ELIZABETH, Louisiana — It isn't supposed to happen this way. You don't expect a teenager with very little seat time in full-sized race cars to start winning features in a Limited Modified. And not just in a few low-key weekly shows, but at special events where top drivers turn out for the increased exposure.
Yet for 14-year-old third generation racer Talan Willis, that's exactly how it's going. This soft-spoken driver has earned five Limited Modified wins (at four different tracks); two Street Stock wins and 11 top-five finishes overall in 15 starts this year, and he's just hitting his stride.
Last weekend, he made a clean sweep at Boothill, with feature wins on Friday and Saturday night as part of their ninth annual Battle of Boothill program. Willis, it seems, is now a very hot commodity.
“I think it's a combination of good equipment and a great race team making me look so good right now,” Willis explained. “Everything is top of the line, I really couldn't ask for anything better. I'm doing things I never thought I could accomplish, and I'm very grateful for the opportunities.
“A great car and good setups are making it so successful. I'm blessed to drive this Limited for Robert Metz, and working with Mr. Chad Comer is awesome. The whole team package is perfect for me.”
As a seasoned racer himself, Talan's father Adam was careful when he brought his son into the sport.
“When Talan was four years old, they started some Kart racing in our area,” the elder Willis explained. “I bought him one, and he raced it about three times. He won two of those races, but it was way too much drama. I was trying to race myself at the time, and decided it wasn't the right time for Talan.”
While his racing career was on hold for nearly a decade, he got to be a normal kid. And do kid things.
“He did about a year of iRacing before he ever got into a real car, and it sure helped,” Adam said. “He never raced anything again until I bought him a Street Stock for his 12th birthday. I took him to practice on a Sunday afternoon. He made four or five laps at a time, with a little coaching in between.”
From a humble start in Street Stocks, the path has been interesting for this father-son race team.
“I let him practice during intermission three times, then I put finally put him out there. In his first start, he won his Heat, led half the feature, had contact with the leader and broke a shock, yet ended up second in a very competitive 16-car field. I was just blown away.
“He raced twice in Street Stocks during 2021, and last year, he ran the full season in Street Stock and tested the waters a little in the Limited. So he's got about a season and a half under his belt right now. To see him win in his first Limited race, then continue winning at tracks he's never seen is amazing.”
What makes Willis' results so impressive this year is the level of competition he faces.
“Whenever we pull up to a track I've never run, I'm really just looking to make the show with that caliber of drivers,” the young driver said. “I think Limited Mods have some of the best drivers in our area. I've looked up to those guys for years; so to be able to race against them is a dream come true.”
When this young rising star puts on his safety suit and gets ready to go, he climbs into a fine machine.
“The Limited Modified I drive that belongs to Robert Metz is a 2018 IRP chassis,” Willis said. “It's an awesome car, and Chad Comer gets it setup to where it drives real nice most nights. I prefer a tight race car over a loose feel; and Chad works with me to get the handling just right. I love driving that car.
“As for horsepower, it has a motor from All American Racing Engines (AARE). It has plenty of power and sure has been reliable for us so far. I'm just lucky I get to drive it, and hope to again real soon.”
Along with his obvious natural driving talent (some might say other-worldly) and top-notch car, Willis has a ton of sponsors (a separate group for each car, Metz's Limited Mod and his own Street Stock) and key people working behind the scenes to make this all happen.
“For our Street Stock effort, I want to thank Murphrey Oil Company, Champion Commercial HVAC, Cypress BigTex Trailers, E.L.E. Construction, L. Fontenot Trucking LLC, Joels Auto Sales, Allen Parish Mosquito Control, Hudson Motorsports, Desoto Iron & Metal, Big T Motorsports, BURNEY'S Speed & Performance, Statement Racecars, Making Memories, HD Transport, Richards Tire, Lee Racing and Forest Hill Growers LLC.
“For the Limited Modified, I need to thank R&L Truck Repair, C3 Consulting by Chad Comer, AARE Race Engines, Curtis & Son Company, All in 1 Plumbing, Griffith Trucking and First Class Septic. I couldn't do this without them all, and truly appreciate their support of my racing career.”
With summer just around the corner and tons of racing straight ahead, Willis knows what he wants to accomplish before all is said and done.
“We have plans for this fall to hit the Street Stock Nationals,” he concluded. “We hope to do a few other Fall Specials in the Street Stock, but as for the Limited, I'll just go wherever Mr. Metz decides to run and give it my best. I'm just very grateful for all he, my Dad and Chad are doing for me right now.”
Adam Willis summed up his philosophy when it comes to juggling work, life and family.
“We will always put God first, family second and racing third. That's the way it has to be.”
Fans who would like to keep up with the latest adventures from Talan's racing program can subscribe to his YouTube channel. Just search for Talan Willis Racing, and follow the meteoric rise of this red-hot young driver from Louisiana.
Big things are happening (this week, actually), so get it on your mind.
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Scott Burson