By Phil Whipple
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
AUSTIN, Texas — While the sport of short track auto racing has been saturated with rising young talent in recent years, there are still a handful of older, wiser veterans keeping those kids in check.
At nearly every track in the Lone Star State, a mix of eager teenagers, drivers in their 20s and 30s, and those a little longer in the tooth do battle for trophies and bragging rights. The young guns, they go for broke most nights, going after that elusive checkered flag. The old dogs, however, they chase points.
For 61-year-old Steve Sims, it's all about consistency. In 2019, the easy-going and highly-respected Austin-based racer redefined that term, never finishing outside the top 10. Sims claimed the points title in the Browning Auto Factory Stock class at Cotton Bowl Speedway, a division loaded with talent.
“We didn't win that title because we were super fast, but we sure were consistent all season,” Sims said. “We finished second a couple times and won some heat races, but never won a feature. That hurt a bit, but I'll take a championship over a few feature wins. I hadn't won a title in over 25 years. It felt great.”
One key factor in the successful season Sims enjoyed in 2019 was the fine new car he was driving.
“We started off the year with a new chassis from Destroyer up in Kennedale, Texas. It was completely new to us; we had always run a Nova out there set up on leaf springs. My friends and I put it together, it needed a whole new engine and different transmission. We were slow at first, but we figured it all out.”
Sims got his start in racing back in 1986, racing regularly at Longhorn Speedway until the place closed down. He also raced at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, for a time, but got out of the sport for a couple years before that track also fell victim to ill fortune.
“I got back into the sport about a year or two after Cotton Bowl opened, and I've been at it ever since.”
Whenever the green flag waves at Cotton Bowl, drivers need to be up on the wheel. It's a fast place, and the guys in Factory Stock don't give away any positions without a scrap. It's a competitive class.
“I'm racing against some really good, experienced guys,” Sims said. “They've been at this game a lot longer than I have. I'm an old asphalt guy, and they've run on dirt forever. They know just what to do. There are no slouches at Cotton Bowl. Their cars are tweaked to the max; those guys can win easily.”
One advantage Sims has over the competition is his attention to details. He runs a clean operation, one that is as organized and efficient as many professional touring series teams.
“I'm very strict about keeping things clean and looking their best,” Sims explained. “I feel image is a big part of what we do, and I have some great companies to represent. I work hard to keep the car nice, and my team is as organized and efficient as I am.
“When we went to practice last Saturday, I was so pleased and impressed at how it went. I felt like the driver of a big-league race team. I would pull in after turning laps, and they would make the changes and give me a drink without me climbing out of the car. Then back out I would go to see how it felt.”
Sims says the test went well, but to stay ahead of the competition, he is looking for just a little more.
“I ordered some more parts today and we're going to throw a couple more things at it before we go racing,” the serious driver explained. “The car reacted well and did everything we thought it would going into the test. We were happy with the way it ran, but if we have another practice, we'll take it.”
A tight unit with a veteran driver who knows what he needs. It's the kind of operation that is the envy of countless others in the pit area. No wasted steps, no foolishness. Just big fun, and good results.
“You can be focused on doing well and still have fun while you do it,” Sims said. “It's all about attitude. Stay positive, be open-minded and treat people with respect. That will come back to you.”
That dedicated and efficient race team plays a huge role in Sims' success. Remember, people are key.
“I have the most supportive family a man could ever want,” Sims said with pride. “My wife, Tracy, and my sons Bruce and Trevor all do a lot for me and I appreciate it more than I can say. I'm also lucky to have my dear friend Tommy Gural helping me,” Sims added.
“He's a great mechanic, and is also a fellow racer. I've raced more against him at times than I haven't. Luckily, he's in another class now. I help him when I can, which isn't that often. His team is on point.”
And it isn't just family that keeps Sims rolling. The veteran driver gets support from all over town.
“I also have my friend Winn Kasper who has a shop here in town, he's always up here helping me and my niece's husband, Aaron Brungot also helps me a lot in the shop. They all come to the house, and they were all out there for practice with me on Saturday. I'm blessed to have their dedicated support.”
Along with that supportive race team there when he needs them, Sims is also fortunate to have several solid marketing partners who make his program more competitive and professional.
“I'm very lucky to have such great companies behind my efforts on the speedway,” Sims said. “I need to thank Austin Mobile Marine, Arbor Autoworks, Brungot Farms, Browning Auto Parts, MCG Graphics, Paul’s Motor Werks, Capitol Screen Company, Bearden Automotive and Terry’s Body Shop. I couldn't do this without these fine folks, and I'm proud to represent them every time we unload.”
At the current time, Mary Ann Naumann and her staff at the mighty Cotton Bowl Speedway plan to go back racing on Saturday, May 16. When that green flag waves again to restart the 2020 season, Sims will be ready.
“Our goal is to get out there and defend that championship, and we're really shooting for two or three feature wins along the way,” Sims said. “I know all those other guys will have improved their programs as well. We'll make a serious effort, while still having some fun. It's what we love to do.”