I think it's as tough here as it is anywhere in the state,” Hartline said. “But it makes it fun, because racing against the best makes you better. You're forced to work harder and get faster, or you can't stay with them. Those guys race you hard, door-to-door and wide open, but they race you clean.
“You can trust them; you can lean on them a little and they'll lean on you. There are a lot of fast guys in North Texas. For some reason, there's a lot of them that come from Bonham. I don't know what the deal is with the water there, but I guess I'm lucky to at least live close to there.”
When Hartline puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he climbs into a very capable machine.
“I drive a 2018 Western Flyer chassis,” he explained. “This Hillbilly Racing team started with my old buddy Robert Pelfrey. We lost him in October of 2021, and one of my god buddies bought that car. He said we're going to make a tribute car out of it. So that's what we did; it's his color and car number.
“I drove for Robert for 11 years, we ran did some touring together and won a couple of championships. He just loved going to the races; and I still miss him. I know he was looking down at us last weekend.”
You may be surprised where the motor comes from in the mighty No. 49, yet it is a reliable source.
“As for horsepower, my wife and I run a machine shop here in town and build my motors there. So it's homegrown horsepower, and it works out pretty well. Once we got past that little issue earlier in the season, this motor has been running strong. Having our own motor program in-house is an advantage.”
Along with his years of experience and finely-honed skills, Hartline has lots of supporters in his corner.
“I'm blessed to have great people supporting this team,” he said. “I want to thank my Hillbilly Racing 49 crew; my wife, Sabrina Hartline; Dustin and Mary Thomas, Billy and Trista Selah; Shane and Chanda Hartline; Mckayla and Taylor Hartline, Trevor Hartline, and Mom and Dad. I appreciate them.
“I also need to thank our valued sponsors, including Hartline Machine, Snap-On Tools, Frontier Properties and Real Estate, Jake Shockley at State Farm Insurance, Texas Smoke BBQ, Muddbones, Clement & Sons Sand and Gravel; Roberts Motorsports, Hair by Hartline, Ain't It Racing, Artwork by Abigail, Skeeters Metal Art, Collision 1st and Stewart Plumbing. I'm honored to have them on board.”
As we say goodbye to Spring and hello to Summer, Hartline knows what he wants to accomplish.
“We aren't chasing points at Rocket or anywhere else, although we're sitting good at the moment,” he said. “We'll just keep it close to home and race when we can, going after more wins. That win last week tells me we're on the right track, and it sure feels nice.
“I'm just fortunate enough to be able to do this, to have the support of my family and to have so many solid people behind me. We'll just keep digging, tweaking the car and having a blast. Quality time at the track with family and friends is why we're all here. A win once in a while is just icing on the cake.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar, Southern Sass Photography